Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Horst Mewes

Second Advisor

Steve Vanderheiden

Third Advisor

Michaele L. Ferguson

Fourth Advisor

Elias Sacks

Fifth Advisor

Tim Fuller


In my dissertation, I set for myself three basic tasks. First, I try to show that much radical democratic theory results in nihilism. Second, I draw out the consequences of nihilism. Put briefly, the major consequence of nihilism is the unreasonable character of almost all of our deeply held moral and political beliefs, such as the dignity of human beings, the value of democracy, the importance of rights, and so forth. The nihilistic conclusion, then, is that the West cannot justify its own values. Third, and most importantly, I examine how the conclusion of nihilism might be avoided. Is there an alternative, better account we can provide that is not nihilistic? I find such an account in the contemporary school of Christian theology known as Radical Orthodoxy, represented by such theorists and theologians as John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock, Graham Ward, and others. Radical Orthodoxy endeavors to recover and renew insights from the orthodox Christian tradition in order to avoid the conclusion of nihilism and to rethink ontology, secularism, ethics, and politics.