OR TO QUOTE ONE OF MY FRIENDS, ISN’T THE TITLE “RADICAL ORTHODOXY” AN UTTER CONTRADICTION?
Recently, theologian John Milbank of Radical Orthodoxy (don’t bother to ask, just read the title as a contradiction in terms) wrote an article on the relationship between Christianity with the Enlightenment and Islam. Apparently, it is with great regret that the Christian European empires fell and “allowed” nations such as India, Pakistan, and Algeria to overthrow the colonizers: “This surely has to do with the lamentably premature collapse of the Western colonial empires (as a consequence of the European wars) and the subsequent failure of Third World national development projects, with the connivance of neo-colonial, purely economic exploitation of poorer countries.” I am sure of course, that Christian orthodoxy has always been for some time now affiliated with an apology for the existence human oppression. Milbank’s Radical Orthodoxy project is radical in the sense that it is a radical RE-interpretation of Christian history, especially the past two hundred years. He claims in the article that Roman Catholicism found itself allied with the ideals of the Enlightenment, the 17th/18th century philosophies of the John Lockes, the Edmund Burkes, and Benjamin Franklins of those days. However, he is forgetting one crucial element: the evidence, especially the Roman Catholic theological texts contradicts his arguments. In fact, even an amatuer reader of history would know that even as late as the late 19th century, with Vatican I, Catholicism rejected modernity. I do not see how it is feasibly possible to defend Milbank’s position, but I digress.
It seems as if Milbank desires to see the Muslim world in the image of European-style high-church Christianity of a generic stereotype, mystical and sacramental. The article definitely reeks of Orientalism and racial hegemony, regardless of one’s theological disagreements with Islam. I can only hope, with the likes of Adam Kotsko and Halden Doerge that future theorists within the Radical Orthodoxy movement challenge cultural assumptions such as these.
But what’s the point of agreeing with this post? I am coming from a radically subjective angle……..
For my critique of the Radical Orthodoxy movement, see the first chapter of my thesis, Beyond Liberated.