September 11-13, 2003
The entire conference was audio-taped, and the sessions are available for purchase through the Calvin College Bookstore. Contact them at 616-526-6376, or 1-800-748-0122, or email@example.com.
Seminars in Christian Scholarship; Calvin College; 3201 Burton St. SE; Grand Rapids, MI 49546.
The proceedings of the conference will be published as Creation, Covenant, and Participation: Radical Orthodoxy and the Reformed Tradition, eds. James K.A. Smith and James H. Olthuis (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic Press, 2005). Material should not be cited with permission of the authors or editors.
Some of what follows are papers that might conceivably be available in print, depending on the individual presenter. Some of what follows are responses to those papers, many of which seem not to have been written out in paper form. The rest is conversation, questions and answers, subsequent comments and musings that all occurred on the spot.
NOTE: These are my notes, recording what I heard and processed. It is very likely that I got things wrong at times, and it would never be appropriate to cite my notes as direct quotations of any of the speakers. With the exception of the plenary speeches and the concluding round table, the conference scheduled two concurrent papers for each session slot. For obvious reasons, I was only able to attend one paper during each session. For a list of the papers not represented below, see the conference web site.
abbreviations and format:
The Calvinists at this conference referred to Radical Orthodoxy as RO, while Ward and Milbank maintained Radical Orthodoxy (when they referred to it by name, which is not as often, since they are careful to nuance that ďitĒ). I am utterly dissatisfied with RO, and I shall continue to use my preferred abbreviation, which is RadOx.
Double brackets [[ ]] enclose my comments to myself, and Iíve tried to include also my initials (mba) to clarify this.
Double question marks ?? indicate a question from the floor. Sometimes I have a name for the questioner; most often I donít, either because I was too busy typing to look, or because I didnít know who the person was, or both.
Plenary Address by Graham Ward
Respondent: James Olthuis
[This is Wardís abstract from the handout materials:
ďTaking the work of Karl Barth, the aim of this paper is to demonstrate how theological discourses cannot be divorced from wider cultural politics. The desire then, by Barth, for a pure dogmatic theology purged of the influence of other social and cultural sciences--paradigmatically summed up in Ďphilosophyí--is a dangerous chimera that has the effect of depoliticising theology. The first step in the movement towards such a dogmatic theology, for Barth, is the denial of any apologetic function for theology. This is the heart of Barthís misgivings about Schleiermacher and Hegel. But this paper argues that the theological discourse is always engaged in an apologetics because it is always culturally and historically informed. Barthís attack on Hegel therefore betrays an inadequate understanding of theological discourse. In fact Barth needs to give Hegel adequate depth to his own dialectical theology and to avoid the dualisms that are so antithetical to a theology founded upon the incarnation. To recognise theologyís embeddedness is to recognise the cultural and historical as themselves transits of grace.Ē]
[Here are my notes of his presentation:]
The World and Godís relationship to it: the role of theology as a discursive practice, and the theologian with respect to the operation of God in the operations of the world.
Christian Apologetics: why does it matter?
context, for whom, what purpose, whom addressed
Meaning is only known with respect to Christ
Public truth: evangelical and doxological. Christian mission is to disseminate good news and bring about transformations.
Makes manifest polity of Christian gospel. Christological task--redemptive work of Christ;
otherwise, it is an exercise in navel gazing.
Reflexivity canít be telos of the task.
Christian Apologetics: no unmediated access to Word. The basis of engagement of Word with world depends on the character of both. Immersion in words and works of Word and context--hereís the risk: in understanding the world, theology understands itself.
The revelation of Christ comes before foundations of world.
Being situated in the world particularly, the theologian takes up her task with the resources of tradition and through what is historically available.
Faith seeking understanding, constituted in cultural negotiation between revelation and signs of times.
Neither can be accessed without the other. The secular world is never confronted as such without first being constructed as an order from standpoint of Christian difference, and the other way around.
Examine Barth: opposing dogmatics to cultural project, but dialectical method performs his own wrestling between relation with Word and world.
Theology speaks from faith to faith. But unbelief needs to be taken seriously, so theologian compromises self (a la Barth) when presents self to educated of religion despisers in role they establish. [[not sure I got this]]
This genuine apologetics recognized by effectiveness--event of faith. Word of theology empowered and blessed by God as witness of faith. Canít be prescribed or planned for. Unbeliever overhears conversation internal to faith.
Theological apologetics must examine why and how it can speak, without ceasing to be theological.
Barth: have nothing to do with militarism, capitalism liberalism, etc.
Barthís eschatological fervor was reactive and addressed to those who betrayed the evangelium.
The fact that Christians do act in the world (even if graced) means they cannot be inoculated against involvements in monarchism, patriotism, etc. Barthís radical separatism betrays an inadequate dialectical thinking. It doesnít account for what Christians do.
Barth needs to give more nuanced acts of history, agency, power, so he can reflect more on method of his discourse and think through relations between dialectic and salvation,
dialectic as utter contradiction with dialectic as process.
Kierkegaard and Hegel.
Synthesis as factual origin and end for Barth and Hegel structurally, but Barth has to consider time and eternity as a paradox.
This comes later for Barth with trinitarian God, creation, reconciliation doctrines.
You can see the interplay of dialectical strategy in the 2 editions of Barthís Romans.
Later: church and unbelief (paganism, hedonism)--two loci
Then, the church qualifies: struggles to be the church, heresy struggles. Heresy must attack the church which is not sufficiently the church.
Positions under constant negotiation. Our own understanding of the being of the church, is not the only one.
Divine certainty is never human certainty.
Christian dogmatics speak in antithesis of faith to unbelief. border, lack of common presupposition--no apologetics.
But then, degrees of unbelief.
So, divine correspondence to: Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief.
When is faith without unbelief?
Who judges when an event of faith has taken place? How are degrees of faith and unbelief calibrated?
Why is it that human theology, working within Word of God, has no human security in Word of God?
Barthhas 4 answers:
1 (theological): nature of difference in divide between gracious addresses of God in Jesus to creation
2 (theological): free grace of God can be given or refused. Godís logic.
3 (anthropological): the human need to speak in and of faith, from anthropological prius of faith. This is associated with 2 above, but this mimetic human being activity of human speaking is an act of human appropriation. It is constantly in question, because it is by nature fallible and stands in need of criticism, correction, amendment, repetition.
4 (anthropological): Fallenness, the inadequate means and partial delivery of truth.
Barthís assumptions about theology:
1) there is a pure ahistorical truth being pursued through these means.
2) there are better and worse appropriations of this truth, measurement of which is ahistorical.
3) obedience to that word would lead to consensus and agreement on all matters of doctrine.
Barth is emphatic that theological inquiry is blessed or idle in discursiveness-
Christian speech is tested by conformity to Christ, so that which dogmatics investigates is Christian utterance.
This renders theological inquiry a self-enclosed circle of concern. So theol takes itself seriously, and dogmatics has to be apologetic.
Apologetics is an attempt to show that the determining principles of philosophy etc. do preclude tenets of theology.
But, critical intervention: discourse is fundamental to dogmatics and apologetics. Who can police the boundaries of a discourse? Who can ensure the self-enclosure when constitution of that enclosure is a question of language and representation?
Do we presuppose the radical separation of different discourses?
For Barth, there has never been a philosophia Christiana--if one , not the other.
However, if discourses are not bounded, if they always exceed institutional contexts, than an apologetics can proceed without theologian necessarily renouncing her theological function.
As Kathryn Tanner recently observed: contemporary cultural anthropology argues against the claim that Christians have a self-contained culture.
Christian apologetics is constructed out of cultural materials at hand. Christians are members of other associations as well. . . there are fluid externalities.
In his process, Barth deconstructs his own work.
For Barth, theology is self-defining to protect itself from other disciplines, but his own writing demonstrates how such categories canít be discrete. He employs categories (knowledge, understanding etc.) and refers to Plato Aristotle, Kant, Heideger, Anselm, Aquinas, other sciences, social, psychological---he can only define a particular form of protestantism on the basis of shared vocabulariess and categories that stand outside his thesisís other. His own is not self-enclosed.
Christian theology cannot be completely systematized and canít stake out limits of what is in and outside Christ. Theology is a cultural activity, dialectic implicated .
Here Barth encounters Hegel. Hegel poses the challenge of a relationship between philosophy and theology--reason vs trinitarian procession.
For Barth, everything that seems to give theology splendor appears to be honored by philosophy in a way better than theologians themselves.
The language Barth uses, ďthis is how it seems,Ē is telling. Barth was never sure about Hegel and heterodoxy.
Hegel proclaims the possibility of a philosophia christiana. Barthís reading of Aquinas is wrong, and his reading of Hegel more a post-Hegelian dialectic.
But, the notion of God as actus purus demonstrates how close Hegel and Barth can come.
While Barth condemns Hegelís univocity of Geist and reason, he recognizes a great unfulfilled promise.
There is something promising here: trinitarian-informed reflectivity. Hegelís reminder of the possibility that truth might be history. Theologyís knowledge is only possible as self-moved knowledge--truth--participation. Barth likes this, a history of Godís own self-veiling. Reminds theology of the contradictory nature of its own knowledge. Barth says that Hegel must have been thinking of the creator of heaven and earth (whether or not he realized it).
2) theology as a discursive practice participating in a covenant of grace as a theme of history
3) the need for theology to be reflexive about its own practice, since words of people are never the same as the Word of God.
For Barth, the separate existence of theology signifies an emergency measure on which church has resolved amidst a refusal of the other sideís. It is a temporal specificity, a response to a culture and moment when the theological is despised. It is a dogmatics in opposition to apologetics, a cultural product in need of amendment!!
By the end of WWII, Barth on history and participation and biblical witness: we speak always as men (not angel and Gods). give new reflection: thus we have to reckon on human factors, with views and style ( of biblical writers). . .[[I lost the thread of this sentence]]
The biblical witness, the commitment of God who informs, does not transcend history at every point and leads to an understanding of biblical discourse as culturally and psychologically determined. It is connected to conditioning factors of age and environment.
This recognition of the cultural embedendess of biblical discourse points to the fact that theological witness can not be entirely self-reffering and enclosed. It borrows and uses, and engages in cultural negotiations. Barth even employs Schleiermacherís category of divination for hermeneutics.
It is the covenant of grace that is the theme of Godís history. Time is in God. The truth of Godís word is eternal but also always highly specific. There are no timeless truths. Truth concretely temporally. (This is Barth on biblical writing, but it must apply to theology as well.)
Christianity tells Godís story where the thologian is situated--the theologian who reads the signs of the times in terms of grace--cultural negotiations always.
This not cultural relativism, but we canít transcend cultural determination. We canít get distilled, pure theological discourse.
Barth forges a dialectical method that brings together Kierkegaardís dialectic (synchronic) with the diachronic dialectic of Hegel (truth as history).
The synchronic and diachronic supplement each other in the work of theology in respect to the world.
In Church Dogmatics IV 3.2. there is the call of Christ to all humanity. He seeks a third way beyond synthesis.(beyond the Hegel of the formula Barth assumes is Hegelian). So Barth offers Christian community the reality and truth of the grace of God addressed to the world in Jesus Christ. Christian community is enjoined to speak of world of Jesus Christ while recognizing that Jesus Christ is not a concept which man can think out of himself, define with precision, and display mastery over. This is the problem of this antithesis.
The fallible Christian community as bearer and witness of better hope, testifies to the work and Word of God as a new thing, and seeks to participate in the unfolding of that new world, seeks to produce and perform that new thing. Christian discourse is the practice of transformative hope executed in the name of Christ, disseminated through the world, because the Word of Christ is implicated in other communities and other practices. To particpate in others is not prima facia theoolgical, because of Jesus Christís trancendence and immanence. We are members of other bodies. [[mba: I am not entirely sure about this]]
It is because Christians are involved in monarchism, patriotism, etc. that the work and words of the living communitye extend into the deepest and darkest immanence in testament to and in performance of a new thing, new relation. This is a movement in, through, and beyond the church and the churchís endless cultural negotiations.
It is teleologically [[or theologically, not sure]] driven. A positive dialectic, tracing and performing the march of God in the world (a la Hegel). [[probably teleological]]
On this basis, an apologetics not settled on defining itself against the rest of the world can proceed.
Thus, theology is made, itís a cultural operation, where ďculturalĒ understood as a transit of grace (a la Hegel).
[[mba residual response: there are just as many problems with discernment and policing of in-world as there are with attempts to be exclusive of world. Who determines what is the operative understanding of world and Word, and not confusion of word and World?]]
