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Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-secular Theology [Paperback]

By James K. A. Smith & John Milbank (Foreward By)
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Item Number 144987  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   291
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.12" Width: 6.08" Height: 0.84"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 1, 2004
Publisher   Baker Academic
ISBN  0801027357  
EAN  9780801027352  

Availability  57 units.
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Item Description...
Introduces and defines radical orthodoxy, which encourages a return to a premodern theology that is relevant to every discipline and the whole of life.

Publishers Description
Although God is making a comeback in our society, popular culture still takes its orders from the Enlightenment, a movement that denied faith a prominent role in society. Today, many are questioning this elevation of reason over faith. How should Christians respond to a secular world that continues to push faith to the margins?
While there is still no consensus concerning what a postmodern society should look like, James K. A. Smith suggests that the answer is a reaffirmation of the belief that Jesus is Lord over all. Smith traces the trends and directions of Radical Orthodoxy, proposing that it can provide an old-but-new theology for a new generation of Christians. This book will challenge and encourage pastors and thoughtful laypeople interested in learning more about currents in contemporary theology.

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More About James K. A. Smith & John Milbank

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! James K. A. Smith (PhD, Villanova University) is the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In addition, he is editor of Comment magazine and a senior fellow of the Colossian Forum. Smith is the author or editor of many books, including the Christianity Today Book Award winners Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? and Desiring the Kingdom, and is editor of the well-received The Church and Postmodern Culture series (

James K. Smith has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Church and Postmodern Culture
  2. Cultural Liturgies
  3. Sermones y Bosquejos de Toda La Biblia

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Philosophy > Religious   [1337  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Fundamentalism   [265  similar products]
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General   [8607  similar products]

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Faith over reason  Feb 11, 2008
"Today, many are questioning this elevation of reason over faith."

Taking a page from radical Islam and its troubled relationship with modernity, Smith and his RO brethren dress up postmodernism and other abstruse products of the continental academy as "reasons" to no longer believe in "reason". Apparently not recognizing that their declining market/mind share is due to the stunning unbelievability of their dogma, they put their fingers in their ears and pronounce that their faith is too just as reasonable as secularism, materialism, and whatever else the evidence of 300 years of enlightenment has afforded humanity.

Not just that, but in the spirit of the Discovery Institute, which brands its press release flacking as "science", these hale philosophers re-brand their pining for the Holy Roman, totalitarian, and Apostolic church of old as "radical". Well, it is radical, in the same sense as the Taliban is radical- promising radical regression in human intellect and values. Just what we need in an increasingly global world where one unreasoning, intolerant, and bitter religion is quite enough, thank you very much.
Demystifying Racial Orthodoxy  Nov 30, 2007
Introducing Radical Orthodoxy

Radical Orthodoxy (RO) is a theological sensibility made possible by the demise of foundationalism and the attendant demise of the notion of the "secular." Modernity was characterized by an attempt to ground knowledge on a universal, neutral, and (sometimes) indubitable foundation, whether clear and distinct ideas with Descartes or sense experience with Hume. Any discourse not grounded on such a foundation (ex. Christianity) was held in suspect and any conclusions drawn from that foundation were often assumed invalid in public "secular" discourse. RO reveals that the beliefs that supposedly ground "secular" discourse are themselves contingent theologies (and usually distortions of Christian theology). Having revealed the theological commitments of competing narratives (modernity's supposed metanarratives), RO reveals that they are no more epistemically justified than the Christian narrative, clearing the way for the unapologetic proclamation of the Christian story.

In this book, James K.A. Smith, a rising figure on the scene of Continental Philosophical Theology, guides the reader through the concerns and assertions of RO, critiquing it at some points and putting it in dialogue with his Dutch Reformed tradition at others. The book is accessible to those with a background in theology and philosophy (preferably a bachelors or masters in either).

The book is divided into two parts. In the first, Smith begins by situating RO in the contemporary theological scene, distinguishing it from the correlationist theologies of Modernity, tracing its own intellectual history, and narrating the history RO tells of modernity/secularity (which sees its beginnings not with Cartesian epistemology but with the earlier univocal ontology articulated by Duns Scotus, which "unhooked the world from its participation in the divine"--this concept vague and never sufficiently explained in the book--allowing for an autonomous realm operating independently of the divine).

In the second part of the book, Smith successively discusses (each in a separate chapter) the politics, epistemology, ontology, and ecclesiology of Modernity, Postmodernity, and RO (which is critical of both Modernism and Postmodernism, albeit drawing heavily on the intellectual opportunities afforded by Postmodernity). In terms of politics, RO sees modernity (and much of Postmodernity) as heresy--a discourse, while masquerading as objective and universal, that is actually committed to a distorted Christian theology. The state, thus, becomes a parody of the Church, "founded on certain stories of nature and human nature [ex. Hobbes' state of nature], and the remedies for such conflict in the enactment of the state itself" analogous to the Christian creation-fall-redemption narrative.

In terms of epistemology, RO critiques the notion of autonomous rationality (which undergirds and is assumed to operate in the public sphere). All reasoning, from the perspective of RO, is shaped by (or assumes) a certain theology (i.e. is confessional). This critique invalidates correlationist theological strategies (ex. liberation theology, classical apologetics), which accept as true the conclusions of a "secular" science (ex. Marxism, history) and construct their theology accordingly.

In terms of ontology (the most difficult chapter for me), RO critiques the univocity of being, which assumes that the world can be understood in itself, without reference to a Creator, setting forth instead a parcipatory ontology that values embodiment. The final chapter discusses the state as an ecclesia that seeks to direct human desire towards idols (ex. consumption of goods) and the church as an ecclesia that seeks to direct human desire towards God, forming its subjects differently as a result. The book concludes with a short list of practical suggestions for how the conclusions of RO can be implemented in the church.

