The ‘Comeback of Christendom’ or a ‘Christian Cosmopolis’?: Dialogical Possibility in the work of John Milbank
AbstractOften taken to be largely hostile to engagement in inter-religious or inter-faith dialogue, contemporary forms of conservative post-modern Christian theology such as Radical Orthodoxy have been dismissed as irrevocably closed to the possibility of meaningful dialogue taking place between them and alternative religious traditions. This rather fraught relationship has recently come to the fore through exchanges on the ABC.net.au website between Joshua Ralston, and John Milbank and Adrian Pabst over the relationship between Radical Orthodoxy and Islam. However, this article demonstrates that while Milbank’s later practice has indeed been characterised by a resort to a stance of out-narration in the context of inter-religious engagement, this does not fully reflect the space for dialogical possibility he allows for in his 1991 article, ‘The End of Dialogue’. Instead, the article examines the early proposal as containing within it an allowance for an alternative strand of engagement by Radical Orthodoxy, based on mutual co-operation of differing religious traditions where they share ‘coincidences of outlook’. The adoption of this strand as an addition to, not replacement of, the strand of out-narration displayed in Milbank’s mode of practice seems to point the way forward towards a more equitable arena of engagement for Radical Orthodoxy with manifestations of religious plurality, but also offers resources for a better representation of the internal foundational characteristics of the Radical Orthodoxy reading of the Christian narrative.