Symposium Introduction


Neil Ormerod
Mark Heim
Brian Robinette
Chelsea King
Jacob Wood


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’s René Girard, Unlikely Apologist: Mimetic Theory and Fundamental Theology is an accessible and original work advancing the discussion of Girard and theology. Kaplan claims mimetic theory for Catholic theology and shows how it can strengthen Catholic theology by providing a powerful apologetic. Immensely helpful, too, is his situating of Girard’s work alongside formative theologians and other thinkers.” — Scott Cowdell, author of René Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture, and Crisis

“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

“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

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