The Scapegoat Atonement Theory (Rene Girard)

4 thoughts on “The Scapegoat Atonement Theory (Rene Girard)

  1. Thank you for the thoughtful and well-presented commentary. This reminded me of a question I’ve had for some time. There is a doctrine of belief that we humans cannot comprehend the workings of God, and that by definition, any action God takes is good. Hence calls for genocidal actions in the book of Joshua, for example, that appear to a modern reader to be counter to the idea of a good God, is because of our limited human understanding, and we must simply have faith that despite how we modern readers view these texts, that God is indeed always good.
    I am curious about the origins of this doctrine, theory or whatever one wishes to call it.
    Do you know of something I can read about the origins and perhaps differing views of the idea, or perhaps what is going on in the text?

    Thanks again

    1. Hi Bernie, thanks for watching! The question you bring up is an important one. I cannot say where it comes from, but for me, the first person to introduce me to that reading of the Bible was Peter Enns. I think, in general, the historical-critical reading of the Bible offers a helpful perspective of problematic texts such as the ones in Joshua. Historical evidence indicates that the Canaanite genocide probably never took place, and that the text was more interested in the purity of Israel than about describing the details of a historical event. Ancient texts do not think about history in the same way we do today. Thanks again for watching and for your comment!

  2. Stephen,
    This is a thoughtful analysis of the theory and is an interesting take on the crucifixion. There may be aspects of it that ring true to the circumstances of the cross but it does not explain a tradition penal substitutionary application as were see throughout the OT in the Jewish sacrificial system. To my mind the analogy breaks down as an explanation of the atoning actions of the death of Christ.
    I don’t particularly find the analogy of Donald Trump calling the SARS Cov-2 virus as the ‘China virus’ a good analogy to the explanation because the virus was concocted in Wuhan Virology Lab in China. He was simply stating a fact which I believe was apparent from the start.
    In a similar way the scapegoat theory of the atonement fails to hold water because of the obvious implication of the cross of Christ because of the sacrificial precursors to the event.
    God Bless in your explanation of the Word.
    Error helps to define Truth more precisely.

  3. Stephen,
    I also take great exception to the accusation that in the cross we see God acting violently toward his son, It may appear that way to some mortals but to me I see God’s justice and anger displayed toward sin (my sin and yours) being demonstrated at the cross as argued in the Letter of Paul to the Romans – how God acted rightly in the cross as judgment for human rebellion and sin. This being consistent with the character of God and justification of his actions toward sin demonstrated at the cross. Where God is both the Just and the Justifiesr of man through the death of Jesus. If God is both acting justly and the one who justifies in his death then he is both a loving and a just God who does not act capriciously toward our rebellion.

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