(Didnít see the paper ahead of time, donít have much to say in response.)
Guess Iím set up as the yes-man? Is this setting the tone for discussion between Reformed thinking and RadOx.
My basic response is, Did you think we would say no?. . . .
Ward: Itís always a matter of discernment, of cultural negotiations. The medieval monks, like Pseudo-Dionysius, talked about hierarchies and anagogy, but never said where they were (themselves) on the ladder, because in a transitive grace, you can never tell, you always have to discern where you are. Within any context, that cultural discernment is always negotiated with respect to all the other operations, and you wonít arrive at pure certainty about whether you are in grace or not.
[[mba--but this doesnít address community functions of practice]]
Ward: I am not like Caputo and Derrida, because I still speak in and use the grammar of my faith, within specific church/cultural practices. I am thinking always within that framework. Caputo's new book on Radical Hermeneutics, this felicital nominalism is just plain WRONG.
??James K. A. Smith (Jamie): We know that the NT church had the Spirit. . .
Ward: Sure, tell me where your Geist ends and Holy Sprit begins.
[[mab: if there is no security in knoweldge of God, so theolology is always procedural--do we share that procedure with the secular?]]
[[mba: there is an interdependence of utterance on other disciplines-- but how to maintian Christian particularity too?]]
The dichotomy between immanence and transcendence is wrong, thatís why reintegration (Barth and Hegel) is necessary. That was modernityís place of starting (public/private distinction). Rejection of that leads to asserting how they need each other.
If the Reformed tradition is so situated within the logics of modernity, how can it think Iím right?
[[lots of anti Princeton-Barthianism coming from Ward here]]
Dogmatic theology sets itself up as timeless system and enormous truthclaims, but these are rhetorical claims, must always be seen in terms of whom they are trying to persuade and why.
How to determine a Christian action: (see above)
?? Are there places where the Word becomes more transparent in our lives and practices?
Ward: I have trouble with . . .. conforming to the image of Christ is a difficult hermeneutical act, not simple. I see all things in Christ, thereís a distinction between Christ and pneumatology, but I wouldnít want to reify those differences. Does Calvin? Is he tritheistic? Heís not a systematic theologian, a rhetor.
?? Would Mainline Protestantss be as open to Apologetics as Rad Ox and Reformed?
Ward: Catholics donít buy into the logics of modernity that there is such a division between transcendence and immanence. Thereís a distinction but not division.
[[mba: This is a key RadOx and de Lubac point]]
Protestants donít seem to like apologetics--as if there is a sneaking suspicion that Tillich did it (badly) and we donít want to? We can have a genuine theologically-based apologetics, that doesnít say that the secular and sacred is just a set of exchangable signs (as do Caputo and Tillich.)
Want to develop Christian philosopohy and Christian liberal theory (ugh) Christian political poesis.
Iím worried about depoliticization. [[mba: I sense this is Wardís theme about wariness of sectarianism as inappropriately separated from ďpolitics,Ē of his perception of Hauerwasian community practice.]]
Theology is a discursive practice--not just what Iím doing, itís what liturgists do, any kind of performative action is a theological action. The task for those who write academic theology is to make certain clarifications where possible and open up new suggestions and new modes of Christian reasoning or thinking (which have maybe been forgotten) and need to be re-introduced. Iím not informing Christian discernment. [[mba: I worry about this wariness of formation, seems inaccurate, as well.]]
To point to some of complexities involved: As a pastor Iíve come across too many people formed in certain positions who believed they could find answers in the Bible. Itís more complex than that. Thatís a good complexity, itís formation--a process of discernment, an act of grace.
Respondent: John Milbank
[Abstract from handout:
“In this paper, I argue that for Milbank atonement is an ecclesio-christological process of forgiveness. This participatory model assumes an equation of violence and evil that leads to an unfortunate indeterminacy. Milbank’s apparent reconsideration of this equation, however, may lead to a narrowing of the gap with Reformed theology. My argument proceeds as follows: I give an overview of what I take to be Milbank’s view of atonement as an ecclesial practice by comparing his view to the traditional models. I argue that by subsuming christology into ecclesiology Milbank modifies key concepts of the traditional atonement models and so incorporates them into his participationist model. I maintain that Milbank cannot sustain his appeal to Aquinas for his view of forgiveness as unlimited positive circulation and that Calvin and the Reformed tradition, with their defense of divine punishment, are closer to Aquinas than in Milbank. By combining his participatory atonement theology with an ecclesial practice of non-violence he adopts a problematic ethical and christological indeterminacy. Milbank’s “ontology of peace” has always accounted for violence in a somewhat ambiguous manner. On the one hand, it is the civitas terrena that is the domain of violence and evil with the Church being the realm of peace, the participatory community of forgiveness. On the other hand, since violence is inescapable in everything we do, Milbank must make the admission of the tragic necessity of violence in everything we do. There are several indications, however, that Milbank is becoming more open to the possibility of redemptive violence and is thereby narrowing the gap with Reformed theology. By means of two suggestions, which would “reform” Milbank even more, I build on his apparent change in direction: I suggest that Milbank would alleviate the tension in his theology by an acknowledgment that there is grace beyond the boundaries of the Church and by a recognition of the need for divine violence in the atonement.”
(Here are my notes of Boersma's presentation:)
[[mba: Warning. More and more of my double-bracketed concurrent and critical commentary is sneaking in as I transcribe these notes. Skip over at will.]]
According to Milbank, Radical Orthodoxy not just for Roman Catholics, it is a catholic vision of the patristic period--an olive branch.
Milbank notes that, after rejecting Protestant accounts of grace, many are not of this kind.
I see signs of change in Milbank's approach that would move him closer to the Reformed tradition.
In particular, a reconsideration of the equation of violence and evil would narrow the gap with Reformed theology.
Imitation, substitution, sacrifice, and other common language might be promising starts.
Christianity is not founded on a transcendent original to imitate. Milbank is impatient with imputation, but Christ didn't offer one all-sufficient sacrifice, but passed into heavenly sanctuary as priest and victim, making an atoning gift there. So it's not a Calvinist juridical framework.
Milbank calls for an ecclesio-christological practice of forgiveness which identifies Christ and the Church (see Milbank's "The Name of Jesus" essay). Christ is both already and not yet.
In this ecclesiological construal of Christ's divine personhood, the Church continues what Christ has done, and its work is Christ's work of atonement.
This leads to an atonement doctrine which is primarily ecclesiological, with christology and atonement secondary. It subsumes atonement into christology into ecclesiology.
[[mba: Here it seems that Boersma completely misses the point that christology and atonement aren't subsumed into ecclesiology, since the church is not anything apart from the (eucharistic) presence of Christ. I'm guessing this will be a tough point on which to find agreement, since it seems so fueled by ecclesiological formation and identity--Reformed vs Anglican. . .]]
Milbank claims that in nonidentical repetition, not straightforward moralism, the church is caught up in participatory exchange, so there is a charismatic ethic, an ethic of gift which is atonement and forgiveness. Atonement means participation in the divine life of church. Christ offers the gift of true worship which humanity should [[receive/enact]] but can't.
It requires repetition.
In the metaphoric sign of the cross we discover the key to atonement.
[[mba: note, Boersma's understanding of metaphor flatter than Milbank's, so, for Boersma, "metaphoric" connotes inadequate.]]
Milbank contrasts his notion of sacrifice with a truly-other ethic. His is not an ecstatic attitude, a transcendent egotistic or self-sacrificial concern. Thus we shouldn't celebrate self-sacrifice as such. Rather, sacrifice is for sake of return as same but different. Sacrifice looks for the return of life in resurrection.
For Milbank, in an ontology of peace, true being is taken up in a continuous display of difference. This is a participatory account, such that in church and forgiveness we participate in infinite reciprocity, and share in an eternal reciprocal economy of gift exchange. Christ offers himself and becomes the gift that returns.
Milbank claims that the Reformation sees forgiveness as negative. In contrast, he argues that the Fathers and Aquinas had a positive view of forgiveness, and of incarnation as fitting, whereby God generously gives God's self in incarnation. Is there no rapprochement in a (unilateral?) contrast between positive and negative?
1) Milbank misinterprets Aquinas by insisting that God needn't forgive because God keeps on giving. This is an un-Thomist move. Forgiveness as positive?! Where is this in Aquinas?! It's not there. Every sin can be blotted out by true penance. The debt of punishment as well as the guilt of punishment are removed; therefore, after forgiveness, no debt of punishment remains. Aquinas says that contrition is the cause of the forgiveness of sin. In one and the same act, God heals the mind and pardons sin, but Aquinas distinguishes between the two.
Calvin has more affinity with Aquinas (than Milbank has recognized), by holding to the distinction between justification and sanctification. These are inseparable but distinct. For both Calvin and Aquinas, one can't have forgiveness without transformation. Milbank insists that an account of the arrival of grace must also mean sanctification and ethics, but this doesn't dismiss Calvin. For Calvin, works are not causal to the forgiveness of sins, but still the two go hand in hand.
This is also un-Thomist: Aquinas says both are divine acts. Milbank says they are not reactive, but that both are sustained giving. Milbank says there is no divine forgiveness aside from human forgiveness--humanity forgiving humanity, not God's forgiving us, but God giving us gift-capacity for forgiveness. By Christ's forgiveness, Milbank means Christ's giving us the capacity for forgiveness, since his ontology of peace doesn't allow for divine punishment, which Milbank associates with evil.
But when God doesn't punish, there is no need to forgive either. Aquinas has a penal view of the cross, more similar to Calvin than Milbank. Aquinas has a reactive view of the cross and even double predestination.
So, how can Aquinas say that God needn't forgive. Aquinas doesn't share Milbank's queasiness with God's divine punishment.
So what is the process of nonviolence? Milbank wants an ontology of peace, with violence as an anti-transcendental, a counter-ethics and a counter-ontology. His counter-history is a counter-cultural version of Augustine's two cities: one of no violence, with the cross; the other with all violence into nothingness. Violence has no true existence and can be rooted out. So Milbank combines participatory atonement with a christologically-shaped practice of non-violence.
This combination causes problems. So what does non violent forgiveness look like? It fails to assign determinacy to the church's non-violence, because it is not possible. A nonviolent act in a violent world would be an oxymoron. Milbank even admits that the church has less definite ideas than the polis. Milbank claims an antinomian ethic, which rejects virtue and duty, rejects right and wrong, and asserts that Christianity explodes limits. So how can we know if an act is violent or nonviolent.
[[mba: the "how can we know" question pervades the conference, pointing to a discussion of discernment which could make up a whole conference on its own.]]
Practices of assumed nonviolence may turn out to be violence. We should attend more to the goodness of the created order and the significance of the OT in discerning the will of God, so as not to succumb to ethical and christological indeterminacy. But what about the specificity of Christ? According to Milbank, only Christ reconciles us, but where Christ is identified with the unfolding practices of the ecclesia, it is hard to define specifics . The textual Christ is the historical Jesus (says Milbank). He says to read the Gospels as the refoundation of the city.
I am uneasy with this complete disinterest in the historical Jesus and with this ecclesiologically-constituted Christology. It obscures the particular identity of Jesus Christ as the mediator of salvation. It is in the historically specific life of Jesus Christ that God acts. The church only has its place in obedience to Jesus Christ. The church can identify with Christ but isn't his equal.
[[mba: here we have another prevailing undercurrent of the conference: radically different understandings of hermeneutics, such that the Reformed argument can accuse the RadOx argument of insufficient historicity and over weighted ecclesiology, while the RadOx argument finds that critique dependent on a narrow understanding of scripture and an inadequate understanding of the presence of Christ. I can imagine subsequent conferences/conversations on hermeneutics as well.]]
This nonviolent character is a problem: if violence can be rooted out it is a violent metaphor. So how possible is it to root out violence, especially if our entire conduct is penetrated by violence.
There is a tension in Milbank on this point: a tragic resignation and critique of Augustine's inadequate ontology of atonement. However, Milbank does admit that we can't avoid some violence.
In more recent writings, Milbank shows a shift on violence; he is more ready to acknowledge the inevitability of violence, and he accept that it could be redemptive. (See the Baker book of essays which contains some of the debate with Stanley Hauerwas on this point: Must Christianity be Nonviolent?]
The disagreement itself is already a low-key account of violence as a concealed and devious form of violence, but it also assumes that violence may be justified. We may need to accept divine violence. Violence is only eradicated by an apocalyptic counter-violence.
