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RECONCILING JOHN MILBANK AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: “LIBERALISM” THROUGH LOVE

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 August 2019

Alex Deagon*
Affiliation:
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology

Abstract

John Milbank's critique of the secular as a violent distortion of Christian theology is well established. Less clear is how Milbank's framework might bear upon secular liberalism as it specifically relates to liberal ideas of religious freedom and public or secular reasons in political contexts. This is especially worthy of investigation since “religious freedom” is part of the liberal framework Milbank so stridently critiques. This article attempts to reconcile Milbank's theological critique of secular liberalism with the idea of religious freedom by applying Milbank's theology and the law of love to liberal notions of public discourse for the purpose of redeeming and transforming that discourse. This redeemed “liberalism” provides a framework for persuasion to the Good by recognizing that all public positions (including secularism) are ultimately faith positions, and advocates a discourse governed by the law of love to produce genuine religious freedom that paradoxically transcends and fulfils the liberal ideals that secular liberalism proclaims but can never attain.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University 2019

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References

1 See, for example, Milbank, John, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990)Google Scholar; Milbank, , Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Milbank, John, Beyond Secular Order: The Representation of Being and the Representation of the People (Oxford: Blackwell, 2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Milbank, John and Pabst, Adrian, The Politics of Virtue: Post-Liberalism and the Human Future (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2016)Google Scholar; Smith, James, Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-Secular Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004)Google Scholar; Oliver, Simon, “Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: From Participation to Late Modernity,” in The Radical Orthodoxy Reader, ed. Milbank, John and Oliver, Simon (London: Routledge, 2009)Google Scholar; Deagon, Alex, “On the Symbiosis of Law and Truth in Christian Theology: Reconciling Universal and Particular through the Pauline Law of Love,” Griffith Law Review 23, no. 4 (2015): 589611CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Deagon, Alex, From Violence to Peace: Theology, Law and Community (Oxford: Hart, 2017)Google Scholar.

2 Rawls, John, Political Liberalism: Expanded Edition (Columbia: Columbia University Press, 2005)Google Scholar; Audi, Robert, “The Place of Religious Argument in a Free and Democratic Society,” in “Symposium: The Role of Religion in Public Debate in a Liberal Society,” special issue, San Diego Law Review 30, no. 4 (1993): 677703Google Scholar; Audi, Robert, Religious Commitment and Secular Reason (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Audi, , Democratic Authority and the Separation of Church and State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For the sake of simplicity in this article, I conflate Rawls and Audi as the differences between them are not relevant for the purposes of this article. I consider them more deeply elsewhere. See Deagon, Alex, “Liberal Secularism and Religious Freedom: Reforming Political Discourse,” Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 41, no. 3 (2018): 901–34Google Scholar.

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10 Hurd, Politics of Secularism, 5.

11 Laborde, Cecile, “Political Liberalism and Religion: On Separation and Establishment,” Journal of Political Philosophy 21, no. 1 (2013): 6786CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For a more detailed exposition of Rawls and Audi, see Deagon, “Liberal Secularism.”

12 See Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 2nd ed.; Milbank, Beyond Secular Order; Milbank and Pabst, Politics of Virtue for details.

13 See Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 83–100 for the full version of the argument.

14 For more details see, for example, Smith, Introducing Radical Orthodoxy, 49–61.

15 See, for example, Hankey, Wayne, “Theoria versus Poesis: Neoplatonism and Trinitarian Difference in Aquinas, John Milbank, Jean-Luc Marion and John Zizioulas,” Modern Theology 15, no. 4 (1999): 387415CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hedley, Douglas, “Should Divinity Overcome Metaphysics? Reflections on John Milbank's Theology beyond Secular Reason and Confessions of a Cambridge Platonist,” Journal of Religion 80, no. 2 (2000): 271–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hankey, Wayne and Hedley, Douglas, eds., Deconstructing Radical Orthodoxy: Postmodern Theology, Rhetoric and Truth (London: Ashgate, 2005)Google Scholar; Ruether, Rosemary Radford and Grau, Marion, eds., Interpreting the Postmodern: Responses to Radical Orthodoxy (London: T. and T. Clark, 2006)Google Scholar; Mulcahy, Bernard, Aquinas's Notion of Pure Nature and the Christian Integralism of Henri de Lubac: Not Everything is Grace (Bern: Peter Lang, 2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

16 Hyman, Gavin, The Predicament of Postmodern Theology (London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001)Google Scholar; Hedges, Paul, “Is John Milbank's Radical Orthodoxy a Form of Liberal Theology? A Rhetorical Counter,” Heythrop Journal 51, no. 5 (2010): 795818CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Isherwood, Lisa and Zlomislic, Marco, eds., The Poverty of Radical Orthodoxy (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2012).Google Scholar

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18 See, for example, Milbank, John, “A Response,” in Theology and Sociology: A Reader, ed. Gill, Robin (London: Cassell, 1996), 461–70Google Scholar; Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 2nd ed., xi–xxxii.

