Review: The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic?

The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic?
The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic? by Slavoj Žižek

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book, on the back cover, advertises itself as going above and beyond the typical, popular debates between atheists and theists, of the style dominated by people like William Lane Craig and Richard Dawkins. Not only does it go well above and beyond all of that noise, it transcends it and enters another realm entirely. The three essays in this book, two by Žižek and one by Milbank, in fact, demonstrate what the debate between atheists and theists should be: a meaningful exchange of worldviews thoroughly considered. Rather than the watered-down, bourgeois Christianity of Craig we get the “radical orthodoxy” of Milbank someone who really believes in the Christian revelation and refuses to water it down to make it palatable to the masses who will only accept Christ if he comes prepackaged in their image. Instead of the unconsidered bourgeois atheism of Dawkins, we get a treatment by one of the today’s greatest thinkers, someone who has thought through his disbelief and its ramifications thoroughly. This is intellectual exchange at its finest. This is Christianity restored to its properly radical status and atheism also become a radical (and therefore) meaningful idea. My only complaint is that this book should be much longer. It consists of an essay by Žižek, a rebuttal by Milbank, and a rebuttal of the rebuttal by Žižek. I think the book and the exchange would have been much more fruitful had the exchange continued with at least another entry by Milbank, for balance. Aside from this relatively minor point and some trifling concerns with some bad history (for instance, his statements about limbo and infant baptism reflect a dreadful ignorance of the subject from a historical perspective) and bad faith (for example, his entire final entry hinges on his insistence that Milbank misunderstands him, a point he asserts but, to be honest, does not prove, and which seems an unnecessary assertion altogether) on Žižek’s part, I have no other complaints. If you are interested in the exchange between Christian faith and atheism as great ideas, this is the book for you.

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