(Milbank interjects: Note that I have had children since I wrote Theology and Social Theory!)
[big laugh all around]
[[mba: except me. I am as yet unpersuaded by Milbank's more recent lean toward violence, by Boersma's campaign for redemptive violence, and, as a pacifist parent, most unamused by the joking association between parenthood and a renewed affirmation of the inescapability of violence. I do have a sense of humor; I understand the joke; I do not accept the sensibility. . .]]
(Back to Boersma:) Redemptive violence is a possibility which Milbank seems to recognize.
So there reason for optimism that Milbank is beginning to close the gap between Augustinianism and Reformed sensibilities.
There are always overlays of power. Truth requires persuasion. A determinist theory requires violence. Therefore we must resist the postmodern rejection of all boundaries--which leads determinacy.
1) It is not clear why Milbank calls for a denial of other publics (besides the church). If we acknowledge that violence is everywhere and can be redemptive, why is there an opposition of two cities? Why is the church presented as counter-culture. It?s all part of an infinite-finite exchange. Recent Milbank on nature and grace sounds more like (the Reformed notion of) common grace, too. Milbank affirms now that the denial of nature as autonomous doesn't mean that everything beyond the church is outside grace.
The church as public, and participation, includes spaces outside the church. So don't subsume christology within ecclesiology. Accept the personal identity of Christ outside eccelsiology.
2) On violence and atonement: The cross deals with violence in a violent fashion. God redeems humanity through violent means. Redemptive violence is a possibility, and divine punishment is not out of the question. For Aquinas, forgiveness can be rehabilitated. We witness the anticipation of this in the biblical account.
Be more radical in your disavowal of Hauerwasian nonviolence. You can still participate in an ontology of peace, whereby divine violence is used toward divine peace.
[[mba: if it's not obvious yet, I am unconvinced by the characterization of Hauerwasian sectarian non-violence, unimpressed by Boersma's notion of divine (and human) "redemptive violence," and dissatisfied with Milbank's recent leanings toward a more violent story about the Christian engagement with our eschatological hope of non-violence.]]
To begin with, I want to emphasize my appreciation for this kind of conversation. This is real theology: engaging with real issues from the past as if they are important today. This is what is most important: seriously having to think in our situation and in the terms of tradition. This is good.
I see no penal substitution in Aquinas. Yes there is double predestination in Aquinas. (Aquinas is wrong on this; it's horrific to believe in double predestination.) There is a difference between satisfaction and punishment in medieval usage. The father doesn't punish the son or the son's humanity, but Jesus offers satisfaction by suffering the consequences of sins, omits the punishment we deserve because of our sin, and satisfies the divine honor (this is different from the Reformation model). So, there is no divine affliction in violence or transaction in God. That would be the most ridiculous mythology. If that's Christianity, I want nothing to do with it! I dislike it intensely.
Your peaceful-practice points are completely right. But I've always thought this. I?ve never thought there could be a pure practice of peace in the church. It's an eschatological aim, more ontological. We have faith that there can be a peaceful practice finally, but of course we're always intertangled with violence in the world because sin and violence go together. This is an extended reflection, but all the materials are in the tradition. Augustine does elevate peace into a transcendental, and evil as a privation, like violence. So in my most recent book, evil and violence are overlapping ways of describing the same thing (like the way truth, goodness, beauty describe God's perfection). Evil and violence become something like anti-transcendentals.
But I agree that even the church is not entirely avoiding coercive practice and can?t; but nonetheless, the desire to go beyond coercion always an important desire of the church, beyond punishment to reconciliation. (For example, the Roman Catholic church's situation now, despite the obvious and problematic hypocrisy, is still trying to show a different model, and it is partly misunderstood, because of the general difficulty in understanding a model of reconciliation over punishment.)
On the undercurrent of too much postmodernism, too much indeterminacy: Maybe, by associating it more with analogy and a peaceful coexistence of differences, this should free it from hopeless indeterminacy. So, within the indeterminate, some relative things are better than others, and some anticipations are of an infinitely just order. This is rather than a Derridean approach were all are equally good and bad.
[[mba: note presence here of (my theory of) two underlying themes as yet insufficiently addressed: hermeneutics (importance of a wide and fruitful understanding of analogy) and discernment (living with relativity, and not being overcome by indeterminacy).]]
I do say both that Christianity obliterates boundaries and that it can't entirely, doesn't entirely, renounce a Jewish concern with the legal institution of boundaries.
Yes, there is a big difference between me and the Reformed tradition. I want to push the antinomian tradition of Paul more than the Reformed (there is something about the Muggletonians and Blake I want to appreciate)--something about an insistence in going on beyond the law.
Calvin is completely inadequate in terms of the radicalism of Paul on the law.
On christology: "The name of Jesus" is my most difficult essay. It is always misread, and now needs to be read in conjunction in my most recent book, Being Reconciled--Christ is the exception, and his crucifixion obscures deliverance, where I show a passionate concern with this historicity of narratives about Jesus and the passion narratives. So, this should not be read as a change of mind, but as two sides of same picture. I defend historicity because the meaning given in Christ is meaningless without historicity. Part of the meaning we are given is that this meaning is entirely real, an absolute event. Incarnation is absolutely a meaning event and is also absolutely real. The meaning of the Incarnation is that it surpasses our usual distinctions between fiction and reality. Like a true fairy story, it is the arrival of a realm beyond our distinction of real and imagined. A recreation of the world, a restoration of a pre fallen order, bound to seem like an entry to the magical-- like in Shakespeare's late romances.
So, no wonder the problems about handling this text are bound to be massive. It defeats the considerations one normally makes. It is a unique kind of event, which lays down its own conditions for likelihood and evidence. Nonetheless that should predispose us towards taking seriously the historicity. So, with the passion narrative, there's a prejudice against the exceptional event or against the typological repetition. (If it echoes what comes before, we think it can't have happened; if it's peculiar, it can't have happened). I try to make plausible the features which seem exceptional and are not surprising in the passion. I try to relate to Jesus's exceptionality and the procedures of Roman law which has actually has procedures for exceptional emergencies. These chapters show I am indeed concerned with historicity.
In "The Name of Jesus," the real Christ is the textual Christ, not a division between textual and original, not denying the original.
[[mab: This notion seems to upset the Calvinists here, perhaps because they see this as a denigration of both scripture and Christ--again, I'd argue, because of a misunderstanding or inadequate understanding of the medieval sense of analogy, as well as a confusion about the presence of Christ.]]
What we know about Jesus isn't a lot. It is often presented in general metaphors, not as a character in a novel (as the Yale school suggests. . .), but as an absolute beginning--an absolute beginning will be like this. To talk about an absolutely new event has to establish a new context, like a saturated and blinded phenomenon. You can only see the newness. It's from this new beginning you get to a high christology.
I am pushing the bounds of orthodoxy on Christ and the church and the role of pneumatology, wanting an orthodoxy beyond orthodoxy, a more adequate account of the role of the Holy Spirit. The more we see that God was incarnate, the more we see the incarnate as a person in history and society, so from the beginning, we are indissociable from the reception of Christ. Even the possibility of Christ depends upon the reception of Christ.
This is allowed for more in Mariology, in the baptism by John Baptist, in the Shepherd of Hermas--where the bride arrives with the coming of the Son. I am arguing for something almost like a double incarnation, where the Spirit is incarnate in the church--although this is a different, eschatological incarnation, which is only complete at the eschaton. But how else are we to make sense of the indwelling of the Spirit in the church and the promise that the Spirit is surely with us? This means that the response to Christ is not simply subordinate to Christ, but in the end echoes the response of the Holy Spirit to the Logos. The Logos doesn't exist without this response. This way we can retain all the gender analogies without the subordination of the female--all the sexual imagery without patriarchalism, like Luce Irigaray's hints in this direction.
[[mba: I wonder if this emphasis on the necessity of reception for the presence of God (in both "incarnations") sounds like Palagianism to the Calvinists, while the more Calvinist rejection of the christological and pneumatological intertwining of divine presence in the church seems like Palagianism to Milbank.]]
So, there are certain radical innovations we have to make in our Christian thinking. This is something like a hyper-orthodox--thinking more through the biblical legacy. The whole tendency of Christianity in last 200 years has been to do with the role of the Spirit, and we haven't understood it enough. (I feel called to engage with this, even as I feel very uncomfortable with some of the more charismatic directions this has taken the church.)
I never intended this to be sectarianism.
[[mba: I wonder if Milbank's recent attempts to distinguish himself from Hauerwas stems in part from Milbank's desire to try and avoid some of the sectarian charges which Hauerwas himself has been trying to argue with all along. . .each of them trying to rearticulate their positions to critique this critique, and Milbank trying to make some headway by emphasizing his distinction from Hauerwas.]]
Maybe Theology and Social Theory sounds like this, but I never meant it that way.
[[mba: I think we need a rehabilitation and reclamation of what gets called sectarianism, and which everybody knows is bad, but which can rightly be a necessary discernment and articulation of Christian identity, so that more energy can be put in the discernment process and less in the denial of the "bad sectarian" label.]]
I do not have a strong view of boundaries --the church is the beginning of the kingdom. This is very Anglican. Grace is everywhere (see the de Lubac essay); so, in a way, the church is everywhere. But the church isn't a sphere alongside other spheres, since it?s the anticipation of the redeemed society, and it is much vaster than that. So, for example, as the state exerts a pastoral role, it merges into church.
On counter-violence: It is important not to miss that what I am attending to is the aporia of being against violence. It is a very particular kind of violence, the opposition of violence itself, and that refusal is somewhat ambivalent, but it is not what God needs to do. God has never been violent. This doesn't mean that God himself is acting violently. We can?t literally talk about God punishing or forgiving. Here I am drawing on Julian of Norwich, although Aquinas does say that God?s forgiveness can't be just an offer.
I don't deny the negative moment in forgiveness, but I stress the positive moment as always there and more decisive in end.
Questions from the Floor:
?? If God is not involved in producing violence, then what about images in Revelation?
Milbank: This is metaphorical language, as the Fathers read most such images about divine action. It would be idolatrous to take it literally, to treat God as finite person! God doesn't need to oppose anything.
Boersma: Sure, it's metaphorical language, but isn't all language about God metaphorical? Then on what grounds do we say that certain acts of God that we don't like are metaphorical (not final), while other acts are final?
Milbank: This is not a problem if your metaphysics are clear. To think about these things without metaphysics is disastrous, and quickly descends into mythology. You have to discriminate predications in terms of what can be appropriately applied to God--what is compatible with the perfections and infinitude and simplicity of God--then you understand which metaphors have more analogical freight. If it involves things not compatible with what we know to say about God, then it has less weight. We want what we say about God to have more to do with the effect of divine action on our actions.
(Still Milbank:) In fact, I think we need to have a moratorium on all discussions of atonement until everyone has read David Hart's essay on atonement in Pro Ecclesia, which charts the history of atonement theory and undermines certain myths about categories of atonement.
Respondent: John Milbank
ďThis essay begins by noting the small but important role that Scotus plays in the genealogy of our present circumstances elaborated among those thinkers associated with Radical Orthodoxy. John Milbankís treatment of Scotus in Theology and Social Theory provides a relevant example. This essay goes on to focus more narrowly on the univocity of being as Scotus understood it, since that notion is highlighted in R.O. criticism. It asks first whether Scotus adopts a notion of the univocity of being because he rejects any and all understandings of the analogy of being. It asks secondly whether Scotus had Thomas Aquinas in mind when criticising a determinate understanding of the analogy of being, or thirdly whether his criticism would cover Thomas even if it was not directed explicitly at Thomasí understanding. Finally, it asks whether analogy is a truly primary notion in medieval theology, or whether it needs to be seen as a derivative of other more truly basic notions. In the process, the essay argues that a genealogical story that would interpret Scotus in terms of the use made of his theology by Luther, Calvin, Descartes et al. must acknowledge its own relativity. It suggests further that Scotusí understanding of the univocity of being is illumined in at least equally interesting ways if it is inserted into two other stories: one in which Scotusís notion is seen against the Aristotelian backdrop of Avicenna, Averroes and the Condemnations of 1270 and 1277, and another in which it is seen against the backdrop of Scotusí membership in the Franciscan Order and deep intuitions about the world of its founder Francis of Assisi.Ē
(He has a book, In the Phrygian Mode, coming out soon.)
In Milbankís Theology and Social Theory, Scotus brings about the division of the disciplines, lays the groundwork for the secular and the later nihilistic reduction of the political to will and violent power. Scotus opposes Aquinasí analogia entis. For Catherine Pickstock also, Scotus is in opposition to Aquinas.
