Skip

Navigating the Post-Secular
July 4, 2010 12:40 PM   Subscribe

John Milbank and Katherine Pickstock are interviewed about Radical Orthodoxy

I was surprised near the beginning when the narrator started talking about theology being referred to all over the place in newspapers. What don't I understand about the U.K.?

Anyway, this is a very interesting look into one of the hotter trends happening in Christian theology today. Radical Orthodoxy has some import on work in the social sciences, and its critique of modernity is, I think, especially important. If you want to look further, I recommend picking up Jamie Smith's book "Introducing Radical Orthodoxy", a tough but rewarding read.
posted by superiorchicken (32 comments total)

 
Wikipedia: Radical Orthodoxy
posted by Brian B. at 1:01 PM on July 4, 2010


Not to denigrate anyone's faith here, but seriously? We need this at a time when we're struggling to persuade governments to put realistic amounts of money into the genuine sciences?
I mean, I guess I can at least get behind this seeming to be an entirely non-violent idea of radical, anti-science religion, but we've already got the Amish, and at least they don't teach at our universities!

Plus, from the wikipedia page on it:
"Early on, the Radical Orthodox refused to have 'dialogues' with secular sciences because their worldview was atheistic and nihilistic."

Twinned with his comment that it all came from the idea that secular science taught him that the 'petty and evil things were the fundamental human realities' just infuriate me. I mean, half of Catholicism seems to be about acknowledging that the natural state of humans is to be evil and selfish and terrible, and to enslave us into religion to save us from this. I guess there's absolutely no way this guy wasn't going to irritate me, and maybe I'm missing something important here, but I don't understand what about this seems like a good thing.
posted by opsin at 1:04 PM on July 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


Is it really "anti-science" or just an attempt to interpret science in a forced religious context?

Of course, even if it is the second, it's still highly debatable if it's a "good thing".

On the other hand, I always find it amusing when a new school of Christian theology attempts to get back to "primitive" Christianity while at the same time offering a "strong critique" of modern liberalism. In many aspects, modern liberalism IS primitive Christianity, just without all the being fed to lions and less Christ.
posted by quakerjono at 1:23 PM on July 4, 2010


Is it really "anti-science" or just an attempt to interpret science in a forced religious context?

Well, from their own description it seems clearly like an attempt at the latter, but refusing to hold dialogues with secular sciences seems to be a pretty anti-science move, or certainly so childish as to make their point seem rather moot. It does seem to be a step away from the scientologists in terms of 'if you don't view the world our way we just won't listen', and everything about the secular sciences says that, based on reason alone, we can't see the world that way. To enact these ideas would mean not only changing how we all view theology, but more so how we view science (as a thing based purely on reason and evidence).

And to insist that we all view science through the eyes of theology (and at this point he makes it sound like he means Christianity) would bring up an awful lot of questions about freedom of religion and onto racism.

I also think taking strength in one's philosophy from Pope Benedict echoing your point is a really inadvisable move. But even that point, that 'a rupture between faith and reason' is responsible for radical theology (well it is now you formed your own radical theology because of that quote!) and all the ills of the world seems flawed in that either it started in the 13th century because it was a stupid move, or because it was so obvious that it happened all that time ago. I don't see how a gap between faith and reason doesn't seem like a good thing unless the world scares you just a little too much.

No possible argument can be made convincingly for why something evidence based should be viewed through the lens of something that has absolutely zero evidence to support it.
posted by opsin at 1:41 PM on July 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, this sounds interesting. Thanks. I'll take a look. (Although unfortunately it doesn't seem to have much to do with actual Orthodoxy...)
posted by koeselitz at 1:45 PM on July 4, 2010


opsin: “No possible argument can be made convincingly for why something evidence based should be viewed through the lens of something that has absolutely zero evidence to support it.”

There are enough misunderstandings of what science and faith mean in that statement that I get the feeling you don't get the point of what they seem to be trying to do here. For one thing, whenever people refer to science as "evidence based" I start to twitch, because you're using a phrase which from what I can tell has no meaning whatsoever in the real world. Science isn't "evidence based;" if it were, we could never do sciene. Science is observation based. There's a significant difference. What's more, since Christians flatly deny that faith doesn't have any evidence to support it, you're obviously coming from a point of view that assumes that they're incorrect.

