René Girard and the nonviolent god

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Abstract

René Girard and the Nonviolent God offers a fresh reading of mimetic theory as incipiently theological from the start, and increasingly so as Girard moves from “early” through “middle” to “late” phases, while remaining resolutely committed to scientific rationality. The book is distinctive in how it presents the development of mimetic theory, and in the extent of its engagement with current theological discussion. It is also unique in its attention throughout to the highly significant, but only-recently-published correspondence between Girard and Raymund Schwager. Girard’s distinctive method is explored in terms of theological dramatic theory and double agency. At the heart of the book is a proposed five-act Girardian theo-drama, which opens the possibility of deflecting criticism (from von Balthasar, Milbank and Coakley) that Girard denies human freedom and ontologizes violence.

The main contribution of the book is to explore how this theo-drama advances, deploying the concepts of blocking, accepting and overaccepting from improvization theory in the theatre. Girard insists that theological orthodoxy, expressed in terms of the mimetic theory, is defensible in an evolutionary world and in acknowledgement of the tragic, as against others—from Augustine to Darwin to his various critics—who are content variously with either blocking or accepting these realities. Instead, using the category of overaccepting, we see how Girard can maintain his Augustinian realism about sin and redemption by overaccepting both brute reality and the violent-tending language of much Christian orthodoxy. It is shown how this allows key questions for any theological reading of Girard—of providence, Christology, Christian uniqueness, and atonement—can be resolved in non-violent though quite orthodox terms. The book thus offers both a fresh interpretation of Girard and an original contribution to how a range of contested theological topics can be approached.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationNotre Dame, Indiana, USA
PublisherUniversity of Notre Dame Press
Number of pages319
ISBN (Electronic)9780268104566
ISBN (Print)9780268104535
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018

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    Cowdell, S. (2018). René Girard and the nonviolent god. University of Notre Dame Press.