Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Predicament of Postmodern Theology: Radical Orthodoxy or Nihilist Textualism?

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The Predicament of Postmodern Theology: Radical Orthodoxy or Nihilist Textualism?

Article excerpt

The Predicament of Postmodern Theology: Radical Orthodoxy or Nihilist Textualism? By Gavin Hyman. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001. x + 198 pp. $24.95 (paper).

This work, which began as a thesis directed by Graham Ward, is a considerable gift to readers less than fully familiar with "postmodern" trends in English theology. We are given a status quaestionis well worthwhile, whether as background or as update.

Hyman proposes a dilemma, as yet unresolved, or perhaps a dialectic, as yet unentered, between two polar positions. One pole, represented paradigmatically by Don Cupitt, Hyman calls "nihilist textualism"; the other, represented by John Milbank and Catherine Pickstock, Hyman calls "radical orthodoxy," and he includes Graham Ward in the latter. Both flow out of the postmodern critique, but while the Cupitt-pole posits God as a needed function ("Cupitt moves God to the periphery by making God functional-a spiritual tool that can be discarded when one has reached one's goal" [p. 60]), Milbank proposes, in the wake of Hans Urs von Balthasar, a doubling back to the premodern in order to take a direction other than that from Duns Scotus to Descartes and onward, which has led to and is constitutive of metaphysical nihilism. (Louis Dupre's masterful 1993 Passage to Modernity would have been valuable to the argument but is not referenced.)

To the rescue, perhaps, come Mark C. Taylor and Michel de Certeau, not to propose yet a third horn to the dilemma, nor a resolution of it, but to suggest an approach to an approach. This, Hyman calls "fictional nihilism." Taylor's contribution is a displacement, "a movement of departure that results in an endless exile" (p. …

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