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May 22

The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic?

The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic?

by Slavoj Zizek and John Milbank

MIT Press, 416 pages

ISBN-10: 0262012715

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"In this dazzling dialogue, Zizek and Milbank change words and cross swords, until the point where both recognize that Christ and Hegel, in their monstrosity, look very much alike. A phenomenal achievement!"

– Catherine Malabou, Maître de Conferences, Philosophy Department, Université Paris-X Nanterre

"The contemporary return to the theological most dramatically occurs in this book, as Zizek fully realizes his earlier Hegelian and Lacanian theological work, a work that Milbank can essentially know as a uniquely modern expression of nihilism. Nonetheless Milbank enters into a genuine theological dialogue with this nihilism, and a truly new theological discourse occurs. This effects a paradoxical union between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, and between radical orthodoxy and radical heterodoxy, which is perhaps the deepest motif of the contemporary return to the theological." – Thomas J. J. Altizer, author of Godhead and the Nothing

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What matters is not so much that Zizek 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 Zizek

In this corner, philosopher Slavoj Zizek, 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, Zizek 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 proven themselves worthy adversaries--and have also shown that faith and reason are not simply and intractably opposed.

Zizek 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 nothing less than the future of religion, secularity, and political hope in light of a monsterful event – God becoming human. For the first time since Zizek'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.

Zizek 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.

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