Theological Responses to Zizek

If any of you know of any responses to Zizek specifically by theologians, please point them out to me in comments. I already know about Graham Ward’s chapter in Cities of God, and of course the materials in Theology and the Political, and also the article from First Things on Badiou and Zizek.

I’d particularly appreciate responses from people outside of Radical Orthodoxy or reactionary Catholicism. But maybe theologians outside the Radical Orthodox circle might not have gotten around to Zizek yet. Their up-to-the-minute-ness is perhaps Radical Orthodoxy’s best aspect — now if only we could figure out a way to get them to read, if not more carefully, at least more sympathetically (categories which in my mind almost entirely overlap when it comes to initial understanding of a new text or body of thought).

40 thoughts on “Theological Responses to Zizek

  1. Although I suspect he’s not who you have in mind, there is Eugene McCarraher who teaches humanities at Villanova. His two reviews of Z’s books for In These Times are here:

    This article in Modern Theology (which I have not read) apparently discusses Zizek too:

  2. I had never seen that _First Things_ article. Pretty wretched. Beyond the bizarre idea of liberalism as a “Christian achievement,” who would characterize Negri as an “anti-globalist”?

  3. There is a very poor essay re: Zizek in the very poor volume Latin American Theology: The Next Generation.

    I honestly can’t think of many theologians outside of R.O. actually engaging Zizek (or R.O., for that matter).

  4. I believe John Caputo makes a few references to him in his (rather awful)’The Weakness of God’.
    Whether Caputo counts as a theologian (or philosopher anymore, really) is another question.

  5. How do you even know that…have you been stalking his website? Do you have a secret love that you have to hide while at nottingham?

  6. I am not particularly inclined to cozy up to Caputo’s work, but I really, really appreciate Wilson’s comment – and, that, not just because I know and love him.

  7. Caputo’s references to Zizek in that particular volume are little more than throw-away criticisms… that is, they are undeveloped and unhelpful–especially for someone who has read very little Zizek, namely, me.

    An aside: by what standard was Caputo’s book judged? As a work of theology, it is–at best–incredibly thin. (How could one write such a bland and unlearned theology of the cross after Moltmann, Jungel, or Jenson? Nevertheless, I find some value–some–in his attempting to French’ify an otherwise German tradition.)

    Another aside: I think it might be interesting to read something like Bloch’s “theological” writings alongside Zizek, given the little I know about Zizek.

  8. Just wondering: is the idea that liberalism is a “Christian achievement” really that “bizarre”? Despite many historical manifestations of Christianity, it seems essentially friendly to the belief in human equality and the elimination of social inequality (camels and needles’ eyes and all that), and opposed to unjust rule. Many founders of liberalism were believers. Mill frequently cites Jesus. Jefferson edited the bible, both to remove the superstitious contents and to preserve the importance of its moral message. True, the world liberalism replaced and grew up in opposition to was also in many ways a Christian achievement, but one could argue (easily, I think), that liberalism was true to the spirit of Christianity while the monarchic system it replaced was a crass political perversion of Christianity.

  9. The idea that Christianity was involved in the development of liberalism is far from bizarre, and indeed clearly true. But the idea that liberalism is a ‘Christian achievement’, if it means anything more than that, is just as clearly false, surely? Liberalism was just as much the child of radical modern pagans and naturalists like Hobbes and Hume; Mill’s tactic of reading Jesus as a utilitarian moral philosopher tends to take the Christianity out of Christ; liberals have often been strongly anti-clerical.

    Or is the claim not supposed to be a historical one (achievement = something done), but that liberalism expresses the central message of Christianity (achievement = culmination)? I don’t think I know enough about Christianity to judge, but that claim looks surprising on its face.

  10. Obviously there are two aspects to liberalism – the writings and theory surrounding it and the actual practice thereof. I think it is bizarre to claim liberalism, in terms of its writings, is a Christian achievement (unless you count and weight heavily the Medieval Catholic Church’s impetus in the formation of centers of learning) in a strong sense. But the practice of liberalism does seem to have a particularly strong flavor of Protestant Christianity. Even the anti-clerical bent of liberalism is very Protestant in this way and of course we can all see Hegel’s views on civil religion in the background.

