Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic? (Short Circuits) - Slavoj Zizek, John Milbank

In The Monstrosity of Christ, philosopher Zizek and "radical orthodox'' theologian 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. Amazon

However, things get even more complicated: God’s essential goodness itself is held against him. When Sunday [a novel character who represents God, he is good and evil at the same time], asked who he really is, answers that he is the God of Sabbath, of peace, one of the enraged detectives reproaches him: “it is exactly that that I cannot forgive you. I know you are contentment, optimism, what do they call the thing, an ultimate reconciliation. Well, I am not reconciled. If you were the man in the dark room, why were you also Sunday, an offense to the sunlight? If you were from the first our father and our friend, why were you also our greatest enemy? We wept, we fled in terror; the iron entered into our souls—and you are the peace of God! Oh, I can forgive God His anger, though it destroyed nations; but I cannot forgive Him His peace.”


Hegel is talking about something much more radical: the “unity of opposites” means that, in a self-reflexive short circuit, God falls into his own creation; that, like the proverbial snake, he in a way swallows / eats himself by his own tail. In short, the “unity of opposites” does not mean that God plays with himself the game of (self- )alienation, allowing evil opposition in order to overcome it and thus assert his moral strength, etc.; it means that “God” is a mask (a travesty) of “Devil,” that the difference between Good and Evil is internal to Evil.

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