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Jamie Smith: Introducing Radical Orthodoxy

This book succeeds in its intent as an introduction to radical orthodoxy and a critique of modernist and post-modernist claims of neutrality. It would be helpful to students wanting to know more of this emerging theological school. However, the arguments in this work are as yet unfinished (as Smith himself claims). The discussion would also be further developed in a debate between RO and Karl Barth, whose theology has room for developing a christologically based natural theology. Moreover, I suspect that Barth’s theology is a major source for RO’s theological reflection, in a manner similar to the Yale and Duke centers. Finally, I wonder how this plays out in terms of his Pentecostal background. Smith appears to have embraced a confessional Reformed position (understandable considering that he teaches at Calvin College), but how might his discussion help Pentecostals in the development of their own theology and criticisms of their world? His discussion of the relationship between RO and Pentecostalism in “What Hath Cambridge to Do with Azusa? Radical Orthodoxy and Pentecostal Theology in Conversation” Pneuma 25 (2003), pp. 97-114 is mostly absent from this monograph. Yet as Smith claims in his essay, contemporary Pentecostalism would be assisted by a discussion of sacramental and liturgical modes as worship as well as the need for cultural transformation.

Nevertheless, Introducing Radical Orthodoxy is a fascinating read and valuable for strengthening one’s theological understanding of God’s grace in a post-modern world.

Reviewed by Peter Althouse


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Preview Introducing Radical Orthodoxy:

End Notes – Post-Secular Theological Landscape

Position School(s) Thinkers Project

(1) Correlation
Tübingen (Germany)Union Theological Seminary (New York)Chicago Divinity School (Chicago)[Dallas Theological Seminary] (Dallas) Rudolf BultmannPaul TillichReinhold NiebuhrDavid Tracy

Gustavo Gutiérrez

-Attempts to correlate Christ’s claims with cultural, political & economic structures, which function as normative sources for the theological project-Deeply apologeticRevelation understood in the universally accessible & natural sphere of the “secular” sciences-Accomodationist

-Thinly ecclesiological

-Evangelical version is a form of Fundamentalism which mirrors modernity

(2) Revelational
Basel (Switzerland)Yale (New Haven)Princeton (NJ)Duke (Durham, NC) Karl BarthHans Frei; George LindbeckGeorge HunsingerStanley Hauerwas -Antithesis between the gospel & culture, subverting all “secular” frameworks-Yale represents the linguistic turn in revelational mode; Princeton resists the linguistic-Durham merges the Reformed and Anabaptist thought which shares an emphasis on revelational & cultural forms-Resists correlationist method

-Deep critique of modernity & offers an alternate post-secular, post-modern vision

(3) Neo-Calvinism
AmsterdamCalvin College (Grand Rapids, Michigan)Institute of Christian Studies (Toronto) Abraham KuyperHermann Dooyeweerd -Non-conformity to secular criterion of knowledge-Questions the tenets of modernity-Early understanding of post-secular theology

(4) Radical Orthodoxy
Cambridge (UK) John MilbankGraham WardCatherine Pickstock -Antithesis between revelation & cultural forms; between Jerusalem & Athens-Refuses to concede criterion for truth to a supposedly neutral secular sphere-NO secular if this means neutral & uncommitted-Goes back to patristic sources

-Undoes dichotomy between nature & grace that stems from scholastic Thomism

-Nature is always graced

-Critical of post-modernism as a continuation of modernity’s tenets

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Category: In Depth, Spring 2006

About the Author: Peter F. Althouse, PhD (University of Toronto), is Assistant Professor of Religion at Southeastern University. He is the author of Spirit of the Last Days: Pentecostal Eschatology in Conversation with Jürgen Moltmann (T & T Clark, 2003), and has written many articles on eschatology, pneumatology and Pentecostal studies. Faculty page. Facebook.

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