‘God Does Not Believe in Himself’


Still working my way through The Monstrosity of Christ, a dual between Zizek (Marxist-Atheist) and Milbank (Radical Orthodox) in which the atheist rather brilliantly claims to be a far better Christian that the orthodox theologian.

One passage I’ve been very struck by in Zizek’s opening salvo as he discusses religion in general:

Christianity is the exception here: it enacts the reflexive reversal of atheist doubt into God himself (sic). In his “Father, why have you forsaken me?” Christ commits what for a Christian is the ultimate sin: he wavers in his Faith.

While in all other religions there are people who do not believe in God, only in Christianity does God not believe in himself.

While I’m not convinced that doubt is the ‘ultimate sin’ I’m very taken by this idea of doubt within Christ, which perhaps calls on us to rethink our attitude to Thomas, which has always struck me as rather cruel.


16 responses to “‘God Does Not Believe in Himself’”

  1. Jonathan Hunt

    Whilst the phrase ‘God does not believe in Himself’ is not accurate based on the example used, in terms of the uniqueness of Christianity, the general thrust is very thought-provoking. And encouraging really. Good ole atheists.

  2. Jonathan Hunt

    One other thing – since when was doubt a sin? or the ‘ultimate sin?’

  3. Jonathan Hunt

    AND another thing… your point about dumping on Thomas is also relevant when it comes to Mary and Martha. The standard line is ‘Martha is a waste of space, be a Mary’, but the text (and Jesus) do not say that, at all!

  4. I just picked up this book and I’m excited to read it soon, but I can’t agree with Zizek’s point. At least not in the way he states it. I think that’s what Jonathan means. Here, Jesus isn’t questioning God’s existence. He’s questioning God’s action, or lack thereof–which is a good thing to remind people who like to explain away evil/bad events in the world. I think the example illustrates that God, in Christianity, becomes fully human, to the point of genuinely expressing human doubt and questioning.

  5. I agree with Kyle, there is a difference between existence & presence. I mean really Jesus is praying to God; how can he be doubting?

  6. Collin

    I too have been interested by this idea, through reading Zizek, Chesterton, Rollins, and Moltmann’s Crucified God i’ve been more bombarded by this enigma than ‘interested’ suggests.
    any more thoughts on the subject? or what a so called ‘christian’ response to YHWH’s abandonment of God in Jesus? I think Moltmann does the best job of carrying this (a/anti)theology past the theoretical.

  7. Christopher

    Jesus was quoting a Psalm on the cross when his faith seemed to falter.

  8. I just think the language Zizek uses here overstates his case, as I think Rollins does sometimes–like in the Fidelity of Betrayal, which (I think?) was heavily influenced by Zizek, and where he seems to equate (I could definitely be wrong and I use “equate” for lack of a better word) betraying a particular, incorrect attempt at Christianity with actually betraying Christianity.

    But then, I could see that there might be a rhetorical purpose for it.

  9. It is a very Zizek-ian idea, but one that I think is rich for us to contemplate.

    Preceding the quote is an excerpt from Chesterton’s book ‘The Man Who Was Thursday’:

    When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt.

    Nay, but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

    This is an extraordinary scene indeed: God forsakes God. Now while I’m not sure it makes God temporarily an atheist, I think we have to say that it must have been a true statement by Jesus, rather than just a pretense (because he knew it would all be tickety-boo in a couple of days) and so we have no option but to consider God’s incarnation much more fragile that we are often led to believe.

  10. Despite the way John may have intended, I think Thomas was on the right track. Seehttp://johntanseysstkilda.wordpress.com/2009/04/21/toms-doubt-points-to-resurrections-reality/

  11. I’d agree John. Thomas has been completely misrepresented as a poor cousin of the other disciples, whereas I’d see him as perhaps the most pragmatic. It wasn’t him rushing around like a headless chicken cutting off ears and making promises he couldn’t keep, or trying manipulate a place by Jesus’ side when the kingdom came.

    Interestingly, there is an ancient tradition of thought that venerates Thomas (Didymus) as Jesus’ twin. However unlikely, it’s perhaps fascinating from a psychoanalytic point of view: Thomas has become known as the doubter, while Jesus, who we see here ‘doubting’ is worshipped as being beyond doubt.

  12. Also, (Stanley Hauerwas has an interesting sermon from Duke Div School where he discusses this called ‘believing is seeing) the text doesn’t say that Thomas actually touched the wounds. But immediately after he gave the most straightforward statement of Jesus’ divinity in the NT: “My Lord and my God!”

    Seems like we should give him a little more credit.

  13. andrew pickering

    the ica has a talk by zizek and millbank on june 18th – thought you might be interested


  14. You’re a gent and a scholar. I’d missed this. And now I’m not. Thanks!

  15. late christological assumptions make for brilliantly silly death of god theological conundrums.