Skip to content

The Monstrosity of Milbank

Adam Kotsko has a lengthy and helpful rumination on Milbank’s contribution to the new Milbank-Žižek book, The Monstrosity of Christ. Here’s a bit:

The more serious point, however, is that despite the capaciousness of Milbank’s Catholicism, it seems to be unable to “account for” one thing — precisely Christ. Everything seems to work just fine without him, and the attempts to shoehorn the Incarnation into the system strike me as afterthoughts for the most part. The Neoplatonism is where Milbank’s heart really is, and he’s into his idealized version of “Catholicism” because that’s been the primary historical carrier of Neoplatonism in his part of the world. (Presumably an Iranian Milbank would’ve been a Muslim who believed himself to be providing the Ayatollah with some intellectual “wiggle room,” and an Indian Milbank would be wondering aloud if the caste system hasn’t gotten a bad rap due to poor implementation.) For all his talk about history and thick contingency, he doesn’t seem to me to have any serious sense of the contingent historical event that should be central to all his reflections. And so for me, Milbank’s argument suffers from a problem much worse than being an unconvincing argument for Christianity — it’s unclear to me that what it’s arguing for even is Christianity.

This is like, pretty much exactly what I think. Spot on.


  1. Wow – I haven’t read it but sounds like good ol’ Milbank.

    Thursday, May 7, 2009 at 7:44 pm | Permalink
  2. Patrik wrote:

    Weell. I agree that in this book, Milbank is doing ok without Christ, and Zizek has got a point when he accuses Milbank of not taking the cross into full account.

    But still, Being reconciled is quite Christocentric I think (the chapters on atonement and resurrection and so on).

    I have a review of the book, that should be called “the monstrosity of Zizek” at my blog.

    Thursday, May 7, 2009 at 10:50 pm | Permalink
  3. adhunt wrote:

    “Yeah, why can’t Milbank just be a neo-barthinian like me?” Says the whiney theologian. “All this talk of the Trinity, Sacraments and metaphysics doesn’t sound Swiss enough for me”

    Theo-centric is not a Christo-centric defecit

    Friday, May 8, 2009 at 11:36 am | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:

    Now, now. If you have the patience to read Barth, you’ll see he talks plenty about the Trinity, Sacraments, and metaphysics.

    And all without subsuming everything into a refurbished neoplatonism…

    Friday, May 8, 2009 at 11:42 am | Permalink
  5. adhunt wrote:

    I’m no anti-barthinian. It might say something though, that for all his waxing eloquent he didn’t get around to the Holy Spirit! Milbank simply isn’t a systematic theologian, and his program is different than Barth and systemeticians. I think that if you read Milbank in light of Rowan Williams (his teacher) you begin to get a deeper understanding of Milbank, and I take the RO movement as a whole to represent things that he might just leave out of various works.

    But, in all fairness and honesty. You certainly have a greater theological mind than me. So take the tease lightly :)

    Friday, May 8, 2009 at 11:47 am | Permalink
  6. adhunt wrote:

    Though I do like my zippy one liner. I lay claim to its origin!

    Friday, May 8, 2009 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  7. Halden wrote:

    Of course (re: the tease). But I don’t think its really fair to say that Barth didn’t get around to the Holy Spirit. CH IV3.2 especially has a lot on the Holy Spirit.

    And I don’t think Barth would self-apply the descriptor of systematic theologian either.

    I also see a pretty huge difference between Rowan Williams, both theologically and politically than Milbank, though. Especially when it comes to ecclesiology.

    Friday, May 8, 2009 at 11:56 am | Permalink
  8. bruce hamill wrote:

    Have you read and/or blogged on David Tool’s critique of Milbank in his book about Sarajevo? I would be interested in your thoughts

    Friday, May 8, 2009 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

Switch to our mobile site