René Girard is popping up in the most interesting places. Among others:
- Tony Jones mentioned him in our podcast about ‘A Better Atonement‘
- I heard Brian McLaren talk about him in lecture at Wild Goose West.
- Later this week I will be interviewing James Alison on the subject.
In fact, Jones quotes Alison in his book:
The most recent major player on the scene of atonement theories is one developed by an anthropologist/literary critic who is still alive: René Girard and the Scapegoat theory. But before getting to his take on the atonement, here’s a brief background on Girard’s thought. René Girard is a professor emeritus at Stanford University and one of only 40 members, or immortels, of the Académie Française, France’s highest intellectual honor. Girard’s breakthrough, according to James Alison, is this:
Professor Girard has made what he takes to be an authentic anthropological discovery…, to wit: that human desire is triangular and mimetic. It is mimetic in that it is to do with imitation; it is triangular in that the transaction is three-cornered: the source (model) which stimulates the desire, the respondent (disciple) in whom the desire is implanted, and the thing (object) then desired.
Jones, Tony (2012-03-18). A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin (Kindle Locations 520-527). The JoPa Group. Kindle Edition.
But there is something that I can just not figure out: why is the resurgence of René Girard happening now?
I first encountered René Girard in Graham Ward’s edited text “The Postmodern God: a Theological Reader” and I 100% get the appeal of Girard.
I get the the whole thing about how we mimic and are socialized by mimicry.
I get how this morphs into social groups who use violence to justify sacrifice.
I get how these social groups look for ‘scape goats’.
I get how this applies to Jesus’ crucifixion.
What I need help with is understanding why this is coming to prominence now.
To what do we owe the resurgence of René Girard?
SO Deacons – can you help me out? I am not a historical theologian. I am not a systematic theologian.I am not a philosophical theologian. I am just a lowly practical theologian : what am I missing?
Don’t get me wrong – I really like René Girard! I think that the theories are fascinating.
But why is his prominence coming now? Is this a reaction to the retrenchment of folks like the Gospel Coalition and Radical Orthodoxy? Is this a response to the decline of the Mainline voices? Is this just a matter of a thinker ‘before his time’ ?
I have the odd sense that I am missing something important – and I am hoping that someone can provide the insight that I lack on the subject.
Does this have something to do with “Saved from Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross” by S. Mark Heim ?
Or “The Nonviolent Atonement” by J. Denny Weaver ?
I like René Girard. In fact I think that he brings several important elements to the table. My question is to why we are seeing a resurgence of his ideas now?
Any help would be greatly appreciated. -Bo