    So, as with many things in European history, it is really a question of competing Christianities, rather than some kind of united Christian front to be celebrated or demonized for this achievement.

  11. There’s an article by a Mennonite theologian named Gerald Biesecker-Mast: “Slavoj Zizek, the Fragile Absolute, and the Anabaptist Subject,” Brethren Life and Thought, 48.0304, pp. 176-191. I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, so I can’t comment on it.

  12. In Clayton Crockett’s new book, I think that there is a chapter on: “Ages of the world and creation ex Nihilo, part II : Zizek and Lacan”

  13. By your own introduction, you said you might not appreciate pointers to stuff outside of R.O., but for the record, Conor Cunningham has some treatments of Zizek in the last 1/3rd of his Genealogy of Nihilism, around pp. 250ff. Just so you know, there’s a good chance that the edition you might find will have the ‘Z’ missing with the special character above it, as my copy says ‘ i ek’ instead of ‘Zizek’. Anyway, the topic is probably not too dissimilar from what Wilson mentions above, as it is about Zizek, Lacan, and creation. My apologies for not offering a potentially appreciative comment, but this bit wasn’t mentioned above in your known list of R.O. Zizek treatments.



  14. I have a feeling that, like it or not, I’m going to have to be dealing with RadOrth for the rest of my career, or until the school dissolves. (Is it possible that within our lifetimes, Radical Orthodoxy will be as exotic a name as Boston Personalism is now? Dare one hope?)

  15. I dunno. Some people who have written in the series call it a “movement,” (Milbank) others a “sensibility,” (Ward, Pickstock, JKA Smith) while others, like William Cavanaugh, remind us that it is “just a book series.”

    I prefer some mixture of the last two.

  16. For my money is a movement, albeit a very thinly bound one around those who published in the book series – my evidence for this being that pretty much asking if x theologian is “radically orthodox” will get a yay or nay.

    With this in mind we all know that Rad. Ox. is dead and the new brand is now Interventions, or Veritas, or Illuminations or A Very Critical Introduction To…

  17. Except some of the guys in the group talk major shit about the other ones. I think it is clear that, whatever Radical Orthodoxy meant before, there is a very small core group of people who really identify with it. I would name names but it’s not polite.

  18. I’ve got to say, I don’t think that an introduction can be “very critical” and still do its job — unless the job is to innoculate people against some particular thinker.

  19. Incidently, Marcus Pound is publishing Zizek: A Very Critical Introduction in that series, which is the first book length treatment of him by a theologian, one who specialises in psychoanalysis, as well as being a lovely guy.

  20. I thought wrong! I was mixing up Butler with his frequent co-author, Scott Stephens, who is indeed a lecturer in theology, but has not written a book on Zizek. Butler is in art history.

  21. The idea of the “Very Critical” introduction series is to be half a fair portrayal of the thinker and half a critique. With this division, I think it is possible to write a good intro, excessively fawning ones get my goat.

  22. I especially hate it when fawning introductions to thinkers have a moralizing cast — as though the people Thinker X is critiquing not only lacked his or her penetrating vision, but were moral lepers as well. This seems to be an endemic problem among intros to continental philosophers.

  23. We should to come up with some spoof/parody titles of fawning books of various thinkers. Or maybe the opposite: Edmund Husserl: A Far Too Critical Introduction, or, How To Inoculate Yourself Against Husserl, a Very Short Introduction. If the titles are good enough, maybe I can whip up some fake book covers. I have a theology/philosophy parody site that I never bothered getting off the ground, so maybe this will be a good excuse. I can dream…

  24. LOLz.

    An introduction:
    Of Franco-Phoney-ology: An Introduction to Wasting Your time By the study of Jacques Derrida by AC Grayling.

    Nonsense on Stilts!: The Analytic/Continental Divide, The First Hundred Years by AC Grayling (again).

    Why Duns Scotus is wrong about everything he wrote. by Catherine Pickstock

    Religion as Humanities’ Shit Face by Richard Dawkins, introduction by Christopher Hitchens’ author of God? Bolocks!.

  25. Ha! Lolz. That recalls Anthony’s joke about stoned explaining Heidegger: “the ontic is like woah, and you know, like the the ontological is like WOAH” or similar.

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