19 Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 35–42.

20 Smith, Introducing Radical Orthodoxy, 51–54.

21 Smith, 59–61.

22 Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 78–81; Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 2nd ed., xx–xxi.

23 See below, the subsection “The Law of Love as Revelation.” For example, Milbank has also received critique on the point that the Trinity provides a model for perfect equality and peace through unity in diversity. See Coakley, Sarah, “Why Gift? Gift, Gender and Trinitarian Relations in Milbank and Tanner,” Scottish Journal of Theology 61, no. 2 (2008): 224–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar, where Coakley critically examines the way in which Milbank appears to propagate an unequal human gender binary by restraining the work of the Spirit in terms of Trinitarian gift. A framework grounded in scripture might develop a response along the lines that in Christ “there is no male or female” in the sense of promoting patriarchy, for all equally participate in the divine love by faith. Galatians 3:28.

24 Milbank, John, “Sublimity: The Modern Transcendent,” in Transcendence: Philosophy, Literature, and Theology Approach the Beyond, ed. Schwartz, Regina (New York: Routledge 2004), 207–30Google Scholar; Milbank, John, The Future of Love: Essays in Political Theology (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2009), 150–53Google Scholar.

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26 Fallers-Sullivan, Yelle, and Taussig-Rubbo, introduction, 3. See, for example, Jacques Derrida, “Force of Law: The Mystical Foundation of Authority” (paper presented at “Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice,” Cardozo Law School, New York, October 1–2, 1989).

27 Ahdar, Rex, “The Inevitability of Law and Religion: An Introduction,” in Law and Religion, ed. Ahdar, Rex (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000), 116, 5Google Scholar.

28 Ahdar, “The Inevitability of Law and Religion,” 5.

29 See Fallers-Sullivan, Yelle, and Taussig-Rubbo, introduction, 2–3; Ahdar, “The Inevitability of Law and Religion,” 5.

30 See further, Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 38–41.

31 Milbank, “Hume versus Kant,” 277.

32 Milbank, “Hume versus Kant,” 276–77.

33 See, for example, Augustine, , Concerning the City of God against the Pagans (London: Penguin, 2008)Google Scholar; Anselm, , “Proslogion,” in Faith and Reason, ed. Helm, Paul (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 8890Google Scholar, at 88–89; Aquinas, Thomas, Summa Theologica, vol. 1 (Chicago: William Benton, 1952)Google Scholar; Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion (London: Hendrickson, 2008)Google Scholar; Mascall, Eric, “Faith and Reason: Anselm and Aquinas,” Journal of Theological Studies 14, no. 1 (1963): 6790CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Sokolowski, Robert, The God of Faith and Reason: Foundations of Christian Theology (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1982)Google Scholar; Plantinga, Alvin, Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 2nd ed.; Milbank, John, “The Grandeur of Reason and the Perversity of Rationalism: Radical Orthodoxy's First Decade,” in The Radical Orthodoxy Reader, ed. Milbank, John and Oliver, Simon (London: Routledge, 2009), 367404Google Scholar, at 392; Deagon, From Violence to Peace.

34 See, for example, Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 2nd ed.; Milbank, Beyond Secular Order; Deagon, “Symbiosis;” Milbank and Pabst, Politics of Virtue; Deagon, From Violence to Peace.

35 See, for example, Deagon, “Liberal Secularism,” 921–23; Plant, “Religion in a Liberal State,” 19, 22; Fish, Stanley, “Liberalism Doesn't Exist,” Duke Law Journal 6, no. 1 (1987): 9971001CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also Ahdar and Leigh, Religious Freedom in the Liberal State, 17–18, 57–58 and references contained there.

36 See, for example, Zagorin, Perez, How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Ward, Bruce, Redeeming the Enlightenment: Christianity and Liberal Virtues (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2010)Google Scholar; Witte, John Jr., and Alexander, Frank, eds., Christianity and Human Rights (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Harari, Yuval Noah, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (London: Harvill Secker, 2014)Google Scholar.

37 Hyman, Gavin, “Postmodern Theology and Modern Liberalism,” Theology Today 65, no. 4 (2009): 462–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 469.

38 Kozinski, Thaddeus J., preface to The Political Problem of Religious Pluralism: And Why Philosophers Can't Solve It (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2010), xiiixivGoogle Scholar, at xiii. For other more detailed engagement with Rawls with similar arguments, see Deagon, “Liberal Secularism.”

39 Kozinski, introduction, to The Political Problem of Religious Pluralism, xxii–xxv, at xxii.

40 Kozinski, xxii.

41 Kozinski, The Political Problem of Religious Pluralism, 6.

42 Kozinski, 26.

43 Kozinski, 26.

44 Kozinski, 31.

45 Kozinski, 38.

46 Kozinski, 38. See also Ahdar and Leigh, Religious Freedom in the Liberal State, 99.

47 Campos, Paul, “Secular Fundamentalism,” Columbia Law Review 94, no. 6 (1994): 1814–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 1825. See also Hurd, Heidi, “The Levitation of Liberalism,” Yale Law Journal 105, no. 3 (1995): 795824CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

48 Esbeck, Carl, “A Constitutional Case for Governmental Cooperation with Faith-Based Social Service Providers,” Emory Law Journal 46, no. 1 (1997): 141Google Scholar, at 5.

49 Ahdar and Leigh, Religious Freedom in the Liberal State, 65, 99.

50 Smith, Steven, “The Rise and Fall of Religious Freedom in Constitutional Discourse,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 140, no. 1 (1991): 149240CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 150; Smith, Steven, Foreordained Failure: The Quest for a Constitutional Principle of Religious Freedom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 36Google Scholar.

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52 Scherer, Beyond Church and State, 134.

53 Scherer, 141–42.

54 Scherer, 164.

55 Scherer, 164–65.

56 Scherer, 7.

57 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 278–80.

58 Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 3, 6, 67–77, 102–07. See specifically Cover, Robert, “Violence and the Word,” Yale Law Journal 95, no. 8 (1986): 1601–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Derrida, “Force of Law.”

59 Plant, “Religion in a Liberal State,” 11–12.

60 See Deagon, Alex, “Rendering to Caesar and God: St Paul, the Natural Law Tradition, and the Authority of Law,” Law, Culture, and the Humanities 13, no. 3 (2014): 469–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar, where this problem has been identified.

61 Derek McGhee, “Moderate Secularism in Liberal Societies,” in D'Costa et al., Religion in a Liberal State, 117–34, 119.

62 McGhee, “Moderate Secularism,” 119.

63 Gedicks, Frederick Mark, “Public Life and Hostility to Religion,” Virginia Law Review 78, no. 3 (1992): 671696CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 681.

64 Stanley Fish, “Are There Secular Reasons?” New York Times, February 22, 2010, https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/22/are-there-secular-reasons/.

65 Milbank and Pabst, Politics of Virtue, 16.

66 See Rawls, Political Liberalism; Audi, “Religious Argument”; Audi, Religious Commitment.

67 Milbank, John, “Paul against Biopolitics,” in Paul's New Moment: Continental Philosophy and the Future of Christian Theology, ed. Milbank, John, Žižek, Slavoj, and Davis, Creston (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2010), 2173Google Scholar, at 42–43.

68 Milbank, “Paul against Biopolitics,” 42–43.

69 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 332–33.

70 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 329.

71 Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 172, 183–86.

72 Milbank, “Paul against Biopolitics,” 49–50.

73 Milbank, “Paul against Biopolitics,” 53.

74 Milbank, “Paul against Biopolitics,” 53.

75 Romans 13:9 (unless otherwise indicated, English Standard Version is used).

76 Romans 13:10.

77 Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 7.

78 Augustine, City of God, 873; see also Deagon, “Rendering to Caesar and God.”

79 Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 8–9.

80 Milbank, John, The Word Made Strange: Theology, Language, Culture (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 134Google Scholar.

81 Milbank, Word Made Strange, 134. See Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 188–93.

82 Philippians 2:3–8.

83 See Colossians 3:8–9, 12–13.

84 See Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 127–32.

85 Milbank, Word Made Strange, 250.

86 John 12:32–33.

87 Luke 23:34.

88 Milbank, Word Made Strange, 251.

89 Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 183.

90 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 2nd ed., xvi.

91 Augustine, City of God.

92 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 2nd ed., xvi–xvii.

93 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 2nd ed., xvii.

94 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 2nd ed., 278–79.

95 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 2nd ed., 279.

96 Milbank, John, “Postmodern Critical Augustinianism: A Short Summa in Forty-Two Responses to Unasked Questions,” in The Postmodern God: A Theological Reader, ed. Ward, Graham (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 265–79Google Scholar, at 274.

97 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 367.

98 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 332–33.

99 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 380–81.

100 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 423.

101 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 423.

102 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 416.

103 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 422.

104 John Milbank, “What Lacks Is Feeling: Mediating Reason and Religion Today,” in D'Costa et al., Religion in a Liberal State, 187–219.

