Radical Orthodoxy: the official Twenty-Four Theses

These were given to me whilst I was at Westcott. I believe them to authored by the original Radical Orthodoxy circle themselves. Click ‘full post’ for details.

1. Radical Orthodoxy rejects as sophistic all theological celebrations of secularization.
2. It wishes to break with the reactive character of much twentieth-century theology which merely embraces or opposes secular tendencies without setting its own agenda.
3. Radical Orthodoxy believes that theology alone gives a true account of the real: the question of being must therefore be handled in terms of analogy and participation.
4. One can only speak of God indirectly, so theology is always speaking of something else: culture, society, history, language, art, nature. Therefore theology is more mediatory than neo-orthodoxy allowed; it is not just one more positive discourse. To deny mediation is paradoxically too modern, too liberal.
5. Although Radical Orthodoxy is more mediatory it is also less accommodating than neo-orthodoxy. It regards no element in secular discourse as sacrosanct and sees no limit as to how a theological discourse may change our perspective on anything. Therefore Radical Orthodoxy defers to no experts and engages in no ‘dialogues’, because it does not recognize other valid points of view outside the theological.
6. Radical Orthodoxy believes that all thought of being which brackets God is nihilistic.
7. Radical Orthodoxy believes that nihilism is nearer the truth than humanism, because it recognizes the unknown and indeterminate in every reality and because it is true that without God there is nothing. One can add that humanism is nihilism unable to recognize itself and therefore also naive or cynical or both.
8. Radical Orthodoxy, while rejecting all metaphysical construals of God as object is suspicious of theologies which tend to absolutize and fetishize negativity, contradiction, tragedy, ambiguity and confusion (such a mode of the mystical is all too akin to nihilism). In Dionysus the via negativa is actually the affirmation of ungraspable plenitude.
9. Radical Orthodoxy believes that modern rationalism is itself nihilistic and that postmodernism is only the true logic of modernity. It rejects both the Kantian exaltation of the sublime and the Hegelian restoration of a gnosis which displaces faith and ontologises evil.
10. Theology before Duns Scotus must be continuously re-read and reclaimed, and its relation to thinkers who opposed the post-Scotist development carefully reflected upon. Good and bad in the enlightenment legacy must be sifted; since the enlightenment both reacted against and perpetuated a deformed Christendom.
11. Radical Orthodoxy utterly rejects the cynicism and pseudo-adulthood of the present age which scorns (or fetishizes) childhood, nature, romance and hope. It holds that cynicism is self-confirming, irrefutable and hopeless, while hope is self-confirming, irrefutable and hopeful. Therefore it is to be preferred.
12. The special relationship of Platonism to Christianity is to be affirmed: simple dualisms of Hebrew and Hellenic are rejected. Eros and Agape are inseparable.
13. As much as the secular, most pietisms are disliked since, as advocating the ‘spiritual’ they assume there is a secular. Radical Orthodoxy rejoices in the unavoidably and authentically arcane, mysterious, and fascinatingly difficult. It regards this preference as democratic, since in loving mystery, it wishes also to diffuse and disseminate it. We relish the task of sharing a delight in the hermetic with uninitiated others.
14. Radical Orthodoxy is focused on the recovery and non-identical repetition of an authentic pre-Scotist Catholicism. It finds elements of an authentic continuation of the same in High Anglicanism, but also in many other places and countries as well. It detests evangelicalism, because it is creepy, voluntaristic and therefore nihilistic.
15. Radical Orthodoxy pursues a unique politics. It remains socialist, and is not reconciled to the capitalist market, but rejects state solutions and holds that socialism can only arrive through co-operative production and banking and continued re-negotiation in democratic forums of fair profits and salaries. A new mode of universal gift-exchange is to be sought. The church itself is understood as the event of true community, now and eternally. Despite or because of its socialism Radical Orthodoxy also believes in a Platonic rule of the best and seeks to balance ‘spatial’ democracy with a temporal education into collectively recognised excellence. It assumes that if one denies all hierarchy, all that remains is the hierarchy of money and brute force.
16. It remains unrepentantly of commercial culture, though equally of any high culture which combines nihilism, cynicism and snobbishness. It rejects both new ‘youth art’ (Britart, Drug-ridden novels etc) and tired suburban humanism. It looks for a new metaphysical art that will neither be mere diversion nor supposedly insightful commentary, but liturgical expression. To see reality in time, art must also see the ideal, the eternal. And when it does so, it must shape, not just fictions, but the whole of our lives. Instead of both low art and high art, Radical Orthodoxy advocates a transcendent art which will craft everything, down to the most mundane.
17. There is to be, Radical Orthodoxy would hope, no more ‘leisure’, but instead ritual celebration. Without ritual, there is no joy, which is why there is no more dancing. The spirit of Thaxted is constantly to be re-invoked. Work is seen as part of human dignity, but only if creative and contributive to the common good. It notes that today ‘serious’ people are serious over trivia, and never stop working for nothing. It maintains that every human action – including the most ordinary – should be offered as a liturgy.
18. The return of neo-positivism and neo-Darwinism is regarded with the utmost derision and hostility. The new Faustian transformations of nature and humanity via biotechnology are also opposed, not because nature may never be changed, but because they are destroying many realities, including human reality as hitherto understood, which are to be seen as intrinsically valuable.
19. Just as the commodification of nature is eschewed, so too is the commodification of language and the reduction to information. Virtual reality is seen as promoting the notions of infinite inter-substitutability and pure flux. Radical Orthodoxy takes these as threatening to destroy the beauty and teleology of the actual, and to remove both the capacity for sustained abstract reflection and direct sensual encounter with the embodied.
20. Single issue cultural politics are regarded as narcissistic and inherently in league with capitalism.
21. Old sexual puritanism and recent commodification of sex are both opposed: indeed opposed as the same thing. Modernity is viewed as increasingly de-eroticizing; childbirth and sexual love must not be prised apart.
22. As to feminism: it is crucial that liturgical processions be led by women carrying flowers.
23. Radical Orthodoxy rejects the idolization of academic ‘politeness’, as part of that legacy of civic humanism which substituted ‘manners’ for a true liturgical order grounded in a collectively shared vision. Indeed, the Devil is known for his civility.
24. Our maxim is: Repent, Resist, Receive and Repeat.