I ask, Is Scotus opposed to all analogies of being or one in particular?
If he opposes a particular one, is his target Aquinasí or someone elseís?
If Scotusí opposition is to Henry of Ghentís analogia entis, does the critique hold for Aquinas?
If he is not attacking Aquinas, what are to make of his arguments?
Is it a criticism of the notion as such? No. Scotus says that Aquinas is correct on at least one analogy of being, the analogical nature of the conception of being in Aristotleís sense. So then, whose analogy of being does Scotus oppose? He rejects the one put forward by Henry of Ghent. Does this rejection apply equally to Thomas?
Letís start with Aristotle. All three share an understanding that the quidditiy of being couldnít be determined as othersí can. All knowledge begins in the senses. Knowledge is expressed most adequately in formal definition. Knowledge is extended to cover nonmaterial substances if quiddity is articulatable.
According to Aristotle, formal knowledge is available for everything. Being functions in our understanding as the genus. Being itself canít be understood in this way. What being is in each instance is not definable, not subject to univocal concept (as are all definitions). But we canít but predicate being of everything. Canít determine sameness; but because being suggests sameness, being is analogical and must be affirmed across differences.
Duns Scotus accepts this, but neither he nor Henry leave it at that. Look at predicated beingsí analogical concepts to see the tendency for late 13th c philosophers.
Ordinatio 1 3 1: Scotus asks, is knowledge of God available to human beings, naturally He seeks positive notions of God, over negative notions of God. He seeks quidditive notions prior to existential judgments (again reversing the traditional understanding). He seeks knowledge. . .prior to the truth of things themselves. He seeks knowledge available to us naturally and in our present condition--a conclusion about God, not creature. He is engaged in natural theology. God is not the object but the end of metaphysics.
Can the mind of a human being naturally have a simple concept by which it grasps God? a basic notion that can only be determinable if being itself functions as determinable? sets in Aristotle's notion of . . . .[[I lost him here]]
Human knowing for Henry of Ghent: If God is the object, we canít know God accidentally, but the knowledge of divine attributes is like the knowledge of God by accidents. All our knowing is substantial knowing.
We canít know via predication. Any predication of the universal with respect to God posits something common to God and creatures. It is only analogical if conceived as quasi-unity with God as an absolute singularity.
And we donít know God as particular via analogy to creatures. So, Henry says that we can have an analogical knowledge of God, but by means of intellectual operations reminiscent of the power of animalsí sensation of intention. Our general knoweldge, as if of some intelligible universal, is acquired as a lamb attains to the intention of its eweís even if changed into a wolf. So knowledge of creatures is knoweldge of God. All knowledge is of God.
Scotusís alternative is that we can have a quidditive knowledge of God through essence rather than attribute (which presupposed the knoweldge of subject and some thing). So to say we know God via attributes is to claim knowledge of God through some quidditive concept, but those are expressed. . .[[lost him again]]
God is conceived not only in a concept analogous to a concept of creature, but God is also conceived in a concept that is univocal when predicated of God and creature:
1) We can have both analogical and univocal concepts of the same thing. Univocation provides sufficient unity, middle terms in arguments, it brings things conceptionally opposed together.
You can be certain about one concept while doubtful of another. For example, you could be certain that a being but uncertain about whether itís God or creature.
A being can be predicated univocally of God and creature for Scotus.
Ghentís could be the same.
Scotus says: what if a being included two concepts that appeared as one concept. He admits abstract possibility, but draws undesirable consequences. If so, then one couldnít establish any concepts predicated of God and creature. Knowledge of God would be impossible. He follows up on doubts about the possibility of natural knowledge of God, and he examines the effect of Henryís argument on the knowledge of creatures. Intelligible species are univocal . Henryís analogy notion would demand that the same could apply to diverse phantasms and intelligible species, if they are distinguishable to imagination. Two different objects produce phantasms, but because they are so close to each other, both the imagination that receives the phantasm and the intellect which produces the species would only come up with one name.
But thatís like saying no natural concept of any one thing would be impossible. False.
3) Henryís analysis presupposes we canít distinguish. But his notion of analogy doesnít hold.
It must be reducible to concepts predicated of God and creatures.
4) A perfection has a concept predicated of God and creature or not. There canít be perfections in creatures but not in God. There canít be perfection only in God and not elsewhere--Anselm presupposes one knows perfection attributable then of God.
Henry of Ghentís notion of analogy is problematic. We either know nothing of perfection from creatures, or we are known from creatures, exalted, and known of God. To deny it, is to be prepared for unacceptable consequences--nothing can be inferred of God from creatures.
The most perfect knowledge of God is not naturally available. He posits a less perfect one, infinite being, fitted to the simplicity of God and names the intrinsic mode of divine entity. [[not sure I got this right]]
According to Scotus, our knowledge of God from creatures. Henryís claim is wrong. We understand how we access God by our access of transcendentals through creatures. This is Aristotleís analogy of being.
Does this critique apply to Aquinas? In the Summa 1 13 5, Thomas addresses this: nothing is predicated of God and creature univocally. It is multiple in creatures, unitary in God. The names for perfections contain creaturely perfection but are insufficient for God. The quality is in the creature; divine nature itself is in God. But it is not predicated purely or equivocally. The claim of philosophy and scripture is that we can know through creatures. Itís a matter of proportionality.
predication of term of God and creature founded on some order of all creatures to God as principle and cause. perfections preexist. single essence as middle term uniting God and creature, but differently disposed. deficient and exceeded.
Essence as middle term uniting God and creature. not purely equivocal. For Thomas, not univocity, but analogy. An unfinished position, subject to elaboration in either a Henry or a Scotus direction.
So, Thomasís position is not included in Scotusís critique of Henry.
Scotus picks up on different side of Avicennaís reading of Aristotle. Aquinas picks up on Avicennaís view of God as essence, and he elaborates this intuition to a real distinction among creatures between essence and esse. Scotus picks up on the essentialism of Avicennan metaphysics--being as ens, quidditive. He follows up Avicenna in the doctrine of common natures: one can abstract an essence or common nature from essence as given in experience. This common nature is a real object of thought, a res. The mode of being of a common being or essence is indifferent to actuality or potentiality, and can be predicated univocally of any actual veins to which it can inhere. The role of this Avicenna metaphysics: Scotus treats being as predicated from being.
But why just those intuitions and not those which animated Thomas?
Scotus is a Franciscan. A central feature is each creature named brother and sister. This encounter with God is mediated through such a brother, the poor and naked Christ. Scotusís entire theological project is an attempt to give theoretical form to St. Francisís sense of the world. The mystery of each creature is a secret hidden in the bosom of God. Each is consecrated by that secret, able to call knowers ever deeper into the formal nature of each creature.
If each creature and being remains a mystery, this is so much more true in respect to the divine exemplar, but we are made to know this God, as mediated by our knowledge of creatures, like ens.
Augustinian sensibility superseded all concepts about creatures first mediated by God. Scotus reverses this--creaturely mediation first, but that occludes the fact that the final cause is God.
All knowledge is theological.
Itís not fair to imply that my cursing of Scotus is trivial. There is a pattern in reactions to treatments of Scotus. Heís not such a big division, people say (and of course we donít say heís the only division--Abelard and Avicenna are involved too, for example), but then proceed to tell us why he was a revolutionary. He abandoned negative theology, argued for the existential over ascension and for the primacy of the univocal, he abandons the experience of creatures mediated by God as exemplary cause, he shifts the meaning of discourse of the perfection of language. . .
But all these shifts are absolutely massive and confirm the idea that Scotus was a revolutionary thinker. Iím more impressed by some Continental Franciscans who have replied : yes, he was a revolutionary, bu this was wonderful and opened up Christianity to recognize the difference between rational thought and empirical thought, reason and revelation, the possibility of a rights discourse, etc. [[not that Milbank would agree with this line of thought, but he imagines it would have more integrity as an argument.]] Then the trajectory is to rethink modern thought in a Scotus guise, and that can be shared by some contemporary analytic philosophers of religion. But even here, there is an equal admission of Scotus as a revolutionary thinker.
Also, the notion of common notions creates space into which transcendental thinking, a la Kant, can take place.
I want to defuse a little some of these arguments. There is lots of common ground about Scotus as a revolutionary, but analysis is the point.
Aquinas not the primary target of Scotus? This account of Ghent is broadly accurate. But i f Scotus is not speaking of Aquinas, the still leaves open the possibility that he is incompatible with Aquinas. French scholars agree he is doing something incompatible.
Aquinas leaves things open? I see it more like a paradigm switch, changing the way people look at things, like a collapse of the participatory world view. We see it most of all in perfection language. Scotus is now saying that the predication of perfections of God must mean that one first of all has a sense of what it is, otherwise one couldnít see that there were created excellences at all. This is manifestly altering Augustine in De Trinitate (Augustine took it for granted that when you see a natural perfection, youíve seen its participation in God). The two fall together, not one first and then the other. Itís a mystical ascent, the more you go abstract--abstract is to rise. But for Scotus, you abstract and then rise. In that space, univocity makes sense.
I donít think he reads Anselm correctly. Anselm is more like Augustine: we donít have abstract perfections without being already involved in the ascent to God.
But already in Bonaventure you can see this shift beginning. It is associated with the Franciscansí take on Avicenna and the essentialist route, common notions which have a root apart from participation.
Also, there is a theory of representation. As soon as there is a freefloating logical realm, you are on the road for thinking that logical notions donít necessarily exist in psychic space, but more in their own possibility space--then there is the primacy of possibility over actuality. Picking out different forms, mind-grasping is somewhat independent --itís a move toward empiricism and transcendental idealism. When you have mind-grasping as independent of what it receives, youíre going to shift away from an Aristotelian theory of knowledge of identity. The mindís grasp of the form is free-floating, independent of reality, a representation of reality.
These are seismic shifts.
All do tend to undo undergirding of guarantee by God of things. Aquinas is only incomplete if youíre not accepting analogy--if you are thinking in terms of a middle term (which Aquinas is not).
[[mba: In last nightís reception, I overheard someone critiquing Milbank and Ward for dismissing something or other as ďjustĒ a metaphor. I would hope that this kind of clarification from Milbank would put such concerns to rest, but I fear it is a major conceptual point that is not easily grasped by those not formed in or resistant to the spiritual senses of interpretation.]]
There really is not a shared third term. Not a third goodness we share with God; God is goodness. This is the point of the way the whole metaphysics of esse works in Aquinas. I can understand Scotusís refusal--you shouldnít think of being in this way, as something you can have more or less of; rather, itís either there or not. Is or is not. God is or is not, like creatures. Making logic more primary. Analogy doesnít obey the law of non-contradiction--the defense of analogy has to go beyond this. So Nicholas of Cusa makes this move.
Scotus moves the debate forward by pointing this out.
You shouldnít assume the primacy of formal logic (adapted to finite things) when talking about God. In effect, for Henry of Ghent and Scotus, analogy has to collapse into univocity of equivocity. It canít be simultaneous like and unlike--but that simultaneous like and unlike is doing justice to the mystery of God and the ontological difference between being as such and just being this or that. So Scotus opened way to idolatry, lost sight of the ontological difference, and started to reduce God to a being.
Nothing belongs to us in our own rights. Aquinas writes that our freedom is entirely in God. Calvin is more like Aquinas in this way.
(Thereís a comment about the possibility of a Milbank for Dummies book, and then the suggestion is made that it should be Milbank for Dunces [Dunses]!)
Questions from the Floor:
?Pickstock argues that Scotus elevated divine will and divorced it from divine good.
Then that would say that Calvinism and the elevation of sovereignty of good is part of that project?
Milbank: The question is, Is Calvin a voluntarist? Aquinas puts more emphasis on Godís simplicity than Scotus. The modus significandi is Godís will and intellect as difference because weíre human, not a real difference (which Scotus suggests).
Remember, the Dominicans helped the poor as well--more balanced. Franciscans a bit sneaky.
There are compromises in Scotus, besides the division between intellect and will. He encourages a sense of bare freedom of choice. Scotus one of the main people behind a shift in freedom and will. The bare field of the will had sinister consequences.
??for Robert Sweetman: What does Scotus do with the goodness of God? Is being more a common category than goodness? Does goodness belong more properly to God or do we share it?
Sweetman: As with Bonaventureís appropriation of Dionysian sense --good as a diffusion of self. The knowledge most proper to us is voluntary, connatural via the affective side of our being, the knowledge that comes from desire for the love of God.
