Postliberalism? Generous/critical/radical orthodoxy?

The new edition of The Modern Theologians is out. (Well done Rachel!) And there’s a great new article in it by Jim Fodor on ‘postliberalism’, which (amongst other things) provides the best description of postliberalism I’ve ever seen. I recognise myself here very strongly:

  1. Postliberal theology represents a postcritical ‘journey to regain an inheritance’ (i.e., a retrieval and redeployment of premodern sources in characteristically ‘unmodern’ ways to meet today’s challenges).
  2. It self-consciously engages and reflects upon theology’s tasks in relation to its ecclesial settings (borrowing but also adapting previously unavailable conceptual tools from the social sciences, especially in their descriptive aspects…).
  3. It deploys narrative as a key category … Concretely embodying scripture in ecclesially appropriate ways stands in contrast to theologies which attempt to ‘lift’ from the text certain teachings or moral truths in a manner that leaves the Bible behind…)
  4. It emphasizes the peculiar grammar of Christian faith, concentrating on its scriptural logic and the regulative role of doctrine…
  5. It allocates to theology a primarily corrective rather than constitutive function. Theology’s aim is to repair, correct and sustain rather than constitute Christian language-games…
  6. It exhibits a distinctively Protestant flavour that is yet open to Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox inflections…
  7. It espouses a non-essentialist approach to religions … Affirming and attending to the material specifics and irreducible differences among religions … helps check, on the one hand, proclivities towards supercessionism … and encourages, on the other, genuine interchange and mutual understanding…
  8. It adopts a non-foundational epistemological posture…
  9. It sees its primary task as descriptive rather than apologetic

I guess I’m an Anglican-inflected postliberal, on this description. Even though I wasn’t a liberal to begin with, and by some definitions turn out to be one now. But what else could you call it?

I quite like Frei’s term, ‘generous orthodoxy’ (see 1984a on my Frei bibliography) – but that doesn’t quite capture it, and in any case seems rather a self-aggrandizing name to apply to oneself. (Frei coined it to describe his teacher, Robert L. Calhoun.) And it has since become identified with Brian D. McClaren, about whom I know next to nothing.

I really want a name that manages to combine:

  1. generous orthodoxy – which I tend to identify with Frei’s pragmatic, descriptive Barthianism;
  2. critical orthodoxy – i.e., something with a bit more anger to it, and a stronger awareness of ‘texts of terror’ and the need for orthodoxy’s self-repair; and even a touch of
  3. radical-ish orthodoxy. – i.e., whilst I can’t go all the way with Milbank, Pickstock and co., I do want something with rather more philosophy/metaphysics to it, and with a decent dash of Aquinas.

Any suggestions?

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation