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As the popular radical philosopher Slavoj Zizek routinely points out to his audiences, in our age of ordained transgressions, there is nothing quite so radical as what G.K. Chesterton called the "thrilling romance of orthodoxy." Thus in our besotted age, orthodoxy becomes for Zizek (the fighting atheist) as for Chesterton (the traditionalist Catholic), "the most dark and daring of all transgressions." We ought not to be surprised then, that at the dawn of the 21st century a movement dubbed Radical Orthodoxy (RO) has emerged at the cutting-edge of theology and postmodern philosophy.

What this movement is about—its key thinkers and their texts, its strengths, and its weaknesses—is the purpose of James K.A. Smith's recently published volume, Introducing Radical Orthodoxy (Baker Books, 2004). Smith announces at the outset that he writes for three audiences: 1) the academy of theorists, graduate students, and advanced undergraduates; 2) theologians, both in the movement itself and in the Reformed tradition (in which Smith places himself); and 3) the church, in particular its pastors, worship directors, and other leaders.

It is a difficult task to write a volume to satisfy each of these constituents; one that is learned enough for the academy and yet accessible enough for the educated but non-academic professionals. While there are certainly portions of the volume from which non-professionals will be able to glean insight, for the most part Smith has written a work best calibrated for theorists and theologians. Happily, his volume also possesses a number of aids for further study. Each chapter leads off with a side-panel of key related readings and contains copious footnotes throughout. There is an extensive 14-page bibliography ...

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What's so Radical about Orthodoxy?
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May 2005

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