Scotus is a voluntarist, but will is the rational appetite that presupposes the conjunction of intellect and affect--never the naked will that it becomes later. Itís the rational appetite.
Iím not a Scotist, but I wrote this paper to see what Scotus might say for himself.
Milbank-: It is not entirely the rational appetite for Scotus. Thatís ann element, a moment of will surplus to its response to reason.
?? Why is the analogy of proportionality not the real analogy?
Milbank: Godís goodness is infinite, and itís neither individual nor universal. It canít be univocal ever in God. Our understanding of the univocal is bounded, and it canít be like that. Aquinas doesnít deal with this directly. Attribution is his primary sort.
??Bob do you still think John is cursing too much about Scotus?
Sweetman: I read John etc to be saying that their interest in Scotus is in the role he plays in developments toward the conundrums we deal with today. They use a personís future to interpret the person. Iím a historian, and I use a personĎs present and past to interpret. It is not necessarily the case that our stories are incompatible. The connection to Francis and Bonaventure is at least as important as connection to Ockham. I think there is too much Ockham reading in the RadOx analysis of Scotus.
Milbank: The point isnít that we are damning Scotus in terms of what he led to. The point is rather a genealogy in which weíre concerned with characteristic assumptions of modern philosophy. What are the presuppositions? They are often contingent. We are trying to say: to really understand the shift in Descartes and Kant, you have to see that itís not a matter of switching from metaphysics to representation or epistemology, but rather that the metaphysics they assume is already the child of a univocalist metaphysics, where you can deal with being entirely prior to something else.
I donít think there is any natural theology in Aquinas. I want to dethrone Descartes and Kant. They assume an economy between philosophy and theology that hasnít already existed. They were not onto-theolgians. As soon as youíve reduced being to something we can univocally grasp, youíve already made the move into epistemology. Even though the switch towards knowledge as representation went hand in hand throughout the Middle Ages, decisive shifts were made in the Middle Ages, to do with shifts in theological doctrine--how Scotus understands the fall and knowledge before and after.
Iím trying to do a vast genealogical construction. The apparent critical moves of modern thought are founded in questionable theology. Iím not reading things back into Scotus, but trying to get at moves heís made that have consequences.
Sweetman: The beginnings and endings are the same, so perhaps we are still in the same place. Scotus makes the shift from exemplary causality to final causality the ground for the natural knowledge of God, but itís the mystery of God that becomes equivocal. The bit of God we canít know becomes an absolute.
Respondent: John Milbank
ďThe paper critically engages with the emerging social thought of Radical Orthodoxy (RO), with the aid of insights drawn from the Reformed tradition. Without implying that all adherents to RO share identical social and cultural analyses, emphases or prescriptions, the paper identifies a substantial (and commendable) commonality of approach and content among five leading proponents: John Milbank, Graham Ward, Daniel Bell, William Cavanaugh and Stephen Long. Core substantive proposals of RO are captured in:
ē Milbankís notion of Ďsocialism by graceí (fleshed out as Ďcomplex spaceí);
ē Wardís concept of urban communities as Ďcities of Godí;
ē Bellís motif of Ďcrucified powerí;
ē Longís exploration of an Ďecclesiocentric economicsí;
ē Cavanaughís proposal of a Ďeucharistic anarchismí.
Each phrase is arresting in its conscious juxtaposition of a Ďsecularí socio-political term with a theological one. The rhetorical purpose, of course, is to signal that - as Milbankís Theology and Social Theory magisterially ventured - Ďthe secularí only has true meaning in relation to God. The paper will note appreciatively ROís strategic objective of articulating an authentically and radically Christian social theory which resists accommodation to secularised modernity and stands opposed to its atomistic and nihilistic outcomes.
The first, expository part of the paper will seek to expound the meaning of the five core phrases just listed, with two concerns in mind: first, to show how far each exemplifies Milbankís programmatic declaration that RO is Ďallied to unrepentant...left-wing political commitmentsí, and specifically, to a novel postmodern variant of Christian anarcho-socialism; second, to exhibit the relevance for ROís social theory of a fundamental metaphysical principle underlying the wider program of RO, namely Ďthe suspension of the materialí. Here the paper will show how RO conceives of diverse human communities in the same way that it conceives everything Ďmaterialí, namely as Ďcommunities in suspensioní, i.e. existing meaningfully only as Ďsuspendedí in and so participating analogically in God (Christ).
The second part of the paper will develop a critique - deploying selected insights from Reformed social thought - of the notion of Ďsuspended communitiesí, along three parallel tracks: first, as insufficiently able to account for the stable, particular identities of human communities as historical, but not wholly contingent, human responses to an evocative order of justice rooted in creation (here Frederick Carneyís illuminating analysis of Ďassociational thought in early Calvinismí will be drawn upon); second, as issuing in an unfruitful ecclesiocentrism which needlessly depreciates the relatively independent (but not Ďsecularí) social functions of non-ecclesial communities; and third, and as a consequence of the first two, as unable to generate clear guidelines about the political shape of justice-making actions in a world characterised by complex injustices. It will conclude with a vindication of Ďjust statecraftí against ROs repudiation of institutionalised politics.Ē
Looking at the connection between Rad Ox and social thought.
Core substantive proposals of RadOx are captured in:
+Milbankís notion of socialism by grace (fleshed out as complex space)
+Wardís concept of urban communities as Ďcities of Godí
+Daniel Bellís motif of Ďcrucified powerí
+D. Stephen Longís exploration of an Ďecclesiocentric economicsí
+William Cavanaughís proposal of a Ďeucharistic anarchismí
A contemporary radicalized reinterpretation of [Anglo]Catholic Christian socialism showing pacifist leanings and an anarchic bent, socialism.
Early Calvinism and Dutch neo-Calvinism, not Barthianism, share this perspective.
The first part of this paper looks at the two movements
Second part: key themes of 4 leading representatives: Milbank, Long, Bell, Cavanaugh
Third: metaphysical principle: the suspension of the material. Diverse human communities are like all material. As communities in suspension, as existing meaningfully only as suspended in and participating analogically with/by God.
This is contrasted with covenanted communities. RadOx may have fallen victim to a concealed reductionism, and the end of the justification of statecraft.
So, we are moving beyond secular reason, but to where?
The Reformed tradition urges this too.
The RadOx phrases above juxtapose secular term with theological ones, in order to signal that the secular only has true meaning in relation to the triune God apart from which all disappears into nothingness.
Here we agree. Meaning means radical dependence on God. RadOx challenges Christian thinkers to purge selves of unholy alliances with modernity, accommodation.
However, there seems to be a contrast between Wardís position and Milbankís. Iíd like to start a fight between the two this weekend!
RadOx and Reformation thinking also converge here: both agree that the alternative would not be neutral or synthesis, but debilitating captivity to one or another hubristic manifestation of secular reason. This doesnít imply exclusive use of introverted tribal language inaccessible to those outside the community of faith. As Ward said, theology should not just be self-referring.
Both open up to the charge of accommodation themselves.
We donít agree on how to name the replacement discourse, on the nature and role of theology in relation to the social sciences. RadOx declares the primacy of theology over other sciences. Long writes: no social science can exist on its own. Christian narrative functions as metanarrative.
My initial reaction was to read into this a theological imperialism. On closer inspection, itís clearer to me that RadOx doesnít intend theology in this narrow sense. Its claim isnít just that theology is over others; theology is itself is a social science. This derives first from ecclesiological considerations, the explication of a sociolinguistic practice (church) or constant renarration of this practice as historically developed. It is concentrated in the sacramental performance of church. So, for Protestants, it seems like a narrowing down. Yet, this liturgical performance is conceived as irradiating the entire creation. Theology, Milbank says, has no proper finite territory its own, yet speaks of God by way of all other subjects and sciences. [[mba: this is the medieval view, right?]]
The insistence that thereís a word of God for every dimension of existence is affirmed by Reformed theology.
But who can interpret this? The Reformed answer is: the whole people of God. Yet, among the people of God are academic theologians and Christian scholars in other disciplines, all of whom are equally subordinate to the biblical Word. The Reformation view denies that this is authoritatively mediated to the sciences by theology. A republic under scripture.
Substantive social theories: There is the socialism of the Gift ontology, in which true community is relational unity with the other, at once free in relation to and yet bound to the others. Community valued for its own sake, not ian nutrimental goal (as in capitalism). Community presupposes difference and otherness; it is necessarily porous, always involving exchange. Community presupposes relative but not absolute self-sufficiency The truth throughout all nature is that every totality is always already breached, always involved in unending exchanges. If so, what holds it together? What gives it its identity. Not, says Milbank, thick virtues of unitarians, which are only experienced from the inside. Augustineís notion of peace holds the community together--what arises by grace, different gifts and kinds of community. The calling of the people of God is to embody community, as pilgrims, but not as nomads. The community will seek to incarnate the universal gift of reciprocity.
What will this entail? The practice of charity, writes Milbank, not mere philanthropy but something structural--the establishment of forms of free association, public exchange binding one within a fraternity, exemplified in trade guilds, monasteries, universities.
Also, in ďOn Complex Space,Ē Milbank makes a critique of the state, which has pulverized intermediate associations, leaving only centralized space. Christians have to defend complex or gothic space, plural entities, retrieved from the political right and rearticulated from a Christian socialist standpoint. This is not a romantical organicist notion, nor Hegelian state corporations, but a biblical medieval notion of complex bodies. In such a model, multiple associations cease to mediate but become a new sort of complex network of confused overlapping jurisdictions.
In a complex space, there is always room to adjust to innovations made by free subjects.
But how do we know what precise institutional forms will manifest this? According to Milbank, in a true community, there is an intrinsically just distribution of roles and rewards.
In Reformed and catholic traditions, Christian social thought has said much about this, but Milbank passes this by. He denies itís a purely subjective matter, but says it canít be known without living out justice. You can only receive it in faith. Itís the logos of God, but we canít simply plan these forms. Christians can have faith that things will ontologically arrive in the mode of beauty and proper proportion. Socialism is now by grace a one. [[I have no idea what I should have written here.]] The formulations of Milbankís social ontology in these articles rest upon his ontology.
In contrast, Daniel Bell writes about justice and charity in detail, Liberation theology after the end of history, capitalism as a technology of desire, liberationalism as not radical enough (fails to conceive of the church itself as a public sui generis). Christianity as a true politics.
The church of the poor is at the emerging embodiment of such a church, capable of liberating desire from capitalist captivity. The Cistercian order is a good model of nonviolence and forgiveness.
This is an ecclesiocentric politics, but itís not apolitical. It eschews statecraft, but in direct confrontation with capitalist order. The church embodies a decentralized participatory politics. Otherwise, itís rights-based, state-based. The church offers instead a politics of forgiveness, through the power of suffering. Crucified power offers penitential redistribution. . and a refusal to cease suffering.
3rd section: From Suspended Communities to Covenanted Communities?
Suspension doesnít connote temporary cancellation (as in suspension from school). Itís more like a suspension bridge which collapses like a house of cards without the tension of upright supports.
From Theology and Social Theory: the model of free association--flows from ontology, from evershifting contingent interrelation farther than fixed identities of substances. Created difference proceeds from continuous emanation of divine difference. God not a substance; there are no substances in creation. The elements of creation are inherently interconnected qualities. Creation is not a finished product in space, but continuously generated ex nihilo in time. There are no universals or essentials.
[[mba: this supports our arguments about how it makes more sense to conceive of the www in time rather than space metaphors]]
The emanation of difference canít be anticipated, even by God, much less by us.
According to Bell, social space is not a metaphysical fixity. This is from a Deleuzian version of desire as creative and and an anarchic force behind all creation. This social formation is contingent and unstable .. and [[ . . .something. . .]] of desire.
Order, is a temperate [[or, temporal, Iím not sure]] checking of disorder.
My hunch is that, because communities are only contingent arrests in experiential relational flux, they need to be suspended, upheld, by divine power. They donít contain anything in themselves, any internal essence, but exist in dependence on God. RadOx invites the following response:
Is it able to account adequately for the widespread human experience of and need for stable identifiable institutional entities? RadOx has overcompensated, losing sight of Calvinís and Thomasí insight that human communities do have something like essence, telos, which preserves their identity. Both traditions hold that communities exist in dependence on God, but hold relative independence.
Communities are not endlessly changeable. RadOxís social ontology privileges a single type of community, but all true communities share the same fundamental character, with the possible exception of the family and, for a long time, the church. RadOx sees endlessly proliferating communities as just so many examples of free association. But to imagine that a flowering social order could be based on this one type is problematic--there are other satisfying communities, not arising from consent, but from the needs of human social nature.
