‘A Theology of Failure: Žižek against Christian Innocence’ by Marika Rose

Published by Fordham University Press in 2019.

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Everyone agrees that theology has failed; but the question of how to understand and respond to this failure is complex and contested. Against both the radical orthodox attempt to return to a time before the theology’s failure and the deconstructive theological attempt to open theology up to the hope of a future beyond failure, Rose proposes an account of Christian identity as constituted by, not despite, failure. Understanding failure as central to theology opens up new possibilities for confronting Christianity’s violent and kyriarchal history and abandoning the attempt to discover a pure Christ outside of the grotesque materiality of the church.

The Christian mystical tradition begins with Dionysius the Areopagite’s uncomfortable but productive conjunction of Christian theology and Neoplatonism. The tensions generated by this are central to Dionysius’s legacy, visible not only in subsequent theological thought but also in much twentieth century continental philosophy as it seeks to disentangle itself from its Christian ancestry. A Theology of Failure shows how the work of Slavoj Žižek represents an attempt to repeat the original move of Christian mystical theology, bringing together the themes of language, desire, and transcendence not with Neoplatonism but with a materialist account of the world. Tracing these themes through the work of Dionysius and Derrida and through contemporary debates about the gift, violence, and revolution, this book offers a critical theological engagement with Žižek’s account of social and political transformation, showing how Žižek’s work makes possible a materialist reading of apophatic theology and Christian identity.


Marika Rose is Lecturer in Philosophical Theology at the University of Winchester.

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