Friday, February 21, 2014

Shifting Signifiers - New Signs and Revelations

Radical Orthodoxy does not limit theology to a purely exegetic interpretation of the Bible according to its own founded logic, nor does it see theology as a useful crutch in the service of church teachings. Its intention is a radicalization of these juxtaposed positions so that by way of mediation it reaches a third option which would not be apologetic but rather radically transformative and intensely imaginative. From this statement may be extrapolated an important fact. For Radical Orthodoxy, theology is the only metadiscourse that can position all other discourses in such a way that they do not culminate in nihilism. Despite the secular announcement of the death of God and the lack of a call for theology in public space, Radical Orthodoxy “seeks to reconfigure theological truth.” Graham Ward sums this up as follows:
Radical Orthodoxy is involved in reading the signs of the times in such a way. It looks at “sites” that we have invested much cultural capital in—the body, sexuality, relationships, desire, painting, music, the city, the natural, the political—and it reads them in terms of the grammar of the Christian faith; a grammar that might be summed up in the various creeds. In this way Radical Orthodoxy must view its own task as not only doing theology but being itself theological—participating in the redemption of Creation, by being engaged in the gathering of different logoi into the Logos.

Radical means a return to roots. This means, first of all, a return to the vision of Augustine, Maximus, and, somewhat, Aquinas, of knowledge as divine illumination and participation in the divine logos. For Milbank, this understanding of theological epistemology is one of the essential tools for a critique of the contemporary modernist understanding of culture, politics, art, science, and philosophy. Radical means embracing the catholic Christian tradition, especially the forgotten part of that tradition within which we might set apart authors such as Johannes Scotus Eriugena and Nicolas of Cusa on the one hand, and, on the other, Giambatista Vico, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Ruskin, or Charles Péguy, who with their specific view of Christianity questioned Enlightenment decadence and secular Gnosticism. John Milbank is of the opinion that orthodoxy makes no sense without a radicality which only Christianity can bring to it. Christianity and its practice cannot be compared to all other historically tragic forms of radicalism, because the Christian agape sets itself above any law. This means that Christianity establishes a person-in-process before it understands the person as an isolated or collective individual instrumentalized or subordinated to collective and technocratic interests. Orthodoxy enables and creates an interpersonal community placing the person in the mystical and metaphysical body of the community, which is, at the same time, the locus of truth that connects the pastoral, economic, and political. Otherwise, without the help of a Christian meta physical participation everything would drown in neo-pagan individualism which, through a false concern for the corporeal, enslaves with utilitarian forms of technocratic control, creating an illusion of freedom and safety. Milbank asserts that the radical in orthodoxy means a serious receptivity to the meaning of a proper understanding of its integrity.
- Gunjević, "The Thrilling Romance of Radical Orthodoxy— Spiritual Exercises" (from Zizek & Gunjevic's, "God in Pain, Inversions of the Apocalypse")

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