Messy–sure, but still formidable ontology

I think I have sufficiently critiqued, or at least drawn attention to major difficulties, in Radical Orthodoxy.  However, I am doing something that few of its critics do:  I really attempt to make a case that Radical Orthodoxy got a lot of things right that it’s tenured colleagues and critics would rather have not seen.  While not necessarily new to Medieval studies and philosophy in general, John Milbank has repeatedly highlighted the implications that an enfolded ontology has for today’s reality.

Earlier I pointed out where Milbank suggested angels, demons, sprites, faeries inhabit dimensions (not the best word but go with it for now) within reality.   While many university professors laugh at this, this was common parlance until the 18th century (and to embarrass some Reformed folks, Luther believed that his local forests had goblins or demons in it–and Luther was probably right).

I have always insisted, after St Paul, that death as well as sin is an intruder upon the original creation and that, after the fall, sinister cosmic forces became (literally) in charge of the world.

Milbank, Foreword to Introducing Radical Orthodoxy, 17.  Of course, Christ’s death and resurrection qualifies the degree to which this is now true.  But I am trying to highlight while even though the Creator/creature distinction is true (I’ve never denied it), the universe is not simply “flat” creation over here with “God” somewhere way up there.  It simply cannot be this way.  I have to ask, if that is true, what connects God to his creation?  Can God interact with his creation?  Even better, how (can?) creation participate in God?  I think this is what Milbank and others mean when he speaks of “a suspended creation.”

If Christianity refuses “the conflict of the gods,” it does not refuse “other gods” (sometimes spoken of by the church fathers as synonymous with angels) intimated by other traditions, simply because these can in no way impinge upon, but rather confirm, the sovereignty of the One God who is beyond mere oneness and manyness…

Likewise, following the great Russians, RO increasingly insists that the Triune God is the God who in himself brings about the other to God who must also be “created” God (Milbank is following Bulgakov’s reference to Proverbs 8’s “created Sophia;” he is not saying that God is a creature or finite; cf Eriugena).  In this case, as the Wisdom literature of the Bible suggests, the gift of God to creation must first be received psychically (by angels and whatever psychic powers sustain the entire cosmos in being) and then to a lesser degree by human beings…

Milbank, 18-19

And this rather interesting quote by St Irenaeus

Wickedness now spread far and wide and down through the years, infecting the whole of mankind, till only a very small seed of righteousness remained among them. Illicit unions also took place on earth, for fallen angels joined themselves to offsprings of the daughters of men. These then bore them sons who were so very large that they were called giants (cf. Genesis 6.2-4; Baruch 3.26-28; Sirach 16.8).

Further, these angels brought evil teaching to their wives as gifts, teaching them how to make magical use of roots and herbs and all about dyeing and cosmetics. They helped them discover certain rare materials and make love potions. From them their wives also learned hatreds, illicit loves, passions, the art of restraining love, spells of witchcraft, and all sorts of sorcery and idolatry which are hateful to God.

HT Fransiscan Mafia


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