“God is never absent from his work: he did not create and leave.”

~ Henri de Lubac, The Mystery of the Supernatural

I finally picked up Marcus Pound’s book on Zizek today and already I’m hooked. Pound has an extremely interesting take on how the nouvelle theologians relate to Lacan. He notes, for example, that de Certeau, one of de Lubac’s pupils, was in Lacan’s inner circle, and there must be something to Lacan’s comment that Catholicism represents “the true religion.”

What really stood out to me though is the narrative Pound traces in the brief section, “Socialism and Scholasticism.” Pound writes:

“Zizek’s problem, however, arises because, despite the theological influence, he remains implicitly wedded to the neo-scholastic framework, giving credence to a supposed realm of ‘pure nature,’ because only an extrinsic theology of grace could sustain a theology of tragic abandonment. In other words, tragic abandonment makes sense only when the world is already presupposed to exist in absolute distinction from any supernatural appendage” (91).

As such, Zizek can only myopically perceive Christianity through Protestant eyes. Zizek’s influences, stemming from Böhme, Schelling, Hegel and Kierkegaard, all reinforce rather than question a presupposed logic:

“What all these writers share is a deeply Protestant theology of sin and grace, not unlike that found in the early Karl Barth. This can be identified in terms of the overtly oppositional logic of the terms. In the case of Barth, culture is so steeped in sin and the absolute brokenness of the world that any sense of hope can arrive only through a complete overturning of the world: grace. Such a viewpoint sits well with a theology of pure nature by presupposing the gulf between nature and grace. Yet a recovery of the medieval viewpoint suggest an alternative, albeit oppositional, logic, a weak dialectic, such that one pole is not required to overcome or, in Zizek’s case, obliterate the other precisely because divine presence inhabits and permeates all material nature, rendering nature in its entirety as a holy sacrament. On this view, each dialectical pole remains to an extant a continual component of the other such that they perform a mutually critical correction of each other; a more relational as opposed to oppositional dialectic” (92).

In other words, Milbank is right; Zizek isn’t so much of an atheist as much as he’s a Protestant. If you simply don’t buy into the vision of natura pura, then Zizek’s Christology ends up being rather bland. It might be helpful in terms of dethroning the idea of God as the Big Other, but surely there are better places to turn – the work of Terry Eagleton, as one example, comes to mind.

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