It is a beautiful Central-New-York morning here at Syracuse University. I’m in town for the regional American Academy of Religion conference. As many of you know, now that the academic year has begun to officially wind-down around the country, the academic conference season has kicked off with force. May and June tend to be the busiest time of year for conferences, a time between the end of the school year when space frees up on campuses to host such events and before Summer vacation season really kicks off in July.

This is the first of three academic papers that I will be delivering in the next month and a half, the remaining two during the first and second weeks of June (College Theology Society and the International Thomas Merton Society, respectively).  I will be sure to keep everyone updated about those papers and conferences here at For those who are interested, here is the abstract for today’s paper.

Cambridge Thomism and Postmodern Scotism: Critiquing Radical Orthodoxy’s Scotus Narrative Beyond Cross and Williams

Since the publication of John Milbank’s magisterial tome Theology and Social Theory in 1992, the landscape of contemporary theology has been irrevocably impacted by the movement known as Radical Orthodoxy, prompting engagement, analysis and response from thinkers representing a variety of disciplines and theological subfields.  The last decade witnessed the critical assessment of the Radical Orthodoxy movement by several philosophers specializing in the medieval era (particular the work of John Duns Scotus).  Such scholars include Richard Cross and Thomas Williams.  Their contention was that one of the theological narratives upon which the agenda of the Radical Orthodoxy movement relied – namely, that John Duns Scotus’s thought is largely responsible for the emergence of modernity and its ill effects – was errant.  Their respective analyses provide substantive and compelling arguments for where the Scotus sub-narrative of the Radical Orthodoxy movement (exemplified in the work of John Milbank and Catherine Pickstock) goes wrong.  The work of Cross and Williams, focusing on such scholarly flaws as the problem of methodological presuppositions and an inadequate understanding of Scotus’s Formal Distinction, offers a preliminary examination of the problematic qualities of this Radical Orthodoxy cornerstone.

This paper offers yet further analysis that develops and moves beyond the foundational analyses offered by Cross and Williams during the last decade.  Looking to Milbank and Pickstock’s construction of a new form of Thomism – borrowing the term “Cambridge Thomism” from John D. Caputo to describe it – the first aim of this paper is to identify yet another concerning feature of the Radical Orthodoxy movement, while also contributing to the critical analysis of its use of Scotus.  Furthermore, this paper seeks to exonerate, at least in part, Scotus from Radical Orthodoxy’s condemnation, thereby providing another resource for contemporary theology in contrast to the conviction of many Radical Orthodoxy scholars.

Photo: Syracuse University

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