Re-considering Radical Orthodoxy

I might have to soften my usual criticism of anything touting itself as “radical orthodoxy” after having just read Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt’s essay ‘Aesthetics: The Theological Sublime’ in the original Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology reader. In it, he writes:

“[O]ur experience of the world is an experience of godlessness. But in the cross we are presented with a God who is present even in godlessness, and in the resurrection we are promised that godlessness shall not have the last word. This provides a ground of critique by which we might distinguish false representations of God from true or, perhaps more precisely, by which we might distinguish ‘idols’ (our representations of the divine) from ‘icons’ (God’s self-presentation in revelation) [here Bauerschmidt is using Marion’s formulation of idol and icon, as put forth in his God Without Being – B.H.]. The ‘cruciform’ life of Jesus – and his life is cruciform in that it is lived in its entirety ‘toward’ the cross – serves as the norm of holiness, and all other claims to righteousness must fall under its critique. The cross and resurrection, in their very negativity and obscurity, become the icon by which God presents to us God’s own unpresentable trinitarian life, and we are called not to irony, but to adoration and participation.” (pg. 211)

Why I hadn’t already read this essay, I’m not quite sure. But better late than never. Not unrelatedly, I’m considering the possibility of making Marion a major player in my dissertation. The more I read of and about him and his work, the more I dig it.


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  1. Speaking of vision, you may want to read the Holy Father’s first encyclical letter,
    Caritas Est
    ‘, which makes reference to contemplating the pierced side of Christ
    as a lesson on what a New Testament ethic of Love is all about. I found his one
    reference to the ‘pierced’ side a compelling and rich visual metaphor, which reminded me of iconography viz. Marion. Contemplating the ‘site
    of the wound’ moves our own sight from the godlessness of the cross to the ‘seat’ of Divine love evinced by the transfigured wound.

  2. Yeah – I am glad you are both softening your views on ol’ Marion and RO overall. I just revisioned my paper I gave at AAR on Marion and Shusaku Endo and was taken back by the challenge he offers in both God with being and Givenness – I highly recommend the latter.

    BTW – congrats on the wee un upcoming! Nice shootin’ Tex!

  3. Thanks Sensei! Yeah, I was glad to find out every, uh, works properly in that dept.

    You know, I always liked what I read of Marion in God w/o Being, but just never moved on much from there. And I’m realizing that my reservations about RO are mostly re: Milbank (who critiques Marion in Word Made Strange, and who I generally always find to be deeply modernist and borderline arrogant in his thinking), because basically everything I’ve ever read (or heard read) by Graham Ward I’ve really appreciated as well. I still need to give Catherine Pickstock’s book a fair reading.

    I just bought Silence for £1. Looking forward to reading it at some point, after which time I’m sure I’d like to read your paper.

    Skipping AAR this year, unfortunately, but I assume you’re coming to Stirling for the ISRLC conference, so I’ll see you ’round about that time anyway – possibly w/ a few-weeks-old we’an in tow. This is for obvious reasons: baby, and wanting to minimize distractions for the sake of the dissertation.

  4. sorry you wont be at the AAR, but I am certainly trying to find funding to get to Stirling. The paper I did on Marion and Endo is morph’d into this book on Radical Mission coming out this summer… I will pass it on to you.

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