Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-Secular Theology

Article excerpt

Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-secular Theology by James K. A. Smith Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, 2004. 291 pp. $21.99. ISBN 0-B010-2735-7.

THIS BOOK PROVIDES AN accessible yet extensively documented "introduction" to a "theological sensibility" that has become known as "Radical Orthodoxy." This sensibility includes a relatively diverse group of theological proposals that seek to work in a "post-secular" space, providing alternatives to Enlightenment versions of Christian theology. It has been in need of an accessible introduction, both to bring together points of commonality and to articulate basic claims in nontechnical terms. James K. A. Smith accomplishes this, beginning with the genealogy of modernity given by Radical Orthodoxy, which involves a particular reading of the history of philosophy and theology (Part 1). Smith continues his "mapping" in Part 2 with a thematic analysis, supplemented by critical interaction with theologians from Smith's own Reformed heritage, such as Kuyper and Dooyewerd. In his overview, Smith cites the key points of controversy related to Radical Orthodoxy, giving an excellent bibliography of works that are both critical and sympathetic to his proposals. As such, Smith's work is an outstanding secondary source "introduction," introducing not only the ideas, but also the literature.

The central weakness of this volume stems mainly from its genre. Because of the focus on contemporary Radical Orthodoxy and its secondary literature, a key dynamic of the discussion is underdeveloped: ad fontes, back to the sources. …