So we need to imagine more complex space.
An early Calvinist account of associative community, offered by Frederick Carney, offers us ways of living faithfully together within and thus fulfilling aspects of human life. We give ourselves to the glory of God and the welfare of our neighbor. We acknowledge fundamental needs and commit to meeting them. We judge by how well it contributes to this vocation.
Covenant is an agreement of association to conduct the life of this association in keeping with the primordial essence of all human life as well as the particular.
RadOx is suspicious of the assertion that communities have a divinely determined purpose. But if all organizations are in continual flux, how could we identify structural injustice as injustice? We need a specific institutional design as recognizable. If we donít know this in advance, the accumulated historical experience of human kind in Christian narrative yields a wealth of narratives about human communities. Polygamy is dysfunctional, for example, one-party states lead to totalitarianism.
I am more cautious about the dreamy sectarianism of Hauerwas and its effect on Bell and Long and Cavanaugh.
While we are influenced by the Jubilee Group, weíre not all socialists. Philip Blond is a radical Tory, a red Tory like in the Canadian tradition. Iím sometimes a blue socialist. Socialists have to think about hierarchy, so I donít just talk about free associations of equals. I donít support abolishing hierarchy.
But there will be variegation between different kinds of institutions (educative vs sports club).
We havenít said enough about different kinds of institutions, and I never meant my stuff about flux to imply that I was denying essence. Your hunch is wrong. That would suggest a God of the gaps. Rather, the point of my [[denying?]] postmodern difference and reinserting analogy is that there will be a certain place for essence, but not a closed essence. Later, I tried to develop a theory that even new things have essences and we are constrained for them. I now talk more about essence. Even though things change, certain institutions have inherent purpose. But, not too fixed or historicist. For example, the economy: I am more critical of Locke than you.. . on loose boundaries. . . I resist the idea of separate spheres which have formal contractual liberal relations between them, as if they are big persons. If there are lots of different plural bodies, there are lots of intermediate plural bodies.
I do in fact imagine Cambridge as gothic space. It is dysfunctional, but it is linked to different bodies still linked to worship and other activities and it is wonderful. But, the mess of Oxford and Cambridge is result of the Reformation In the middle ages, there was more function (colleges were pastoral and liturgical facilities, and faculties organized the study). After the dissolution of the monasteries, colleges appropriated the wealth and things went downhill from there. . .
Thatís an example of how gothic space can go wrong if you donít have definition of function--as you suggest.
We need to speak more about theories of usury and just price and how it is that we want to have corporations more answerable to the community. We havenít done that --I donít think my genius is for that kind of thing. But we need people to do that .
Reformed theory is still somewhat too contractualist and liberal compared to catholic social theory, though both are still close.
Although we disagree sometimes, Ward expresses well that theology is always mediated (secular disciplines have porosity) and you can never limit the difference theology is going to make. But how are there Christian socialists? Wouldnít they be doing theology? That makes theology sound too narrowly technical.
It is important to realize that I donít have a sort of general blanket approach to this assessment of secular disciplines. Itís more ad hoc, one by one. So, on social theory, I had strong reasons for saying it was a kind of quasi theology. I canít say I think that about every secular discipline. It might be different about some others, some more empirically innocent--maybe anthropology.
?? to Chaplin. Are we talking about contractual communities?
Chaplin: In a Calvinist view, all social relationships (contractual or organic) are all in pursuit of vocation which derives from need placed in human nature by God. All communities and all relationships are responses to a calling, to a created norm which comes from God. This is different from liberal instrumentalism.
Milbank: I am not against all property, but I am more interested in property linked to use, as with Long.
Chaplin: Long is leading the way back into natural law, natural virtues, virtues of justice, without immediately having that saturated by grace. . . .(no)
?? (Jamie Smith:) Are all communities covenantal communities?
Chaplin: Marriages are, families are not, since you donít choose your parents and siblings, church is.
[[mba: this seems a highly flawed understanding of covenant--and baptism--to me. Of course families are covenantal--if covenants are so dependent on individual choice, then where is Godís role. Families, by biology and by adoption, should be a fruitful location for conversations about covenant, in my book. . .]]
?? (Jamie Smith): Early Calvinism was only the covenantal church.
Chaplin: No, a la Carney, Iím talking about a more generalized notion of covenant.
?? (Jamie Smith): Doesnít that give us New England, with American Civic religion?
Chaplin: You can do without differentiation. If you try to retain plural convenanted communities, but still retain theocracy, you do get New England; but there were crucial insights, which after differentiation could be instructive.
Milbank: Despite my drift toward anarchism and socialism, I donít rule out the overarching role of the states in certain respects, including, for example, the public control of state utilities.
Chaplin: You havenít spelled out your notion of the state.
Milbank: I do say Iím not against it all the way. It can have a utilitarian role.
Chaplin: See Cavanaugh for the beginnings of a radically orthodox political theory.
Chaplin: How do you hold onto essence and endlessly revisability?!? Arenít they incompatible?!
Milbank: Things can be revisable in some dimensions and remain the same in others. But the search for the between, the mediation, between the same and the different (not dialectic), must require stability as well as flux. Weíve been trying to be historicist and not teleological. We were talking about Derrida before. Some concrete theory might be good, but we want to avoid the mistakes of the Christian social theorist. We have to discover in practice what itís going to be in a particular instance. If we were more specific, I hope we would tie it to what is possible now. Almost nothing seems to be possible now.
Chaplin: You seem to have some pessimism toward change.
Milbank: How could you have any faith in the state now? Weíre in such an absolute barbarism, itís difficult to think in political categories.
Chaplin: I am more optimistic about states and the influences of church on states. Look at public utilities!
Milbank: Sure, Christianity has infused a possible sense of pastoral concern into the state, but even that seems to have mutated into something more Foucauldian and sinister, all to do with control by tabulation. There is a lack of virtue at the heart of this. The last two years leave one reeling.
?? Could we think of liturgy as a category of justice, a la Pickstock? What would be the political implications of that? What does RadOx have to say to Reformed or others on this?
Milbank: Itís important not to instrumentalize your liturgy, since thatís where you realize that the community is a miracle of grace and you hang on to the idea that community is always giving and receiving. Itís not self-worshiping, not absolutizing community, but the receiving of God in a direct and physical way. I was raised a Methodist, but it was always the liturgical that I responded to. I think Calvin wanted a more powerful liturgical centrality than what survived.
Chaplin: No community is self-sufficient. All stand equally under the authority/blessing of God. There is a radical relativizing of all particular communities. For Reformed, itís not liturgically but faith-based. Both have the same purpose; keep communities in their place, but not allowing any to become hubristic.
Respondent: Graham Ward
Participation for Radical Orthodoxy and covenant for the Reformed theology function as the central theological frameworks or organizing principles by which they understand the Christian faith. This paper explores the significance of these two motifs regarding theological method, apologetics, and common grace. To get at these issues more clearly, this paper outlines theological response to the rejection of meta-narratives. Some reformed theologians argue that the faithful and proper theological response to postmodernism is to reject the rejection of meta-narratives, because the Christian faith is argued to be one. Following the reformed emphasis on covenant, the Christian faith is not a meta-narrative in the technical use of the term. If Christianity is not ultimately a ďmeta-narrative,Ē one must nevertheless explain why it so often looks like one.
1) Overview of the goal of RadOx
2) Brief review of participation
3) Exploration into covenants
4) Lyotard an metanarratives.
My aim is not to challenge RadOx, but to investigate its hermeneutical logic. It encourages other Christians and Jews and Muslims to make similar critiques through faith. This paper is also about constructive responses to problems articulated. RadOx sees the eucharist as a model of participation. Reformed theology also has an emphasis on the eucharist plus covenantal dimensions of the eucharist.
RadOxís central theological framework of participation can be strengthened by including the Reformed focus on covenant. Reformed theology can answer the call of RadOx to analyze culture through our grammar of faith.
Participation and covenant are theological frameworks. They outline the theological response to a rejection of metanarratives. Some Reformed say that the response to postmodernism is to reject the rejection of metanarratives. Christian faith not a metanarrative. The critique of metanarrative doesnít fit, but Christianity wants to make a similar claim towards secularism.
1) RadOx is not simply returning in nostalgia to the premodern. It visits sites that secularism has visited and resituates them. RadOx doesnít have a manifesto. Itís not the answer but a methodology to read the signs of the times. It is radically critical of secular modernity . It rejects the idea that theology must justify itself before a court of secular standards. It rejects the idea of fixed secular standards.
Participation: Whereas the liberal watchword was reason, and itís revelation for neo orthodoxy, participation is the word for RadOx. Moreover, metaphysical participation is the only basis for social participation. RadOx resists the ideals of inevitable secularization. Rather all things come from God and find their ultimate being in God. Humans find meaning as they participate in divine life. Discourses about anything can have meaning only if they acknowledge participation in the transcendent. All of this sounds strangely familiar to Reformed readers:
1) common grace, truth encompasses every dimension of creation
2) secularism--making claims on borrowed capital
3) the impossibility of the contrary
4) the belief that Christianity offers the necessary conditions for the intelligibility of anything
5) [[. . .?. . .]]
6) the only way to think of the Creator/creation distinction is by analogy
Before Aquinas, there was Aristotle. Aquinas added to Aristotleís causes: final, formal, efficient, material (clay and potter).
Aquinas argues that Aristotle is necessary for Christianity. Aristotle helps affirm the sacramental and incarnational character. Reality has an integrity but not autonomy.
How do the four causes fare in modernity without participation? The final cause is lost. The material becomes materialism. The efficient moves to the foreground as power. And the formal cause--modern age is ambivalent about this, because it is through forms that the modern age controls things.
Covenant: The Jews believed in a specific God, only one, who made whole world. God was present to the world, active in it, and sovereign over it. God was not remote or detached, not a sacred dimension, or just forces in world. God was creator of all that exists. One God created all, remained in close and dynamic relation with creation, and this God called Israel to be Godís people. Sometimes linked with creation, God chose Israel for the sake of the world. In a particular history, whatever happened, oppression or suffering, the covenant family looked back to Exodus to rediscover that YHWH was their God and they were Godís people. Early Christians were under obligation to worship Jesus as God while remaining Jewish monotheists.
One God, the father from whom all things are, and one Lord Jesus Christ, a revision of the Shema.
(All these figures engaged in covenant:)
Adam, covenant role as husband
David king, kingdom, throne
Jesus--priest, church, eucharist.
Trinity--eternal source and eternal standard of the covenant. Covenant is what God does and who God is.
Theological method is conceived, shaped, and determined by its confession. There is a redemptive, historical aspect of covenant. . . revelation is the servant of redemption.
Covenant is not an idea in general, but specific practices. It is the is culture of the people of God. It is more of a narrative to absorb the reader into the world of the text.
Covenant reorients loyalties. Its performance seems more comprehensive of theory and practice.
There is a new reality outside this text-script in which covenant partners actively participate.
Covenant is a more concrete category. There is divine and human agency. The scriptures are their own method of contextualization.
(I am not claiming that covenant is a pure concept for theology, but that covenant in scripture follows the Suzerain treaty, and is riddled with other questions.)
Covenant is helpful because the content of theology is already defining its methodology. Now we need a covenant that defines theology as churchís reflection of its own identity.
Lyotard. The metanarrative charge doesn't stick. Itís rather a claim that RadOx wants to make about secular culture. In The Postmodern Condition, Lyotard looks at the flow of information, the language--game where speaking is participation in a game whose goal is . . [[?]]. . It is a modern move to designate any science that legitimates itself with reference to a metadiscourse as an appeal to grand narrative . . .
The famous line here is, of course, that the characterization of postmodernity as incredulity toward metanarratives.
The crisis of modernity owes much to the uncritical acceptance of the enlightenment metanarrative. For Lyotard, the hero of the enlightenment metanarrative works toward universal peace. The enlightenment narrative is the illusion that human potential and happiness are unlimited. It frees the self from superstition. Modernity emphasizes autonomy etc., and is the opposite of participation and covenant.
Now, some feel we must defend metanarratives to justify Christianity.
According to Lyotard, there is a collapse of the grand metanarrative schemes in our era. We are left with incommensurable language games. We shouldn'tí judge any one discourse according to the standards of another. We should maximize first order natural pragmatic narratives. Therefore, anyone who rejects these, and upholds the enlightenment, must be arguing form a totalitarian standpoint. Faith in metanarratives is shaken by social developments, which raise profound questions about the centrality of metanarrative.
