Pound, M. (2014) 'Theology.', in The Zizek dictionary. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 246-249.
Theology played a marginal role in Žižek’s early work; only later does he self-consciously identify his work as theology – albeit a ‘materialist theology’ – whilst presenting a concerted critical analysis of Christianity in the light thereof. The crux of his identification relates to the post-metaphysical turn in his work (‘there is no big Other’), and accompanying materialist ontology. Theology may seem an unlikely ally in this regard, all the more so given that Žižek identifies as an atheist. But Žižek joins an established chorus of theological objectors to the God of classical metaphysics (i.e. onto-theology) who was identified with the Greek philosophical category of ‘Being’; i.e. that which can be univocally predicated of all beings. God came to be understood as the highest Being, the causa sui which sustains beings as a whole, and the transcendental place-holder which ensures the objectivity of objects (what Lacan calls the ‘big Other’). Despite overtones of Heidegger, it is Hegel who serves as Žižek’s principle theological guide. Hegel reads the cross in terms of kenosis, i.e. God’s self-emptying: ‘what dies on the cross is indeed God himself; not just his “finite container”’ but the God of the beyond, i.e. the God of metaphysics. After this, 'Spirit' names the community of believers, the purely corporal body of the church; that is to say, the realization of the cross is the release it brings from transcendence, making it homologous to Hegel’s ‘night of the world’.
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