John Milbank's Use Of Patristic Theology: An Observation

I am over a quarter of a ways finished reading with Milbank’s Theology And Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason. In seminary, I was warned not to read John Milbank’s work because the professor informed me that it would be too “dense” for my liking. I call bunk! I think through all the name dropping that Milbank does, he makes it quite clear what his project exactly is about, something I will blog on later, but for now, I leave you with this observation:

In the opening chapters of this work, Milbank very briefly highlights Logos Christology, and how important it was for early Christians in their view of how the world was organized. Milbank somehow manages to do this without citing any of Eastern Fathers (who have a differing view on the function of the Logos). Eusebian-Arian Christianity (a proto-liberal protestantism!), rejecting Trinitarian thought in favor of a view where the Logos is the unadulterated executive power of coercion from God (page 56). This view of God’s sovereignty gets transferred over the centuries to the power of the Western individual who wields the power of self-control, and therefore the potential for domination over others. The “liberal protestant metanarrative” as Milbank calls it sees Judaism as the predecessor to liberal protestantism, and an anti-thesis to Roman Catholic ritualism and mystery. Milbank correctly points to the problem of Orientalism and the Western gaze in this regard, but he does not turn this critque on himself, or his use of Augustine. “In Augustine for example, the background of anthropological persona is Christological and trinitarian rather than jurisprudential, so that he stresses the concrete, specific unity of the person, including both soul and body, a situated unity like the unity of God and man which occurs in the specific divine personhood of Christ–inseparable from its relationship to the Father and the Holy Spirit” (96). Milbank is citing Drobner’s Persone-Exegese und Christologie bei Augustinus (1986).

This view of personhood however, still gets trapped in the Gentile nation-building project (witness Milbank’s latest proposals about military schools for the poor, etc). The uncritical use of Augustine in this case permits RadOx theologians to ignore his anti-Jewish allegorical interpretation of Scripture. Milbank, in the end, is arguing against Western triumphalism for the sake of promoting Western Triumphalism. Some of the Eastern Fathers (yes, Clement of Alexandria for example), freely engaged in dialogue with their Jewish contemporaries who viewed the Logos as YHWH’s creative agency. Because these thinkers understood that the Gentiles had been engrafted into the covenant, rather than replacing God’s people, the Eastern church saw Christianity as a religion of peace and reconciliation.

0 thoughts on “John Milbank's Use Of Patristic Theology: An Observation

  1. Pingback: Theology Round-Up February :: Cheesewearing Theology

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *