‘Being Reconciled’ by John Milbank: Mini Book Review

David Russell Mosley

 

 

Festival of King Oswald
5 August 2013
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

Here is review I wrote a few weeks ago after my second reading of John Milbank’s Being Reconciled. I hope you enjoy.

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This is my second reading of Milbank’s Being Reconciled and I must say I’m glad I read it again. While even after the first reading I determined that this was Milbank’s most comprehensible book, at least that I’ve tackled thus far, I still found more that I understood better this time around. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to gain some insight into the theology of John Milbank but does not yet have the fortitude to brave Theology and Social Theory.

I will give fair warning that there are, for me, a few areas where I simply disagree with John. The main one, and only one I will deal with in this review, comes in chapter 4 ‘Incarnation: the sovereign victim’. Here John is juxtaposing the views of Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus on the purpose of the incarnation. For Aquinas, it is about forgiveness, but a forgiveness that does more than forgive, but exceeds that and gives also the chance for deification, though Milbank argues that is the possibility of deification that makes the incarnation possible. Scotus, on the other hand, sees the incarnation as the ontological completion of creation. This is based in Scotus’s understanding of univocity of being where Christ is not the fulness, necessarily, but is beyond what humanity is. My own view, and I believe that of the Fathers, is somewhere in between. The Incarnation cannot be a reaction to our sin or related only to the divine foreknowledge of the Fall. Nor, however, is it purely Christ completing creation as a human who is, by nature of also being divine, is simply better than all other humans. For me, if deification has always been the telos for creation, then the means by which this is accomplished must include the Incarnation. God must become man in order for man to become God.

This aside, however, John’s understanding of the crucifixion, the telos of Creation and the necessity for a liturgical understanding of the time, the state, education, etc., makes this book one most definitely worth reading.

 

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

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Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Alison Milbank

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Dear Friends and Family,

Today I want to highlight Dr Alison Milbank. Alison and I share many affinities, particularly a love for combining (or showing the existing relationship between) literature and theology. Alison studied Theology and English Literature at Cambridge, doing her PhD at Lancaster. Alison’s work tends to focus in one sense on religion and culture and in another literature and theology. Her desire is to show how theology is and can be worked out through cultural poetic (that is artistic) processes.

Alison teaches a variety of classes from Religion and Fantasy to Dante. She also tends to teach the sections on Augustine of Hippo and Dionysius the Areopagite in a Master’s level course, From Plato-Hegel. While Alison is not one of my supervisors she has always had time for me to stop by and talk about the relationship between theology and literature, or paper ideas I have combining aspects of theology and literature. The paper I’m currently working on, ‘Avoiding Shortcuts: The Doctrine of Deification in Conversation with C. S. Lewis and the Church Fathers’, stems from multiple conversations we’ve had about deification in C. S. Lewis.

