Does Christianity Need Christendom To Thrive?

John Millbank is a theologian and the leader of an influential school of thought known as Radical Orthodoxy. Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology was published 20 years ago by Millbank, Catherine Pickstock, and Graham Ward. According to R. R. Reno, the Radical Orthodoxy project seeks to synthesize the insights of French Post-Structural Theory (i.e., Deconstructionism; E.g., Jacques Derrida, 1930–2004; Michel Foucault, 1926–84) with a

Christian perspective that will supersede and replace secularisms both modern and postmodern. Their goal is to uncover a “new theology,” new because it renounces the mediations and compromises of so-called modern theology.

They want to turn Postmodernism against itself by using it as a vehicle to return to, as Reno observes, “Augustine’s vision of heavenly peace, made effective in the dynamic and binding power of divine purpose, that shapes Radical Orthodoxy’s reflections, not Nietzsche’s violence wrought by an omnipotent will-to-power. “

It is a great, perennial debate whether universals (“the one”) or particulars (“the many”) are more fundamental to existence. In the Medieval period there were two competing theological schools organized, in part, around this question. In the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224–74) argued for the priority of universals and for an identity between names and things. In class I summarize this point of view with this slogan: “We call things what we call them because they are what they are.” We call a chair what we do because it has the essence of chair-ness. There is a real relation between the name and the thing. In the 14th century, this view was strongly criticized by the nominalists, who argued that the relation between names and things is a mere convention, i.e., it is made up and can be changed at will. Today, the deconstructionists say that everything is merely a construct, a convention to be de-constructed (and remade).

The marriage debate is a good example of how this debate plays out socially. Read more»