At the same time, I was also handed this list. I do not know the identity of the author, but I suspect it to be a contemporaneous member of the Cambridge Faculty.

Radical Orthodoxy: Twenty More Theses

1. Radical Orthodoxy rejects as sophistic everything except ITSELF.
2. Radical Orthodoxy affirms ITSELF to be the source of all knowledge actual and possible. We revere Catholics like Augustine, Herder and Ruskin; we revile Scotus and Kant, John Paul II and all other Evangelicals.
3. Radical Orthodoxy encourages rudeness to those who, on account of their pride, prudery, crypto-capitalism, cynicism and utter stupidity, cannot recognise Radical Orthodoxy as the sole legitimate mediation of ITSELF.
4. Radical Orthodoxy defers to no experts and engages in no dialogues, and requires unconditional obedience on pain of burning.
5. Radical Orthodoxy denies the secular, and will therefore burn heretics on its own warrant.
6. Radical Orthodoxy pursues wisdom without asceticism, and theology without the Bible.
7. One can only speak of God indirectly, so theology can only speak of Radical Orthodoxy.
8. Radical Orthodoxy aims to restore Platonism without dialogue, and Scholasticism without disputation.
9. Radical Orthodoxy is not a manifesto, but an Epiphany.
10. Radical Orthodoxy affirms that whereas cynicism is hopeless, hope, by way of contrast, is hopeful, and therefore must be a better thing. Radical Orthodoxy, though profoundly mysterious and arcane in its ungraspable plenitude, rejoices in the repetition of its own poetic identity, indeed in the non-identical repetition of its own poetic identity, and scorns the pseudo-hilarity of superficial secularism and Enlightenment gnosticism.
11. Anything other than Radical Orthodoxy must be regarded as perverted, creepy, crawly, and thoroughly nasty, with the possible exception of nihilism, which is paradoxically a Good Thing and more akin to Radical Orthodoxy than humanism and liberalism which are Very Bad Things Indeed.
12. Eros and agape are insperable. Radical Orthodoxy rejects absolutely fetishism, but affirms and celebrates the direct sensual encounter of bodies, as best practised in High Anglicanism and Low Catholicism.
13. Radical Orthodoxy will re-establish great art, build gothic cathedrals, and maintain the hierarchy of excellence which recognises Peterhouse as the source and apex of all true knowledge. In this way we will save the universe.
14. Radical Orthodoxy will establish socialism without equality and democracy without party.
15. Academic politics are regarded as narcissistic and inherently in league with the Pope.
16. As to feminism: it is crucial that women shave their legs.
17. Radical Orthodoxy insists upon the substitution of full stops for nouns wherever possible.
18. Radical Orthodoxy rejects.
19. Radical Orthodoxy rejects the idolisation of ‘academic politeness’, so bugger off!
20. Our maxim is: Rude, Radical, Rumbustious and Right On!

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