Academia Theology

John Milbank: “Christianity has to now embrace apocatastasis as the orthodoxy it has always been.”

Proponents of so-called Radical Orthodoxy has been quite explicit recently in their support for the classical, patristic idea of the restitution of all things. This is good news.

It has come to my attention recently that quite a few proponents and sympathizers of so-called ‘Radical Orthodoxy’ has been more than ready to embrace a belief in the restitution of all things or ‘apokatastasis pantôn’ as dogmatically orthodox (see the two tweets from John Milbank below). This is good news as the belief is too often associated with rather obscure trends in Protestantism, making it easy to discard it as spurious. Not least the work of Orthodox scholar David Bentley Hart and Catholic professor Ilaria Ramelli has helped to recover a dogmatically feasible version of the  classical Patristic idea of the final restitution of all things.

John Milbank is, together with Catherine Pickstock, one of the main proponents of Radical Orthodoxy. The main idea of Radical Orthodoxy is, as I understand it, that we need to discard the individualism, nominalism and voluntarism that haunts modernity and post-modernity, if we are to overcome the widespread nihilism of our age. Instead we need to recover an orthodox, patristic idea of creation as gift and communion with God as the metaphysical ground of the universe in general and the church in particular.

I’m not sure what Milbank’s point is in the second tweet below, but it obviously has to do with the metaphysical relationship between God and creatures. I guess the point could be that God is not just one object among others, that we can freely pick and choose autonomously, but rather the reality that undergirds our whole existence, making freedom possible in the first place. The restitution of all things is the restitution of the original freedom for which we were created (this is, at least, my own understanding of the classical ideas of freedom in Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, etc.).

I guess I’ll have to look further into the status of the doctrine of apokatastasis in Radical Orthodoxy (though, unfortunately Milbank seems mostly to write on it on Twitter). I might start with Pickstock’s Repetition and Identity, mentioned by Milbank.