Monday, July 9, 2007

Milbanks and the Satan in Nature Hypothesis

Some of you may be familiar with John Milbank, one of the founders of a movement called "Radical Orthodoxy." (His best known book is Theology and Social Theory). I don't agree with everything he writes, but it seems we are on the same page regarding a) the centrality of non-violence for citizens of the Kingdom of God and b) the unequivocal distinction between the Church and all forms of secularism, including secular sociology and politics. He argues that the Church's job is to provide the world with an alternative society that manifests the loving, peaceful reign of the triune God against the secular world which is rooted in what he calls "an ontology of violence." To accomplish this, the Church must never let itself be defined in secular categories -- whether this be sociology or politics. Those who have read my book The Myth of a Christian Nation will have no trouble seeing the commonality between Milbanks and my views.

What I didn't know -- or even remotely suspect -- until this morning is that Milbanks also seems to be roughly on the same page as me regarding "natural" evil. This morning a friend of mine (Tom Belt) sent me the following quote from an interview of Milbanks concerning the book mentioned above. He says,

"I think one thing that I don’t say in Theology and Social Theory very clearly is that I definitely line up with the die-hards who think that death comes into the world after the fall. And I agree with the nut cases who say, “If you abandon that, you abandon Christianity ... ” The whole Bible’s sense of what is bad is very objective; it includes natural evils as well as moral evils, and it doesn’t really distinguish between the two a lot of the time. At least in the Old Testament that seems to be true, that there is cosmic disorder. And it seems to me that the New Testament has a sense of how these interact, but we live in a world into which death has entered and this makes malice possible ..."

Now, I'm not sure if Milbank's is referring to the human fall or the angelic fall in this paragraph, and if its the former, I don't kow what Milbank's does with pre-humanoid violence in the world. But I'm delighted to see he recognizes a cosmic disorder at the level of nature, such that the "natural world" we now live in isn't really "nature." There is, as he says in his book, a sort of violence that has encroached in on the world.

I love it.