Overall, an informative read. For those without much of a background in theology or philosophy, such as myself, there are definitely long portions that are mostly opaque (but worth reading anyways). Longer discussion on the practical consequences of RO for Christian political engagement would have been appropriate, as many of its critiques of the secular could easily be picked up by the Religious Right to legitimate their Constantinian project. With the above caveats (the book is not for the interested layperson with little background in theology and philosophy), I recommend the book as a concise overview of RO.
Parisian Augustinianism  Nov 11, 2007
t is always interesting to find "coincidences" in theological movements. That is, when group A arrives at a theological position/conclusion that looks eerily similar to what group B believes. It is even stranger to find that they never borrowed from the same sources or even interacted. Such it is with the rise of Radical Orthodoxy (hereafter RO) and its critique of modernity.

RO is a group of theologians who saw the bankruptcy of modernity, and the inability of post modernity to answer the tough questions, thus positing a critique that seeks to avoid both secularism and pre-modernity. It is similar to a Parisian Augustine. RO is sensitive to post-modernity's critiques of secularism. The book offers a multi-angled critique of secularalism: epistemological, ontological, and ecclesiological.

Once Upon a Time there was Plato
RO's epistemological critique of secularism is a retelling of the story of Western philosophy. According to RO, philosophy took a fatal turn with Duns Scotus. Scotus posited a univocity of being stating there is only one kind of being in everything real, though infinite in the case of God and finite in the case of creatures. According to RO, this flattened ontology, removing the transcendent and giving us a metaphysics of immanence. Smith writes, "The created, immanent order no longer participates in the divine and thus is no longer characterized by the depth of that which is stretched toward the transcendent (93)." In other words, man is now able to interpret reality apart from God or any notion of the transcendent. This opened the door to secularism.
The antidote to Scotus, then, is Plato. If Scotus unhooked ontology, Plato (or his Christian disciples) can reconnect it. In short and in contrast with modernity, RO offers, not a univocity of being, but a participatory metaphysics. Popular opinion on Plato is that Plato denigrated the material in favor of the spiritual (I will resist applications to some Reforme--never mind). But RO suggests, on the other hand, that it is nihilism, with its denial of the transcendent that denigrates the material. But can Platonism make the claim that it values the material?
RO inverts Platonism on this point. Following Phaedrus, RO argues that when the material participates in the spiritual, the physical is rightly energized and affirmed. For example, the physical embodiment of beauty excites the soul's desire such that its wings sprout and are nourished." On one hand I agree. I value the material very much (almost too much), but is this an accurate reading of Plato? I really can't (and neither can Smith) follow their reconstruction of Plato. Plato spoke often of soma sema: the body is a prison for the soul. But we need not accept their reading of Plato to grasp their point.

Ontology: Unfolding Reality
This was arguably the toughest section of the book. And the most surprising. Smith reintroduced Dooyeweerd to the Reformed and academic scene. If nihilism/modernity flattened their epistemology, it also flattened its ontology. Secular ontologies, according to RO, "claim to fully define the conditions" for reality (187). This section will be shorter since the same critique of epistemology will be used for ontology. RO counters the secular ontology with a new move on RO's part: an Incarnational or participatory ontology. In rephrasing RO's ontology, Smith uses the arcane philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd, particularly his modal scheme.
Essential first step for those interested in RO  Oct 9, 2006
I read this book two years ago during the summer before my senior year of college, and I found it utterly fascinating. Even at the level of learning I was at then (three years of college philosophy and theology courses), the book was rather difficult at times, so it's definitely only for those at advanced undergraduate or graduate levels. That said, it's still infinitely easier to read that any of John Milbank's own writings, so anyone wanting a relatively easy introduction to the thought of Milbank and other RO thinkers should definitely start hear before picking up any of the source texts themselves.

For those unfamiliar with RO, it is a movement combining the best of contemporary Christian theology, Continental and postmodern philosophy, and ancient and medieval thought, creating a new "post-secular" theology that doesn't simply parrot the findings of the social sciences and secular philosophy, but recasts them in a distinctively Christian mould. For those who, like myself, have looked for something in Continental philosophy of religion that doesn't end up with results that look disappointingly unorthodox, RO definitely merits a look.

A wonderful introduction to a perplexing topic  Feb 2, 2005
Over the last few years there have been many questions and conversations about Radical Orthodoxy. For many, it is a way of thinking that is as confusing as it is insightful. James K. A. Smith shows the promise of Radical Orthodoxy in this very accessible introduction.

Smith aims to summarize what the "theological sensibility" (most of the authors don't want to be considered a movement or school of thought) known as Radical Orthodoxy has been about. He also intends to point out deficiencies in "RO" and suggest avenues for future research. He does all of this from a Reformed point of view, one that is missing in much of RO's work. The book is divided into two parts. The first seeks to place RO within the greater theological and philosophical discussion. It does so by discussing other ways of thinking, outlining RO's main contentions, and giving a brief account of the history of philosophy as RO reads it. The second section more clearly articulates RO's contentions and points the way to future improvements. Chapters deal with politics, epistemology, ontology, and ecclesiology. Smith makes it clear that he finds RO's soteriology and understanding of sin particularly in need of repair.

If you are a student struggling with RO, this book is definately for you. If you are theologian interested in RO, this book will help summarize RO and give a brief critique. If you are involved in RO and want to see it move in different directions, this book is a useful part of the conversation. I highly recommend it.

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