Bibliography

  • MILBANK, A., 2012. The Bible and the novel: apocalyptic reading Modern Believing. 53(1), 22-36
  • ALISON MILBANK, 2012. Returning to the Parish. In: ANDREW DAVISON, ed., Returning to the Church SCM. (In Press.)
  • ALISON MILBANK, 2012. Byron and the Explained Supernatural. In: GAVIN HOPPS, ed., Byron and the SupernaturalLIverpool University Press. (In Press.)
  • ALISON MILBANK, 2011. Dante, Ruskin and Rossetti: Grotesque Realism. In: NICK HAVELY, ed., Dante in the Nineteenth Century: Reception, Canonicity, Popularization Peter Lang. 139-58
  • 2011. ‘A Diminished Church: Revisiting Dogma or Disaster’ Theology in Action: Dorothy Sayers Society Study day.23-32
  • MILBANK, A., 2011. Apolgetics and the imagination: making strange. In: DAVISON, A., ed., Imaginative apologetics: theology, philosophy and the Catholic tradition SCM. 31-45
  • ALISON MILBANK, 2010. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: Gothic Grotesque and the Huguenot Inheritance. In: JULIA M WRIGHT, ed., A Companion to Irish Literature 1. Wiley-Blackwell. 362-76
  • ALISON MILBANK, 2010. ‘The Sleep of Reason’: reason, Gothic and the Grotesque. In: CONOR CUNNINGHAM AND PETER M CANDLER JNR, ed., The Grandeur of Reason:: Religion, Tradition and Universalism SCM. 432-43
  • DAVISON, A. and MILBANK, A., 2010. For the parish: a critique of fresh expressions SCM.
  • MILBANK, A., 2009. Divine beauty and the grotesque in Dante’s Paradiso The Yearbook of English Studies: Literature and Religion. 39(1/2), 155-168
  • ALISON MILBANK, 2009. Bleeding Nuns: A Genealogy of the Female Gothic Grotesque. In: DIANA WALLACE AND ANDREW SMITH, ed., The New Female Gothic:: New Directions Palgrave Macmillan. 76-97
  • MILBANK, A., 2008. Grotesque Realism in Ruskin’s ‘Praeterita’: Autobiography and the World Beyond the SelfNineteenth Century Prose. (In Press.)
  • MILBANK, ALISON, 2008. Huysmans, Machen and the Gothic Grotesque, Or: The Way Up is the Way Down. In:HORNER, AVRIL and ZLOSNIK, SUE, eds., Le Gothic:: Influences and Appropriations in Europe and America 1st edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 83-99
  • ALISON MILBANK, 2008. Sacrificial Exchange and the Gothic Double in ‘Melmoth the Wanderer’ and ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’. In: VICTORIA MORGAN AND CLARE WILLIAMS, ed., Shaping Belief: Culture, Politics and Religion in Nineteenth-century Writing 52. LIverpool University Press. 113-28
  • ALISON MILBANK, 2008. Tolkien, Chesterton and Thomism. In: STRATFORD CALDECOTT, THOMAS HENEGGER, FRANCES CAIRNCROSS, ed., Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’:: Sources of Inspiration Walking Tree. 187-98
  • MILBANK, A., 2007. Chesterton and Tolkien as theologians: the fantasy of the real London: T&T Clark.
  • MILBANK, A., 2007. Josephine Butler’s Apocalyptic vision of the prostitute and modern debates on prostitution. In:MILBANK, A., ed., Beating the traffic: Josephine Butler and Anglican social action on prostitution today Winchester: George Mann Publications. 89-104
  • MILBANK, A. G., 2007. Gothic Femininities. In: SPOONER, C. and MCEVOY, E., eds., The Routledge Companion to the Gothic London: Routledge. 155-63
  • ALISON MILBANK, ed., 2007. Beating the Traffic: Josephine Butler and Anglican Social Action Today Winchester, George Mann Publications.
  • MILBANK, A., 2006. A Fine Grotesque or a Pathetic Fallacy? The Role of objects in the autobiographical writing of Ruskin and Proust. In: DICKINSON, R. and HANLEY, K., eds., Ruskin’s struggle for coherence: Self-representation through art, place and society Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Press. 90-105
  • MILBANK, A., 2005. Tolkien and Gift Theory. In: Tolkien Seminar Papers
  • MILBANK, A., OTTO, P. and MULVEY-ROBERTS, M., eds., 2004. Gothic Fiction: Rare Printed Works from the Sadleir-Black Collection of Gothic Fiction at the Alderman Library, University of Virginia: a listing and guide to the microfilm collection Marlborough: Adam Matthew.
  • MILBANK, A., 2003. “My precious” : Tolkien’s fetishized ring. In: BASSHAM, G. and BRONSON, E., eds., The Lord of the rings and philosophy: one book to rule them all Chicago: Open Court.
  • MILBANK, A., 2002. The Victorian Gothic in English Novels and Stories, 1830-1880. In: HOGLE, J.E., ed., The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 145-165
  • MILBANK, A., 1998. Dante and the Victorians Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • MILBANK, A., 1992. Daughters of the house: modes of the Gothic in Victorian fiction London: Macmillan.

Videos

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Theological Journey

Why Study J. R. R. Tolkien

Why Study Dante

Advent

Ash Wednesday

I hope you’ve enjoyed the videos and will pick up one of Alison’s books to read. If I can make a suggestion, I highly recommend her Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians. It is indicative of her general interests and is an excellent book for fans of Chesterton and/or Tolkien.

Yours,
David

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