Radical Orthodoxy (RO) is an attempt to reframe theology outside the confines of some basic dualisms – dualisms of modern invention – which were designed to exclude the divine. These dualisms include reason vs. faith, natural vs. supernatural, and matter vs. spirit. Because those dualisms are so basic to modern ways of thinking, the claims made by RO can be startling, even to people who consider themselves faithful Christians.
Radical Orthodoxy is not so much a theological system as it is a sense of how things have gone badly wrong. It is not a single system because it is consistent with some diversity on theological points; however, it is not consistent with some theologies that are, from the standpoint of RO, framed by the modernity which is the problem.
My summary here will simplify quite a bit, but I hope without too much distortion. There are three basic points (to be expanded soon).
First, philosopher scientists invented the idea of secular reason, as distinct from discernment informed by revelations of the divine, during the Enlightenment, in order to define a domain or space that would be neutral, as distinct from the many biased and prejudiced religious worldviews. However, that invention created an unsustainable, self-defeating ideology of prejudice against prejudice that has imploded and resulted in a turn to force and violence masking itself as social and economic liberalism.
Second, an undoing of that exclusion of the divine requires reimagining the relation of the divine to the world, and RO presents this reimagining in the ancient but remodeled Neoplatonic notion of “participation,” the notion that beings have their being as an expression or revelation of Being itself, the fount of all being, the source of all that is. We, and all that we perceive, are suspended from the divine, not untethered and free-floating in the void.
Third, the fundamental human aspiration to participation in the divine is best and most properly expressed in liturgy and doxology, in the dramatization of the story of divine revelation and of our response in praise, praise of the fount of our being and all beings, revealed as redeemer and sanctifier of all the world.
(to be continued)