Sunday, December 10, 2006


One theological "sensibility" (i would say movement but i might get a slap on the wrist from my friend jamie) that has really engaged me over the last year or so has been that of Radical Orthodoxy. In it I have seen hope for a new/old way of being church in the world, a way to be uniquely political as "the people of God", and a robust theology that is both open and peculiar at the same time. How's that for a mouthful?

About 6 months ago I came across an interview that Graham Ward did for a radio station. In it Graham lays out Radical Orthodoxy pretty well. Graham Ward is Professor of Contextual Theology and Ethics at the University of Manchester. Some of his previous books include Barth, Derrida and the Language of Theology (1995), Theology and Contemporary Critical Theory (1996), The Postmodern God (Blackwell, 1997), Radical Orthodoxy (1998), The Certeau Reader (Blackwell, 1999), Cities of God (2000), The Blackwell Companion to Postmodern Theology (Blackwell, 2001), True Religion (Blackwell, 2002) and Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice (2004).

I go back and listen to this every now and then because he just makes so much sense to me.

Well for this I've decided to spend a week with Mr. Ward and Radical Orthodoxy and I hope you will take some time and engage this theological sensibility as well. I welcome remarks and thoughts.

Any of the days this week, I'd love to hear about what engages you/troubles you/sparks your imagination or whatever else.

Please enjoy a week with.... Radical Orthodoxy through the lens of Graham Ward.

Question: What is Radical Orthodoxy? and What is meant when Pomo Theologians speak of a "Post Secular Society"?

Rad Ox response (4.5 minutes)


Eric Lee said...


That was a really good interview with Ward...I'm pretty sure I had never heard that before. Aside from the Radial Orthodoxy series itself, I think a lot of these themes he talks explicitly about in the interview are also teased out in Post-Secular Philosophy: Between Philosophy and Theology, edited by Phillip Blond, which contains essays by most of the usual suspects within RO, as well as some others sympathetic to it. It came out just before the actual edited volume called Radical Orthodoxy, also on Routledge.

This kind of 'post-secular' thing is also evidenced by the 'religious' turn in places such as phenomenology and others. Granted, some of the people who are making these 'turns' are already confessing Christians themselves (i.e. Jean-Luc Marion).

Key here is a very de Lubacian-inspired theme of supernaturalizing the natural: always maintaining a theology that speaks of metaphysics; likewise always having a philosophy that speaks of transcendence. Despite many of the influences of the radical philosophers of immanence, I think there is a real movement of sorts of people who are realizing that such views are untenable. As much as I might disagree with the 'intelligent design' movement, the spirit behind it reveals some of this, I think.

I really appreciate Graham Ward focusing on the fact that RO is a book series. 9 times out of 10 when people feel like they need to bash RO I see people conflating everybody within the series with Milbank, when in fact the 'sensibility' is very diverse. It gets tiring, as much as I actually like Milbank, of reminding people that Jamie Smith != Milbank, Stephen Long != Milbank, etc. The diversity and critique within it I think is very acknowledged and at that, charitable.

Also, despite the distaste for much of its prose (which takes patience, not ridicule, I would argue), if nothing else, RO is extremely provocative and exceedingly creative.

I look forward to more of the posts in this series!

Thanks Jon.



St.Phransus said...

Thanks Eric. I hope all is going well with you and your wife this Advent season.

I agree completely about the diversity of the conversation within RO. I'll have to check out Phillip Blond, I'm not familiar with his work.

I see within RO an engagement with social theory and philosophy but something I really love about it is a kind of aesthetic approach to theology. When I read Milbank I understand about .025 of what he says :), ok so maybe a little more, but not much. But there is a prose to his writing that I think is also acquired- I just haven't quite acquired it completely.

Within the orthodox tradition itself there is much more of an emphasis on the nature of God as "Beauty", and how we in the image of God have a "beauty" within us that is held in tension with our "depravity".

There's just a language that RO utilizes that is richer and fuller than traditional liberal protestant theology has provided.

Happy New Christian Year,

Anonymous said...

A very interesting interview. I look forward to listening to the rest.

Mr. Ward is definitely right about the generation that's hitting the world right now. Traditional faith is a big part of it. It's almost like heritage, or keeping in touch with one's roots. Bibles and other forms of scripture are almost like heirlooms. I can't help but wonder, though, if this new form of religion, at least in general, is more of a simulation of faith than actual faith. I'll agree that especially in the 70s, when my father was growing up, there was a boom in faith. Jesus music and the new, improved intellectual Christian. And to a certain extent, that still exists. But from the view point of the college campus, it appears, for the most part, as belief for the sake of tradition, not for the sake of salvation.

Though, as previously stated, I certainly am eager to hear the rest of the series.


St.Phransus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
St.Phransus said...

I wonder though if belief for the "sake of tradition" and for the "sake of salvation" are off base.

That almost puts way too much emphasis on the Christian life boiled down to belief when belief needs to be in connection with participation in a Christian community and personal "habits" (as wesley would say) that create a "way of life" in Christ.

Just thinking out loud,

Anonymous said...

Aren't belief and practice interconnected? As Bonhoeffer put it, "Only those who obey can believe and only those who believe can obey."

And by belief for the sake of tradition, I mean the proclamation of faith and no further. It seems that most college students claim the name of Christ, but do not actually carry that out (not saying that I'm any better than my peers, that's just how things seem to be).


St.Phransus said...

oh yeah man, i agree fully. that quote is one of my favorite bonhoeffer quotes. i'm glad you brought that point up because i also fear that western culture has created a "cheaper" version of christianity that has divorced belief and practice from one another. what we are left with is "if you just believe all the right things, beleive the right set of rules, and just profess jesus as your "personal" lord and savior then you WILL BE SAVED..."

i think bonhoeffer would call that cheap grace :)

thanks for contributing to the discussion. and i hope finals are going well.


Zoomdaddy said...

Completely separate from the conversation, I have to admit my curiosity whenever I see a "removed comment" what that comment was. Pray for God to deliver me from gnostic/voyeuristic tendencies :)

St.Phransus said...

The world will just have to wonder on that one....

ok, it was me. i wrote the comment and decided that i can't really stalk myself and leave obscene comments on my own blog.

so in a moment of pureness i deleted my comment and repented of my self stalking tendencies. :)

Zoomdaddy said...