My current reading project is Rene Girard’s The One by Whom Scandal Comes.
My main interest in Girard is how he relates his theories to the Bible.
I have two items today.
First, the resurrection of Christ. It is pretty clear that the passion and death of Jesus play a major role for Girard. But his interviewer asks him about his view of the Resurrection.
He says it is different from the Crucifixion in that he can’t have a mimetic theory of the Resurrection. It is not an event that he can align with human anthropology or psychology. So he says it either happened or it was invented. He doesn’t think it was invented. He doesn’t go into a lot of detail about his reasons.
I note that he earlier said he had read Raymond Brown. I assume that Brown’s defense of the Resurrection influenced him. (I clearly remember in 1972 or 1973 one of my Bultmann-schooled New Testament professors coming to class in real consternation. He said that apparently Raymond Brown, whom he respected, had just gone “all Pannenberg”. He just shook his head. He did not understand.)
Something shattered the disciple’s view of Jesus as victim and scapegoat. Somehow they came to see him as innocent and vindicated, thus breaking with the myth of the scapegoat. So the disciples were right to see the Resurrection as the end of the world. It was the end of the world so far as the mythic role of mimetic violence was concerned. But he says that the disciples got a little ahead of themselves. The fall of Satan did not mean the immediate end of persecution and exploitation. In fact two thousand years has not been enough time for the Kingdom of God to arrive.
The disciples tried to compress a very long process into a short period. But, otherwise, they were right. He implies that the disciples did not reckon with God respecting human choice as much as he has. The length of time since the Resurrection is God’s accommodation to free will. If the human race would just accept the Kingdom of God we could proceed at once to the next world. So humans are responsible for the delay.
My second item has to do with the church. One of the interview questions he takes is about how he can be a Catholic when the church actually uses hierarchy and scapegoating. He answers without minimizing the fact that Christians have screwed up as much as the rest of humanity. However, he puts the Inquisition in some historical context. He asks why, in the era of Nazism, Communism and many violent police states we go back centuries to rehash the Inquisition–something that the church has put behind it and apologized for.
He says that Protestantism is not attractive and is crumbling. You might as well belong to the oldest and strongest form of the Christianity, even if it has flaws. He says that the legitimacy of the church comes from its connection to Christ, not from always having been right.
This leads to him making an interesting point from the New Testament. He says that Paul , in confronting Peter, faced the same problem that people today face in relation to Rome.
Paul was more radical than Peter. He lectured Peter, and often strongly disapproved of him. But in the end Paul always gave in to him because he knew that Christ had wanted Peter to speak for him. Paul went right to the heart of the matter in everything, and here he recognized the authority of tradition–a tradition that had only been in existence for a quarter of a century! And it is because he was perfectly aware of what was at stake that he acted as he did. If he hadn’t Christianity would never have survived; it would have fallen apart at once. To understand Christianity and orthodoxy one must think of Paul. Paul was indeed stronger than Peter, better educated, more cosmopolitan, but he always yielded to Peter’s primacy (p. 78).
As a default Protestant, I can think of some responses to this. But even without exactly believing in the primacy of Peter and apostolic succession, there is a good point about deferring to tradition as a condition for the survival of Christianity.
I do not always agree with his answers but I like that Girard gives direct answers to tough interview questions.