Which kind of goes to show that these "radical orthodox" people are correct.
posted by koeselitz at 1:50 PM on July 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


If people are determined to believe utter absurdities, acts of radical faith are their only possible means to that end.
posted by jamjam at 1:56 PM on July 4, 2010


I reject all of your realities and replace them with my own.
posted by Avenger at 1:58 PM on July 4, 2010


OK, I'll take what you say about my use of evidence rather than observance, but as far as I'm concerned you can replace the words evidence based with observation based and my statement still stands as correct. There is nothing observable about any faith other than objects and writing, the veracity of which cannot be proven by any measure.

Which leaves the fact that Christians, for instance are basing their faith purely on exactly that, faith. The scientific community needs multiple observations of something before we can even consider it as evidence, and to insist we view all science through the eyes of faith would undermine everything about science, and I think we see the problems with that already enough with insufficient teaching of science to our children and a lot of the way we treat each other as human beings (particularly when gay for instance). I find it slightly scary to encourage people to ignore what secular science has done for us by insisting we view it in a way which would fundamentally alter its veracity, particularly in case people were to pick up on that bit of their message while clinging onto their own potentially more right wing or primitive religious ideals.

Ultimately it seems like the arguments for or against this school of thought are almost even more awkward than those for or against faith - that those who believe cannot be persuaded by a lack of evidence and those of a scientific bent can't be convinced by anything that those with faith claim are evidence. As I said, I absolutely don't aim to denigrate anyone's faith, I just don't understand what is appealing about this and what doesn't scare others about it.
posted by opsin at 2:12 PM on July 4, 2010


"Orthodoxy" is just a $2 word for, "Now I don't have to actually think." B
posted by txmon at 2:18 PM on July 4, 2010


BTW, I have no problem denigrating anyone's faith; stupid is stupid. However I would fight and die for their right to believe any of those ridiculous fairy tales because that is what protects my right not to believe.
posted by txmon at 2:20 PM on July 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


(Well said. Certainly I did only mean in this thread, and generally not to their face.)
posted by opsin at 2:29 PM on July 4, 2010


As I said, I absolutely don't aim to denigrate anyone's faith, I just don't understand what is appealing about this and what doesn't scare others about it.

Religion is based on denial, as the source inspiration to go out and declare a specific message (which is often compounded through a specific cognitive dissonance). I would argue that religion, generally, is the denial of something human, such as death, suffering, knowledge or evolution; while cognitive dissonance is the outward denial of a specific failed prophecy, such as the immediate end of the world or a promised blessing or bliss. The two lend themselves to better definitions of religion and cult, respectively.
posted by Brian B. at 2:45 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's a brilliant idea to combine postmodern obscurantism with theological obscurantism.
posted by bhnyc at 4:17 PM on July 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


Having met John Milbank, I can assure you that he's an ass.
posted by bardic at 5:12 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, what? No matter how radical, you're still wrong.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:23 PM on July 4, 2010


RadOx theses.
posted by kenko at 5:56 PM on July 4, 2010


Wikipedia is down? hmmm.
posted by psyche7 at 6:01 PM on July 4, 2010


[Yeah, I've been trying to load a couple of Wiki pages today, and no joy on any of them. So downforeveryone.com is right on that point. Weird.]
posted by koeselitz at 6:17 PM on July 4, 2010


Watch it happening
posted by koeselitz at 6:21 PM on July 4, 2010


kenko: "RadOx theses."
22. As to feminism: it is crucial that liturgical processions be led by women carrying flowers.
posted by psyche7 at 6:23 PM on July 4, 2010


Wikipedia is down? hmmm.

It's the only time they get to run that ad.
posted by Brian B. at 6:26 PM on July 4, 2010


"22. As to feminism: it is crucial that liturgical processions be led by women carrying flowers."

Yeah, that jumped out at me as well. WTF?

I studied at UVA when Milbank was there and once every few months he and Rorty would mix it up on various panels. Or should I say, Rorty would wipe the floor with him and Milbank would meekly retreat into his little bubble of warmed-over mysticism met with rudimentary pomo catch-phrases.

Good times.
posted by bardic at 8:16 PM on July 4, 2010


Watching koeselitz's twitter link I see Mashable's on the case: Wikipedia Is Down [ALERT].

Back to the thread, bardic, I couldn't tell if they were kidding after
It detests evangelicalism, because it is creepy, voluntaristic and therefore nihilistic.
I mean, "creepy?" They seem to be for socialism, though.
posted by psyche7 at 8:35 PM on July 4, 2010


Post-secularism, huh? I guess we can look forward to the joys of a reconquista or two.
posted by rodgerd at 12:15 AM on July 5, 2010


Had the chance to listen to the whole thing. I do appreciate the link but I feel more than justified in claiming that John Milbank is an elitist snob masquerading as an academic. His whole schtick about how church-goers are more actively social and less "degenerate" than non-goers is as ridiculous and laughable as it is bizarre.