Metanarratives are overarching beliefs, which function to legitimate autonomous humanity. A big story that legitimates us. Non universal views are masked as if universal. It contextualizes to legitimize. It lays bare the bankruptcy of the modern narrative.
The Postmodern Condition indicates that humanity canít function as the subject of an all-encompassing history--a plethora of competing stories.
Eschatological response. The biblical narrative shows us that history not our story. It denies that history goes somewhere , but is rather a realization of Godís purpose. God who stands at the end of human story is already in grace ordering the cosmic story towards its intended goal.
Christianity does ground meaningfulness--but it is not a metanarratives. It doesnít legitimize itself. The problem is when a metanarrative interprets reductionally, and in an autonomous view--immaculate perception.
1) By metanarrative, Lyotard means a big story in which we place the little stories of our lives. Christianity seems to fit, but metanarrative signifies a difference of level, not just of size. Second level discourse is not directly about the world but about first level discourse. The story about creation. . . is not a metanarrative, but rather belongs to first order Christian discourse, proclamation, participation, repetition, proclamation.
Metanarrative is a second order discourse to legitimize secular modernity, regarding knowing in the state.
[[mba: the terms ďfirst order discourseĒ and ďsecond order discourseĒ were used occasionally throughout the conference by Reformed speakers. I am certain that I did not always understand where they were going with these terms. On the one hand, this presentation seem a somewhat reasonable distinction. But at other times, first order seemed to refer to those [ideological] assumptions we have decided not to problematize, those whose authority we accept, and second order referred to those assumptions we can dismiss as optional, ďtheological,Ē and lacking in appropriate authority. I could use some history, context, and clarification on how these terms get used.]]
2) Legitimization links modernity and metanarratives. Modernity finds itself needing to legitimate its new authorities and resorts to narratives. The irony is that modernity hitched its wagon to science, but to legitimate itself, science needs a story of progress. The enlightenment project is inseparable from self-legitimizing metanarratives.
Lyotard takes the production of these legitimating narratives by philosophy to be the essence of modernity.
3) The issue of the origination of other differences between the Christian story and metanarratives. The teachings of Christianity have their origin in revelation, not human subjects (individual as bearer of rights, humanity as fulfiller of history). Secularism talks with itself, telling itself stories that enable it to be confident.
Christian teachings also judge us (as well as coming from outside us). The critique of metanarratives is made in the Bible--prophets. We should be suspicious of narratives which legitimize us. Christianity legitimates only one kingdom--the kingdom of God, the fullness of the covenantal unfolding. Secularismís metanarratives legitimize us. Christianity is not Lyotardís target.
In conclusion: Metanarratives in the strict sense are master plots by which the enlightenment legitimates itself. Christianity did not spring from the mind of human imagination, nor did it begin in the 18th century, and it is not self-legitimizing. Lyotard is talking about the nature of the claims these narratives make. Yes, there are some affinities. We can look at which place others within a mastering design or story. The Bible looks like a grand narrative that incorporates other literary forms within it. The Christian theology of Aquinas repeats the biblical exercise of mastery by incorporating other disciplines. The Christian story does legitimize the church and the knowledges associated with it. Christian faith has a vision of the whole.
In short: if Christianity is not ultimately a metanarrative, one must explain why it so often looks like one. It is aa question of use?
If Christianity is just a little narrative, it canít have disproportional massive and monstrous consequences. One possibility might be to speak of metanarrative and macronarrative (which might be Christian narrative as it bears formal properties of other narratives, but transcends them by being ground in Christ--this would be both grander and more modest than modern metanarratives). It would be a vision of everything, but with revelatory language full of paradoxes. Christianity is and is not a grand narrative. It depends on how we define the term and on the range of application.
But we may have to concede that the line between metanarrative and other forms is thin. Does the proclamation of the Christian gospel not carry a danger of becoming a kind of legitimizing metanarrative? RadOx and Reformed theologies address a supposed inadequacy: only a notion of transcendent and analogical truth can make knowledge something more than a prop for power.
This is a very good account of RadOx--In fact, itís one of the few I can recognize!
RadOx as a form of cultural critique: There is some concern that often affects receptions of RadOx, such that John (Milbank) gets the brunt of the critique (that he is only critical) and Bell and Long donít seem to appear as part of RadOx is what about. Bell and Long are concerned with the social and political and moral and are looking at those things in terms of present manifestations and what theology might offer as a response, not just negative critiques.
RadOx is meant to be corrective vision AND constructive projects.
I think you could go even further with why Christianity is not a metanarrative. You could make even more of the difference between meta and macro--not just because of the set of participatory practices--but also because the story is not all there yet, so canít be metanarrative. It is still an unfolding process.
You are spot on in terms of theology (wanting to be concerned with constructing an adequate theology, not RadOx or Reformed theology):
(We donít need a method independent of theology.)
Hereís a set of questions Iíd like to pose:
What is the relationship between covenant and family?
Is heterosexuality normative for Christian sociality?
What is the relation between covenant and culture?
How is covenant to be understood as scriptureís own method of contextualization? or, covenant as hermeneutic?
I want to take up this question: ďIf Christianity is not a metanarrative, why does it so often look like one? You mention legitimization and power language, and, from Lyotard, the incredulity argument. We have entered a culture of incredulity, a crisis of what is credible, on a historical axis--Habermas did it in the public sphere, where debate about public opinion is important to democracy. That is now collapsing, because of a lack of information about what you can debate about. The sphere dominated by who can win public trust, who believes what and for what reasons.
We need to examine legitimation processes--by what means we legitimize things.
[[mba: This is, I think, one of my favorite themes, the topic of authority. I am also reminded of how much our current political process is dominated by the notion of ďelectability,Ē as with the current slate of democratic presidential candidates.]]
We need to find ways Christianity can respond to that culture of incredulity and its legitimating processes. There are new metanarratives--global, democracy, market. What about when Christian is used as part of legitimating process for those things. Christianity can act as form of cultural critique, because of new the visibility of Christianity in public forum , but we need to ask what is going on here when we find ourselves using these things from our tradition and practice to legitimate other things.
1) A Frenchman recently said to me: ďWe were shocked here (in France) when Bill Clinton had a public confession of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Religion isnít that visible for us. And then George Bush Jr. opened his inaugural address with a prayer.Ē We have to ask what is Christianity legitimating. What kind of power game are we engaging in?
2) From Britain: Blair going to Iraq, confessing he will stand before God for the decision he made about the war. This is a new transformation of the public sphere in which Christianity is involved, and is somewhat being used as a form of legitimation.
So, back to your question, ďDoes the proclamation of the Christian Gospel as proclamation carry with it the danger of becoming a kind of legitimating narrative?Ē
Questions from the floor:
?? to Holcomb: What about the matter of covenant or participation? I didnít hear you answer the question. [[mba: the program stated the title as asking ďCovenant or Participation?Ē]]
Holcomb: Itís a typo. Itís not meant to be OR. Itís supposed to be AND.
There are boundaries in covenant--for the purpose of identity. But in Isaiah, covenant is particular for universal redemption--a light to Gentiles. On identity and relevance, how do you negotiate between the two, what gives us our identity You canít just do both. You have to choose identity, but itís a universal goal. The Noahic covenant is a particular boundary identity with Noahís family FOR all of creation.
??What about friendship as covenant-less legal character?
??What about negotiation as a participatory practice.
Ward: In cultural critique negotiation is the furtherance of the kingdom of God.
Ward: on the ontological in relation to participation. The relation is analogical. Ontology is not univocal. The being of the world is derivative and dependent upon the true being and nature of God. So ontological participation is within that being which is God in so far as we are finite creatures and are able to participate in analogically. Nyssa would never disassociate analogy from anagogy. Anagogy often comes in any description of the analogical. It is not a proportional relation. This is a notion of analogy in which you are involved in an operation which raises you anagogically into participation in God.
Both participation and covenant are about relationality, negotiating relationships, whether with God (Barthís vertical notion) or with one another (Barthís horizontal relationship/covenant).
The criterion for me in negotiation is: does this foster better relationality--not a privative, but a good--a site for operations of grace, which are that which binds participation to covenant.
Plenary Address by John Milbank
[[Joel Garver offers a more concise, articulate summary of this address at his blog, sacra doctrina.]]
Radical Orthodoxy has been taken to task for ruthlessness, but it is explicitly an ecumenical theology--not a theology of ecumenism, but of itself an ecumenical theology, with a particular ecumenical diagnosis. In this sense, it may be the first ecumenical theology there has been (!). But this doesnít meant that Radical Orthodoxy has only academic origins. Its founders are grounded in catholic practice, broadly catholic in orientation, committed to ancient creeds, ecumenical councils, high sacramentality, and three-fold ministry (qualifications to come).
RadOx is not in itself some sort of rival church. To compare it with the Reformed tradition is not to compare like with like. Also, it is only a recent movement of reflection, while the Reformed tradition is a long and complex tradition of practice and theory.
There are not then 2 alternatives.
RadOx could be incarnated in Reformed contexts.
But it tends to offer critiques of all existing Christian denominations, in connection with a particular genealogy of Christian history.
It does reflect on the central Calvinist theme of majesty and glory of God.
Calvin and Calvinist tradition:
some general considerations about history of Protestant
finally, reflections on Christianity as a whole as a monotheism.
Anglicans appeal for authority to church fathers, also to earlier scholastics, esp. Aquinas (this began with Richard Hooker), and Anglicans also appealed early on to John Calvin. Even high church 17th c theologians were Calvinists, despite their developments of deification and high sacramentality and participation. Those werenít necessarily movements away from Calvinism, we see the same developments among Puritans.
relevant question is: what did Calvin think and what did he leave unclear?
Genealogical perspective of RadOx: Our main historical target is not the Reformation, rather late scholasticism. Late medieval thought tended to back off from a metaphysics of participation; particularly, justification ceased to do with sharing in divine nature and became more a matter of a bare divine affirmation (ignoring some clear NT on this point). This could be combined with Palagian elements, now seen more as stemming from human autonomous resources. The concern with covenant as between two independent initiative (human and divine) starts here.
By contrast, the Reformation can be seen as a practical, though imperfect, critique of the later Middle Ages, with more attention to the humanist sense of language, human history, and arts--culture. Since Calvinism has its origins in humanism, it is open to this dimension. Later Protestants (Edward's) embody such an alternative Protestantism.
Luther and Calvin on justification: They revert to a patristic concern with participation in Christ. Godís love for us precedes our participation in Christ (Calvin) . Godís free gift brings the further gift of sanctification.
There is no scholastic habit of righteousness instilled within us (Ames).
Is Calvin further removed from participation than Luther? Luther had more of a metaphysics than Calvin, and it was a univocalist and nominalist metaphysics. So Luther had to concede the hypostatic union as one thing (monophysite). For the logos to be united to the human individual, God must enter into creation, like an alien place. If humanity is united to divinity (a la nominalism), it must fused with it. Likewise in Luther, our participation in Christ edges too close to pantheistic identity, with no sharing between identity and difference.
The danger of the early Lutheran view is its physicalist mode which downgrades sanctification. Calvinís version stresses that this sharing is a sharing of finite in infinite nature, which demands a participatory metaphysic of creation. But, later Calvin has too much separation.
Justification opens upon sanctification.
By sharing in Christ we are sanctified.
Participation is present in Reformed, but in a christological context. This might extend to a more general metaphysical theory of participation, a parallel extrapolation from Calvinís eucharistic theology. Later Calvinism did develop more Platonic readings of Calvin.
French Huguenots were more participatory (?)
Calvinís ontology is vague. Itís not clear that the nominalist/voluntarist reading is the only or best. Most Anglican and Puritan readings thought otherwise.
Calvin explicitly rejected the late medieval distinction between Godís absolute and ordained will. He has a feeling for divine simplicity comparable with that of Aquinas. Creaturely freedom is fully and absolutely determined by God. The two do not compete together in a zero sum game.
Participation language alone conveys creation ex nihilo. Calvinís idea seem to open up to that of the Czech Reformer [ ? ], where nature displays divine features.
If, inversely, participation were only an imitation, then it would be palagianism (not by grace). In consequence, there is no mileage in pitting covenant against participation (this is a conceptual error). If covenant is contrasted with participation, it necessarily implies creeping palagianism. (Zwingliansim) Justification is now obsessed with Godís decree and our mode of acceptance.
Faith is now our contribution, in a Scotus mode-- a la Suarez.
