The Institute of Radical Orthodoxy is the brainchild of three Anglicans: John Milbank, who is moving from Cambridge to the University of Virginia; and two other people from Cambridge: Graham Ward, the Dean of Peterhouse, who is going to Manchester; and Catherine Pickstock, who is a Fellow of Emmanuel College. They have formed a definite school that has disciples.
Their line is that postmodernism is the natural result of the way that Western philosophy has developed. That is to say, the postmodernist critique of Western philosophy is irrefutable in terms of what it is attacking, but postmodernism itself is nothing but nihilism dressed up in fancy clothes. And therefore, the only remedy is the Holy Trinity!
They basically argue that all of the errors or false directions or insoluble problems in the Western philosophical tradition stem from misunderstandings of theology and of revelation. The only remedy is to go back to the source by renewal of a revelatory mode of thinking, which has the Holy Trinity as its center. That is the basic idea, roughly speaking, of Radical Orthodoxy, as I understand it.
It is an overwhelmingly Anglican movement. To be fair, it has been described as a theology in search of an ecclesiology. I would say it’s the first major theological movement in England since the South Bank school of John Robinson, which was a sort of warmed-up Tillich and so much less original.
Radical Orthodoxy’s proponents, then, have constructive as well as critical ambitions, and in the long run the constructive ambitions are the more important. Milbank, Pickstock, and Ward hope to articulate an encompassing Christian perspective that will supersede and replace secularisms both modern and postmodern. Their goal is to uncover a "new theology," new because it renounces the mediations and compromises of so–called modern theology. Yet their positive achievement is uneven, and understanding the failures of Radical Orthodoxy should occasion some sobering thoughts about the way forward. A genuinely postmodern theology requires spiritual disciplines very alien to our terribly creative and rebellious late–modern souls.
However deeply invested Radical Orthodoxy might be in the vocabulary, thought forms, and literature of postmodernism, it rests on a different foundational assumption about what we might call the glue that holds the world together. It is Augustine’s vision of heavenly peace, made effective in the dynamic and binding power of divine purpose, that shapes Radical Orthodoxy’s reflections, not Nietzsche’s violence wrought by an omnipotent will–to–power. This difference allows Radical Orthodoxy to interpret postmodern thought without being drawn into its orbit, giving Milbank & Co. the perspective from which to expose the nakedness of postmodern nihilism.