In the past couple years, I read a lot about René Girard, I’ve listened to numerous interviews with him, I’m consulted the Girardian Lectionary numerous times, and I’ve had innumerable conversations regarding Girard’s thought. But only now am I diving into Girard’s writing itself. I’ve begun with I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, a book with one of the the worst covers you’ll ever see:
That cover notwithstanding, Girard’s writing is airy and approachable. This book lacks scholarly footnotes, having only footnotes from the translator. Those are particularly helpful when running into words that are unique to Girard, or at least when his use of a word is unique.I’m reading Girard as I write my book on the atonement — my ultimate take on the subject will be a mash-up of Girard and Moltmann, with my own twist and conclusions. Girard’s take on desire, violence, sacrifice, and atonement has become very popular in theological circles in recent years. Part of that is because, honestly, I think that there wasn’t much new to say about the atonement on a theological level. But Girard isn’t a theologian, he’s an anthropologist, and he calls his an “anthropological reading of the atonement.”
I think that one of the reasons that Girard’s “scapegoat theory” has become so popular is that he explains it so clearly, and it makes so much sense. I’ll elaborate on Girard’s views in future days (more here than in the book; in the book, he’ll be more in the background). But I will say this: I think he overplays his hand on some of his biblical interpretation. He’ll often take an unconventional tack on a passage, and he’ll write something like, “This passage obviously means…” Then he’ll provide no exegesis. He may be able to get away with this because biblical exegesis is not his field, but it’s tricky to make theological claims without dealing with exegesis.
Have you read Girard? What’s your take?