Sacramental participation is now downplayed. For Calvin, the ceremony of baptism works a means of grace and thereby incorporates us into the community of the new covenant.
The later Kuyperian notion of church is as one sphere among other spheres. Similarly, the sense that the eucharist allows direct participation in Christ is lost in the 17th c, in favor of the view that itís simply a sign of the new covenant. All these suggest that the old and new are basically the same. In the new dispensation, we utterly depend on God, but lost is the sense that we are to depend on God, as Godís children.
Later Puritan and Dutch Reformers moved away from Calvin. He was no strict sabbatharian, and he still regarded ordination as a sacrament and was open on bishops. The western tradition from Jerome to Aquinas tends to see the priest and not the bishop as the prime receiver of sacramental powers. Anglicans often follow the eastern view and Ignatius of Antioch (such that the bishop is the prime sacramental officer), but that really should require many more bishops than the Anglican church has. So this shouldn't be such a great stumbling block between traditions.
This is not to say that all of Calvin is adequate!
He has too much of a covenant theology in that he sees the older alliance as salvific in its own right, rather than, as for catholic theology, as foreshadowing and proleptically sharing in the new covenant. Itís as if God provides a way for gentiles to be Jews, rather than that the Jews participated in gentile salvation. It is not an accident that Calvinism as new Jews has sometimes led to racism in Calvinist thought, where the theological undergirding of racism was overwhelmingly Calvinist. This incidence of racism has a tragically ironic relationship to . . [[? ].
I prefer the catholic approach, because if God is one, than salvation has only been through God, always, who can remake us through one person in Christ and teach us again the law of love--not through any lesser dispensations. Calvin has too weak a doctrine of the fall (!). Earlier dispensations besides ancient Judaism only regarded it as educative. This runs counter to a deep-seated American tendency to see itself as the new Israel. Thatís dangerous!
The idea of justification as imputation is still not acceptable; it paradoxically offends the idea of divine glory. If God is simple and omnipotent, than His decision to treat us as just makes us just. If creation is not univocally alongside God, then there is no ontological limbo in which a divine degree of justification can hover. When it reaches us it is already created grace. It must again make us just and with persistence. We must receive the infused habit of justice.
Faith in God must be already and more primordially the love of God.
The magisterial Reformation tends to displace the idea that Christianity is the religion of the centrality of love (in favor of trust and hope).
Calvinís Christology is unsatisfactory; it fails to embrace participatory ontology. Itís as if there is a schizophrenic interplay of persons. Calvin, like Scotus, refuses the deification of Christ, [[quasi personality in humanity.]] For if Christís human nature is divinely personified, then it is a Godlike character, which canít be separated . Calvinís route leans toward purely human without divine. This indicates a failure to grasp the difference between nature and hypotasis. Calvin defines the hypostatical union as that which makes one person out of two natures. But he fails to see that the union happens from the divine side. Calvin sees that the predication of nature ensures that in the incarnate person the distinction of created and uncreated remains absolute. Because of the union via personality--style, autosubstantive--there can be communication of the seemingly alien idioms. This lies in the fact that the union is through personality (persona means personality!).
There is only one divine esse in Christ (not a human being as well as divine being) according to Aquinas, so he has a human nature but is not a human being. So, the divine attribute of omnipotence is exercised insofar as the nature is, divinely.
This is an extra of nature and a hypostasis of logos. This would indeed be like Calvinís idea of the body of Christ being confined to heaven in eucharistic doctrine. There is a tendency to see the divine/created relationship too ontologically.
If one observes the ontological difference we see that the reserve is in the gift and not held back from it, since the gift is also the gift of the reserve. Because Christ is physically present in the eucharist, he is all the more accessible. Because Christís humanity has always ruled creation, it reserves in itself the mystery of the person of the Son. The extra idea misunderstands this.
Calvinís sacramental theology is not really coherent. It has a good pneumatological emphasis--the real presence of Christ is there because the receiver lifts up the elements. But the idea of spiritual participation in the body of Christ in heaven makes little sense. Christís body is potentially present anywhere, and will be so eschatologically, but not as Lutherís sense of being contained, but only in the way that God is omnipresent--substantially. The bread and wine can become accidents of Christís body and blood without local presence. Transubstantiation suggests participation in the physical mysteriously. It stresses more the divine kenotic descent of grace to us.
The real presence a late phrase, and has much more quasi-Lutheran connotations of liberal local presence. Transubstantiation is more apophatic. Weíre rare in this eclecticism.
Calvinís humanist and practical theology is in search of a metaphysics. There should be a realist participatory metaphysics to convey Calvinís themes of grace and glory. It is an accident of history that only the Spanish Jesuitís works were at hand (Suarez).
Calvinís practical orientation is one ingredient in American pragmatism legacy, one clue to the American intellectual legacy. The title of Amesí treatise was ďTechnometriaĒ--this is one reason American thought is so pious and full of technological wizardry. . .
If one only stresses the usefulness of thought that tries to transform the world, itís all the same, with pointless differences. This trajectory leads to a dangerous corruption of foodstuffs, and the feeling that science ought to be doing something! Yet this is not to say that one canít produce new things. Developing things has to be guided by a feeling for essence--not fully disclosed but dimly affirmed in openness.
We do need laws which constrain our making and our use.
An aspect of these emerging natures is the question of our appropriateness and finality in relation to the ends of humanity and the cosmos. We have to judge--itís an aesthetic issue. The American tradition has sometimes been fully aware of this. Without this sense of aesthetic, pragmatism can be demonic. Itís not that ethical law supervenes on our animal nature--our human nature is already a certain beautified convenience. The way we are supposed to be is part of this aesthetic pattern, such that we can discern--if bestiality were ordained to us this would destroy our nature.. .
To speak of aesthetic discernment is to appeal to divine reason as much as to divine will and command. If if were not for such discernment, then we would say this is one way to glorify God, and one only grasps formal effectiveness. It reduces conventia to technology. Such reduction disallows that the system discloses Godís nature, by participation, and we canít know that God is good in any analogical sense, including new good things. Hence we canít love God, but only trust in him blindly.
I am convinced that the Bible insists primarily on the love of God and the disclosure of God in the cosmos.
We need reformed catholicism and alternative protestantism.
In Christ is where we see that God is love.
In Christ we see how the cosmos begins to be harmonized beyond violence.
The project of love is only possible if we have faith and hope that being is receptive of love. Christ opens up the universe again to the miracle of love and the God of glory.
In a counter reaction to Darwinism, 19th c protestantism abandoned Newman and the Oxford movement and the view that miracles came to end. There is a more catholic direction of accepting the unlimited continuing power of the spirit in the world. Christianity needs to link this ecstatic relation with the theological sense that Christ is the gift of the Spirit to the church, to begin to realize the kingdom of love upon earth. All Protestantism and all Christianity has to take more seriously the main movement of Christianity of the last 200 years, in the direction of ecstatic Christianity (even though I feel uncomfortable with it). It must mean something.
As Christians in the 19th c. discerned, this requires a more social understanding of the church and a greater understanding of the ecclesia as a project of love in society. We need to renew the socialist project by proclaiming that the faith opened up is possible because of its analogical structure.
Still more radically, we need to reinvent Christianity to render it more orthodox. If miracles didnít end with apostolic times, then surely neither did revelation, even if it only shows us once again Christ. But Christ, even as absolute truth in time, was still in humanity bound by his time, else he couldnít have been incarnate. The eternal response of the spirit to the logos--this response is Christís gift to us, but he only gives it insofar as he already receives the churchís response, if he is to be incarnate on earth and to exist. Thus Maryís fiat is required for incarnation, and all Jesusís social incarnations on earth. The reception of Christ as incarnation of God is constitutive of his being the incarnation of being God. Otherwise we have a fantasy of a nonhistorical Jesus.
The full truth of Christ has to be unfolded in later events. Christ is only incarnate as truth if he is invoked also as the absolutely true response commensurate with his Godhead.
We now have to talk about something like a double incarnation if we are to be radically orthodox beyond orthodoxy so far.
We have been given the possibility of love, but groaning cosmos awaits our interpretation and embodiment of this love and we donít know or see what love is. How is agape related to eros?How can love we donít choose be commanded? What is the place of sexual love? Is love univocal, equivocal, or analogical? How are we to love non humans creatures and inanimate things? How are we to relate the love of human beings to other manifestations to a love of Christ who shows the finality of God himself.?
A certain austere monotheism, refusing participation, has been very demythologizing, and secularizing. (the reverse of Bultman) Doesnít the lack of the mediation of the divine word lead inevitably to manic claims of direct access to an arbitrary divine voice and terrorism? Is all this biblical, or does the NT require an enlarged biblical vision beyond the literal word of the Bible?!!!!
If God is transcendently and imminently one, then God is not an individual--a big one--rather it means that God is simple and plenitudinous. God is not in competition with other gods but is absolute deity beyond the godhead. To oppose monotheism to polytheism is to have an idolatrous monotheism which lapses back to polytheism.
Doesnít then the entire glory of God require a stress on participation and the re-enchantment of the cosmos which can acknowledge its God-given mysteries, and then we can help save the cosmos for the future.
This is not only reflected in human spiritual subjects. We can honor God in other ways as well. We tend to project reduced subjectivity on God. Isnít this supposed non-paganism a serious kind of idolatry. Recently, we were shown by John Cary how orthodox Irish theologians reconstructed the celtic gods as semi-fallen angels, or unfallen human beings, as well as evil demons. Few people were so naive as to suppose that the goddess Venus didnít exist but the resurrected Jesus does. In the Middle Ages, folks assigned different levels of reality to surviving pagan gods, etc. More recently Marion theology sees that apophaticism regarding One must also entail recognition of lesser spiritual powers.
These are hints for a generous accommodation of the various spiritualities of this world, both in the past and today.
George Carey was once asked, ďDo you believe in angels?Ē He reported replied, ďI donít know but my wife is one.Ē
I would hope that to be RadOx means that one realizes that this sentiment reflects not only sexism, but also atheism. Let us rather, in this new millennium, in the name of Christ, try to recover the full plenitude of the western metapoetic metaphysical vision. This alone will save us now.
James K. A. Smithís Response:
I hear you saying, ďbecome what you are.Ē The Reformed tradition is a catholic tradition. We donít always make it back as far as Calvin--thanks for helping us get back there.
Iím struck by one charge you make, that Calvinís is a theology in search of a metaphysics. Iím moved to respond that RadOx is a metaphysics in search of the Bible!!!
I take your point. Calvin didnít do a metaphysics. The tradition has started to work on it, and Calvinist/Reformed metaphysics so wants to honor the integrity of creation as a created good that it can sound non-participatory and non-deistic, since it wants to emphasize that all that creation needs is enfolded into it from the beginning. I think this is one place where maybe the 20th c Reformed tradition has tried to develop a metaphysic.
On participation and Reformed metaphysic--I think that here RadOx slides toward occasionalism.
Please, we donít want to be the theologians of the fall. You said that Calvin has too weak a doctrine of the Fall. Can you unpack that for us?
Milbank: If itís strong enough, only incarnation can save us, but the Reformed emphasis on salvation downplays it.
Questions from the floor:
Milbank: Transubstantiation is based on Aquinasí esse, it doesnít downgrade the bread and wine, but they directly inhere in the divine body/identical with esse. Itís bound up with a level of of esse more fundamental than a level of essence/accidents. Itís all about a theory of the presence of God.
??Is it that the recognition of Jesus as God by humans is the ground for the hypostatic union coming about?
Milbank: Already Christ is being received into the world through Mary, and how is this possible?(itís more an effect of the arrival of perfection of her action as a proleptics of participation in Christ). The point is that the significance is a figura of church, the church is already present in Mary, in the spirit in her response. What does it mean in terms of human existence that it requires the response of other people? Jesusí enhypostatics and divinized humanity is not separable from actions. Without something like a proper response to him, the coming about of this hypostatic union is not possible. This is the translation at the human level of fact that the logos is not without the Holy Sprit. Trinitarian theology gives justice to the constitutionality of Jesusís existence. If there is no recognition of Jesus (he is not immune to normal laws); if, for example, he had been brutalized as a child.. . . .weíve just not thought about what incarnation means.
This is an attempt to do justice of all the data of the NT.
And, it allows for metaphoricity. God does not become anything (wouldnít be God if God did become things). Weíre not talking about the transformation of God, but of humanity.
Respondent: Graham Ward
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Scott Hoezee, John Bolt, Michael Horton, David Krump, and Respondent: Graham Ward
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