As for the interviewer, not a single question as to how we can know that the Christian doctrine is the true one, as opposed to hundreds (if not thousands) of other religious traditions.

Yech. The worst abuse of post-modern discourse (not that there aren't already many examples): taking big words to cover up for a watery, elitist mysticism.

Also, what "transcendent" reality was God fulfilling when Catholic priests raped little boys and girls? Hmm?
posted by bardic at 12:19 AM on July 5, 2010


I'm only halfway through, but already they need more Chesterton. Like, a lot more.
posted by wobh at 2:25 AM on July 5, 2010


RadOx theses.

I read this as "RedOx theses" and thought you were making an obscure chemistry joke.

12. The special relationship of Platonism to Christianity is to be affirmed: simple dualisms of Hebrew and Hellenic are rejected. Eros and Agape are inseparable.

I don't really know what that last sentence means, but it sounds hot. And the one about feminism is just a great big smirking "fuck you" to women who expect to be taken seriously, right?
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:13 AM on July 5, 2010


and the one about feminism is just a great big smirking "fuck you" to women who expect to be taken seriously, right?

Pretty much all of them are a great big smirking "fuck you" to everyone who isn't them, as far as I can tell.
posted by ook at 4:57 PM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


And the one about feminism is just a great big smirking "fuck you" to women who expect to be taken seriously, right?

Now, now, dear, don't fret!
posted by Crabby Appleton at 5:05 PM on July 5, 2010


I've been fascinated with theology for quite a while now, and I've waded through some decently dense prose. I usually have very little patience for village atheist types running around yelling "obscurantism! obscurantism! Courtier's Reply!" to cover up their own anti-intellectualism. And, more to the point of this post, I found Charles Taylor's "A Secular Age" - Taylor's sometimes mentioned as having Radical Orthodox sympathies - to be absolutely brilliant.

So, upon reading a lot of the kicking-a-dead-horse Metafilter anti-religious one-liners, I was predisposed to be sympathetic to Milbank.

Boy, was I wrong.

I'd heard that Milbank was difficult, but... wow. I honestly can't make heads or tails out of him. I feel like him and his cohorts have put bits and pieces of interesting ideas stated far more accessibly by others into a blender with some standard introductory seminary boilerplate and then covered the results up with thick coatings of Old High Academese.

The special relationship of Platonism to Christianity is to be affirmed: simple dualisms of Hebrew and Hellenic are rejected. Eros and Agape are inseparable.

Okay. That's really nice. It's good to reject simple dualisms. It's nice that eros and agape are inseperable. But I'm more than a little suspicious that the "special relationship" between Platonism and Christianity is unambiguously a good thing. I think that quite a bit of what we think of now as negative in institutional "Christianity" or "Christendom" post-Constantine comes pretty directly from Platonism. Quite a bit of "post-colonial" Christian theology coming out of parts of the world that aren't rooted in Greco-Roman philosophical traditions shares that suspicion - different Gospels and letters in the New Testament show quite clearly various roots in a range of Greek and Jewish perspectives and schools of thought.

Again, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe, if I sat down with "Introducing Radical Orthodoxy" for a few hours, a light would pop on in my head. It's happened with more difficult writing. But I think it's a bit sad that, if Radical Orthodoxy's critique of modernity is so important and all, that it can't be made just a little more accessible to ordinary people.
posted by jhandey at 9:39 AM on July 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


entirely non-violent idea of radical, anti-science religion, but we've already got the Amish

Sorry, couldn't let this one go. Just because people aren't lining up for the newest iPhone doesn't make them anti-science. The Amish rejection of certain technologies is generally rooted in concerns about those technology's impacts on their communities, not some kind of hatred of science.

Here's a great piece by Wired's Kevin Kelly expressing what I'm trying to say in a much more articulate manner:

The Amish have the undeserved reputation of being luddites, of people who refuse to employ new technology. It's well known the strictest of them don't use electricity, or automobiles, but rather farm with manual tools and ride in a horse and buggy. In any debate about the merits of embracing new technology, the Amish stand out as offering an honorable alternative of refusal. Yet Amish lives are anything but anti-technological. In fact on my several visits with them, I have found them to be ingenious hackers and tinkers, the ultimate makers and do-it-yourselfers and surprisingly pro technology.
posted by jhandey at 9:47 AM on July 6, 2010


« Older Rethinking hydro power for energy independence   |   Squiggly lines, all alike Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post