René Girard, Unlikely Apologist
Mimetic Theory and Fundamental Theology
280 pages, 6.00 x 9.00
Hardcover | 9780268100858 | October 2016
eBook (PDF) | 9780268100872 | August 2016
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268100889 | August 2016
Since the late 1970s, theologians have been attempting to integrate mimetic theory into different fields of theology, yet a distrust of mimetic theory persists in some theological camps. In René Girard, Unlikely Apologist: Mimetic Theory and Fundamental Theology, Grant Kaplan brings mimetic theory into conversation with theology both to elucidate the relevance of mimetic theory for the discipline of fundamental theology and to understand the work of René Girard within a theological framework. Rather than focus on Christology or atonement theory as the locus of interaction between Girard and theology, Kaplan centers his discussion on the apologetic quality of mimetic theory and the impact of mimetic theory on fundamental theology, the subdiscipline that grew to replace apologetics. His book explores the relation between Girard and fundamental theology in several keys. In one, it understands mimetic theory as a heuristic device that allows theological narratives and positions to become more intelligible and, by so doing, makes theology more persuasive. In another key, Kaplan shows how mimetic theory, when placed in dialogue with particular theologians, can advance theological discussion in areas where mimetic theory has seldom been invoked. On this level the book performs a dialogue with theology that both revisits earlier theological efforts and also demonstrates how mimetic theory brings valuable dimensions to questions of fundamental theology.
Grant Kaplan is associate professor of theological studies at Saint Louis University.
"In this pathbreaking book, Grant Kaplan provides a theoretical framework for understanding René Girard as a particular kind of theologian, a Christian apologist in an age of unbelief whose anthropological explorations necessarily entail a theological horizon and verge upon fundamental theological questions. Reading the Girardian literary corpus broadly, Kaplan calls attention to modifications of, and developments within, Girard’s mimetic theory across time, as the French thinker attended to the constructive critiques of such theologians as Raymund Schwager and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Girard’s apologetic response to theologians and his appeal to them as co-investigators, Kaplan argues, have had a transformative effect upon theology itself as a discipline, reminding it of its own most fundamental concerns: sin, grace, conversion, revelation. Highly recommended." ~Ann W. Astell, University of Notre Dame
"There are many reasons why this book comes to us not a moment too soon. First among these must be the fact that, despite the almost ever-present violence that takes place on our streets and in our world today, we are seemingly as incapable of effectively dealing with violence and scapegoating as ever, and the reason for this failure seems to be a structural one as much as it is also, always, personal in nature. Girard’s work offers theologians the chance to say something significant to this perpetually frustrating context in a way that can be permanently transformative, renewing hearts and minds through faith in a source of grace that lies beyond the mechanisms and oppressive institutions that continue to shape how a politics of scapegoating carries on most days. . . . It is an immense gift that Kaplan has given us with his latest work." ~America
“The real gift of Kaplan’s book consists in showing that, with man’s enlarged brain, reciprocity (rather than autonomy) and ‘mind melding’ became exponentially more advanced in humans over animals – especially in the initial oral cultures. This means all learning involves a ‘conversion,’ and that the disinterested Enlightenment variation (based on print) is a late development and aberrant ideal.” ~The Heythrop Journal
"With clarity and erudition, Grant Kaplan has demonstrated the theological fecundity of Girard’s thought. Kaplan opens up the dialogue to include major themes in fundamental theology, attending to how Girard’s insights into mimesis and the scapegoat mechanism shed new light on traditional questions. A welcome addition to a growing body of Girardian theological literature." ~Neil Ormerod, Australian Catholic University
"One key aspect of [Girard’s] thought that is clearly ambiguous is the sense of whether he writes, or does not write, as a Christian thinker. Author Grant Kaplan wades directly into this thicket of claims and attempts to sort out the issues involved more clearly than Girard ever did himself. He succeeds admirably, writing a thorough and engaging book that treats the question of Girard’s religious presuppositions, and many other topics related to Kaplan’s own area of expertise: Catholic fundamental theology." ~Reading Religion
“Kaplan... argues that Girard was a Christian theologian, in the broad sense, and that through a careful examination of his writings one can understand him as a contributor to fundamental theology and an effective apologist or defender of the faith. Specifically, his mimetic theory successfully refutes many of the arguments against Christianity from such figures as Nietzsche and the new atheists. This is a helpful addition to the literature on Girard.” ~Choice