105 Milbank, “What Lacks Is Feeling,” 195–207; see also Milbank, “Hume versus Kant.”

106 Milbank, “What Lacks Is Feeling,” 208–09.

107 Milbank, “What Lacks Is Feeling,” 208–09.

108 Milbank, “What Lacks Is Feeling,” 209.

109 John Milbank, “The Decline of Religious Freedom and the Return of Religious Liberty” (paper presented at “Religion and the Public Sphere Lecture Series,” London School of Economics, London, February 7, 2017), http://www.lse.ac.uk/lse-player?id=3716.

110 Milbank, “Decline of Religious Freedom,” 1–4.

111 Milbank, “Decline of Religious Freedom,” 5–8.

112 Milbank, “Decline of Religious Freedom,” 15–17.

113 Milbank, “Decline of Religious Freedom,” 19.

114 Milbank, “Decline of Religious Freedom,” 24.

115 See, for example, Ahdar and Leigh, Religious Freedom in the Liberal State, 127.

116 Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 170.

117 Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 145. This affirmation of different kinds of communities and associations within the state is what Milbank calls “complex space” in contrast to the “simple space” of liberalism with a centralized state controlling individuals. See Milbank, Word Made Strange, 276–84.

118 Galatians 5:22–23.

119 Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 141, 194. See also Milbank, Beyond Secular Order, 228–36.

120 Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 194.

121 See Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 145, 148.

122 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 2nd ed., 267–68.

123 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, 2nd ed., 268.

124 Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 17.

125 Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 67.

126 See especially Shah, Timothy and Hertzke, Allen, eds., Christianity and Freedom, vol. 1: Historical Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar and the chapters contained there. Milbank, too, addresses some of the historical Christian justifications for religious liberty in Milbank, “The Decline of Religious Freedom.”

127 See Timothy Shah, “The Roots of Religious Freedom in Early Christian Thought,” in Shah and Hertzke, Christianity and Freedom, 1:33–61.

128 See Robert Wilken, “The Christian Roots of Religious Freedom,” in Shah and Hertzke, Christianity and Freedom, 1:62–89.

129 Shah's “Roots of Religious Freedom” frankly acknowledges this.

130 See, for example, Fletcher, Joseph, Situation Ethics: The New Morality (London: Westminster John Knox Press, 1966)Google Scholar; Niebuhr, Reinhold, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics (London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013)Google Scholar.

131 Cavanaugh, William, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Common Conflict (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

132 See Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 55–57, 142–43, 176–79.

133 See, for example, Connolly, William, Why I Am Not a Secularist (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999)Google Scholar; Asad, Talal, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003)Google Scholar; Taylor, Charles, A Secular Age (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2007)Google Scholar; Warner, Michael, VanAntwerpen, Jonathan, and Calhoun, Craig, eds., Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2010)Google Scholar; Calhoun, Craig, Juergensmeyer, Mark, and VanAntwerpen, Jonathan, eds., Rethinking Secularism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)Google Scholar; Williams, Rowan, Faith in the Public Square (London: Bloomsbury, 2012)Google Scholar.

134 Taylor, A Secular Age, 737–42.

135 Taylor, 737–38, 742.

136 See Williams, Faith in the Public Square, 14–15.

137 Williams, 3.

138 Williams, 4.

139 Williams, 33.

140 Williams, 4.

141 See Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 187; Deagon, “Symbiosis,” 608–09; Deagon, “Rendering to Caesar.”

142 Milbank, John, “A Closer Walk on the Wild Side: Some Comments on Charles Taylor's A Secular Age,” Studies in Christian Ethics 22, no. 1 (2009): 89104CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 103. See also Taylor, A Secular Age, 743.

143 Matthew 22:34–39; John 14:15.

144 See Deagon, From Violence to Peace, 187; Deagon, “Symbiosis,” 608–09; Deagon, “Rendering to Caesar.”

145 Hyman, “Postmodern Theology and Modern Liberalism,” 470. This also strengthens the claim made above in relation to the imposition of Christianity through violence. The contingent development of enlightenment liberalism out of Christianity actually privileged ultimately Christian virtues obscured in medieval Christianity.

146 Milbank, Theology and Social Theory, xiv–xv.

147 Milbank, Beyond Secular Order, 115–16.

148 Milbank, Beyond Secular Order, 264.

149 Milbank, Beyond Secular Order, 10.

150 Milbank, Beyond Secular Order, 10.

151 Milbank and Pabst, Politics of Virtue, 7.

152 Milbank, “Against Human Rights,” 232–34.

153 Milbank and Pabst, Politics of Virtue, 6–7.

154 Milbank and Pabst, Politics of Virtue, 7.

155 Haggai 2:7 (King James Version).

156 O'Donovan, Oliver, The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)Google Scholar.

157 1 Corinthians 13:4–8.

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