Posted on: April 1st, 2010 Postmodern Critical Augustinianism

My notes from John Milbank’s “Postmodern, Critical Augustinianism,” found in his The Future of Love: Essays in Political Theology (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2009).

  1. Christian Theology is no more justifiable, no more rationally vindicated, than any other narrative or system. Thus theology is in full agreement with intellectual postmodernism, which is about a “thoroughgoing perspectival historicism” which sees all perspectives as “a strategy of power.”
  2. Note: “thoroughgoing perspectival historicism,” with which Milbank agrees, also relativizes all modern science, and all historical criticism (as someone like Dale Martin is quick to point out).
  3. So is this undecideability all that can be posited? Not quite: the difference between the nihilism implied by infinite, equally valid perspectives and Christian theology (which always lives the possibility of achieving an internal suspicion of “notions of definably fixed essences in its approaches to human beings, to nature, to community, and to God”) is that nihilism’s perspectival historicism necessarily enshrines conflict (Milbank’s “agonistics”), whereas Christian theology, rooted as it is in the practice and community of the church and in the Trinity, actually subsumes and incorporates difference. (Of course, in this way, the community of the church images the diverse community of Father, Son, and HS.)
  4. What makes this approach “Augustinian” for Milbank is the former’s analogy to music which we find in De Musica. Theology is “musical” in that the coordination of difference into a beautiful, harmonious whole. Also memory is key to music, since the various notes & parts only “work together” as we remember the notes & parts which give way to other notes & parts.
  5. What makes Christian theology interesting and perhaps different, however, is that it “can only be explicated by Christian liturgical practice:” “… The Christian God may no longer be thought of as first seen, but rather as a God first prayed to, first imagined, first inspiring certain actions….”
  6. Therefore, the only ultimate “foundation” for Christianity is (the liturgical practice of) its community, the church.
  7. Other than this, there is absolutely no superior validity or justification for Christianity, given modernity’s understanding of rationality.


  1. Gospel is politics.
  2. Christian practice is prior to Christian theory.
  3. Any attempt to ground Christian theology (over and against any other perspective) which loses sight of 1 & 2 is doomed to fail from the start.
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