Friday, August 24, 2012

Pay attention to John Milbank

For quite some time I have been interested in that cluster of theologians under the "Radical Orthodoxy" banner. Of course, they're not all the same, and they now span a range of traditions. But their work is as refreshing as it is challenging. It also calls into question the kind of theology that tends to dominate first world Anglicanism. 

I'm indebted to the Catholicity and Covenant Blog HERE (interestingly sub-titled "Reflections of a Postliberal Anglican") for a report on a lecture Radical Orthodoxy theologian John Milbank gave in Moscow earlier this year to an Orthodox audience. 

Milbank asks some very basic questions about modern Anglican theology. He begins with its cultural and societal context. The "progressive" mode - shaped by 20th century liberal Protestant German theology - is, he suggests, fundamentally stuck in the 1960s, and fails to address a very changed context in which the relationship between state, market, society and church has radically altered. 

A much more fruitful mode of theology, says Milbank, comes via creedal orthodoxy, nouvelle theologie and re-engagement with the Greek Patristic tradition, opening up the potential of a Church ironically better able to speak into a secular culture from the perspective of analogy, gift, beauty and imagination. Towards the end of the lecture, Milbank interestingly notes the significance of the sacramentality of marriage to the Church's self-understanding. He also refers to the importance of the exercise of the imagination by artists and literary figures in grasping the glory of Incarnation and Redemption. 

Milbank is probably the most influential and interesting theologian in the English-speaking world at the moment, and he's an Anglican. Anglicans should, then, be listening carefully to his insights and reflections and what they mean for modern first world Anglicanism which is still, by and large, shaped by the passing paradigm of liberal Protestantism. What should be the theological focus for those seeking evangelical and catholic renewal within the Anglican Communion? Milbank may not have all the answers. But his perspective can't be ignored. 

Here is part of what he said in Moscow:



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