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The Monstrosity of Christ

The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic?

Slavoj Žižek
John Milbank
edited by Creston Davis
Series: Short Circuits
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    The Monstrosity of Christ
    Book Description:

    "What matters is not so much that Žižek is endorsing a demythologized, disenchanted Christianity without transcendence, as that he is offering in the end (despite what he sometimes claims) a heterodox version of Christian belief."--John Milbank"To put it even more bluntly, my claim is that it is Milbank who is effectively guilty of heterodoxy, ultimately of a regression to paganism: in my atheism, I am more Christian than Milbank."--Slavoj ŽižekIn this corner, philosopher Slavoj Žižek, a militant atheist who represents the critical-materialist stance against religion's illusions; in the other corner, "Radical Orthodox" theologian John Milbank, an influential and provocative thinker who argues that theology is the only foundation upon which knowledge, politics, and ethics can stand. In The Monstrosity of Christ, Žižek and Milbank go head to head for three rounds, employing an impressive arsenal of moves to advance their positions and press their respective advantages. By the closing bell, they have not only proven themselves worthy adversaries, they have shown that faith and reason are not simply and intractably opposed. Žižek has long been interested in the emancipatory potential offered by Christian theology. And Milbank, seeing global capitalism as the new century's greatest ethical challenge, has pushed his own ontology in more political and materialist directions. Their debate in The Monstrosity of Christ concerns the future of religion, secularity, and political hope in light of a monsterful event--God becoming human. For the first time since Žižek's turn toward theology, we have a true debate between an atheist and a theologian about the very meaning of theology, Christ, the Church, the Holy Ghost, Universality, and the foundations of logic. The result goes far beyond the popularized atheist/theist point/counterpoint of recent books by Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and others. Žižek begins, and Milbank answers, countering dialectics with "paradox." The debate centers on the nature of and relation between paradox and parallax, between analogy and dialectics, between transcendent glory and liberation. Slavoj Žižek is a philosopher and cultural critic. He has published over thirty books, including Looking Awry, The Puppet and the Dwarf, and The Parallax View (these three published by the MIT Press). John Milbank is an influential Christian theologian and the author of Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason and other books. Creston Davis, who conceived of this encounter, studied under both Žižek and Milbank.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-25481-6
    Subjects: Philosophy, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. vii-1)
    Slavoj Žižek

    A short circuit occurs when there is a faulty connection in the network—faulty, of course, from the standpoint of the network’s smooth functioning. Is not the shock of short-circuiting, therefore, one of the best metaphors for a critical reading? Is not one of the most effective critical procedures to cross wires that do not usually touch: to take a major classic (text, author, notion) and read it in a short-circuiting way, through the lens of a “minor” author, text, or conceptual apparatus (“minor” should be understood here in Deleuze’s sense: not “of lesser quality,” but marginalized, disavowed by the...

  4. Introduction: Holy Saturday or Resurrection Sunday? Staging an Unlikely Debate
    (pp. 2-23)
    Creston Davis

    If the theological was marginalized in the age of Western secular modernity, it has now returned with a vengeance. Theology is reconfiguring the very makeup of the humanities in general, with disciplines like philosophy, political science, literature, history, psychoanalysis, and critical theory, in particular, feeling the impact of this return. There are many ways of accounting for this surprising development but one stands out, namely, the collapse of communism in the late 1980s and early 1990s and the subsequent global expansion of capitalism under the flag of the American Global Empire. So extensive and profound have been the effects of...

  5. The Fear of Four Words: A Modest Plea for the Hegelian Reading of Christianity
    (pp. 24-109)
    Slavoj Žižek

    G. K. Chesterton concluded “The Oracle of the Dog” with Father Brown’s defense of commonsense reality: things are just what they are, not bearers of hidden mystical meanings, and the Christian miracle of Incarnation is the exception that guarantees and sustains this common reality:

    People readily swallow the untested claims of this, that, or the other. It’s drowning all your old rationalism and scepticism, it’s coming in like a sea; and the name of it is superstition. It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense and can’t see things as they are. Anything...

  6. The Double Glory, or Paradox versus Dialectics: On Not Quite Agreeing with Slavoj Žižek
    (pp. 110-233)
    John Milbank

    No one is more rawly exposed than Slavoj Žižek. Somewhat like the tragicomic, clownlike Christ he sometimes invokes, he stands before us without the least vestige of pretense, revealing every last symptom of his quirky subjectivity, while always allowing this to witness to the universal. His seemingly constant descent into trivia and obscenity, his frequent metafictional deviations, consistently perform a vision that is far more serious than that of most of his contemporaries.

    In an important sense, he bears a theological witness.¹ First of all, this is to the nature of modernity and postmodernity. He insists that what the latter...

  7. Dialectical Clarity versus the Misty Conceit of Paradox
    (pp. 234-306)
    Slavoj Žižek

    It may appear that, in a theoretical debate, one reaches a dead end when the two opponents are reduced to their basic presuppositions—at this point, every argumentation, inclusive of “immanent critique,” is superfluous; each of the two is reduced to his/her “here I stand,” about which the other cannot do anything without relying on his/her own ultimate presuppositions, on his/her own “here I stand.” However, a truly Hegelian approach does allow for an option here, the one of denying the obvious, of claiming: “You say this is your position, but it is not true—you do not have a...

  8. Index
    (pp. 307-312)