Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary

Understanding the Bible Anew Through the Mimetic Theory of René Girard

Featuring “Opening Comments: Elements of a New Reformation”

In 2017 the 500th anniversary of the Reformation was celebrated across much of the church. In 2018 and beyond we need to recognize the urgent need for an ongoing New Reformation. For all that was accomplished in the first Reformation, the most important issue was not addressed: ending Christendom, the church’s alliance with the sacred violence of Empire, and related theological issues pertaining to violence.

This lectionary website offers an anthropological perspective on the deep-seated nature of human violence and the Christian answer to it: Jesus came to save us from our human origins in violence — opening the possibility to nothing less than a new Way to be human. A Start-over. Human Being 2.0. Read with this perspective, the Bible can be seen as an anthropological revelation every bit as much as a theological one. As we learn who God truly is in Jesus the Messiah, we are empowered by the Spirit to begin living into what it means to be truly human. In a world threatened by human violence, this way of reading the Christian message couldn’t be more timely. It offers elements for a New Reformation, ongoing within our secular post-Christendom world.

In short, “Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary” reads the Sunday texts from the fresh perspective of a Christian anthropology — that is, an understanding of our humanity that sees itself as both (1) deriving from, and deeply resonant with, the Christian revelation; and (2) bridging the gap from that revelation to the modern science of anthropology.

Specifically, this anthropology is based on the “Mimetic Theory” elaborated by Stanford scholar René Girard (1923-2015). Girard’s peaceful passing in November 2015 occasioned an excellent beginning place to encounter the groundbreaking nature of this Christian anthropology: a number of tributes to his life and work that offer concise, clear, and accurate introductions to Girard’s “Mimetic Theory.” I have cataloged a number of them on my own tribute page “In Memory of René Girard.” In 2018, the first major biography of Girard’s life and work has been published, Cynthia Haven‘s The Evolution of Desire: A Life of René Girard. See also the learning-resource page and Paul Nuechterlein’s “Girardian Anthropology in a Nutshell.”

The significance of an anthropological way of reading the Bible, and the shape of our salvation in Jesus Christ, can be summed up with a quote from acclaimed biblical scholar Walter Wink (1935-2012). Wink was an early supporter of Mimetic Theory, helping to launch the Girardian guild of researchers, the Colloquium on Violence & Religion (COV&R), in 1990. As he looked back over his own life and career in his memoir, Just Jesus: My Struggle to Become Human, he poignantly writes,

And this is the revelation: God is HUMAN … It is the great error of humanity to believe that it is human. We are only fragmentarily human, fleetingly human, brokenly human. We see glimpses of our humanness, we can only dream of what a more human existence and political order would be like, but we have not yet arrived at true humanness. Only God is human, and we are made in God’s image and likeness — which is to say, we are capable of becoming human. (p. 102)

“Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary” is about learning to read the Bible as the premier guide on our journey of becoming human — and for a discipleship that lives into a New Reformation of the church.

Paul Nuechterlein

Current Reflection

Epiphany 3B

(January 24)

Upcoming Reflection

Epiphany 4B

(January 31)

Or, to find any lectionary page go to the
Main Index and Instructions

Main Index & Instructions

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    About Editor Paul Nuechterlein

    Paul Nuechterlein is a well-respected voice in theological circles. Recently retired after 30 years of parish ministry in ELCA congregations, he is now able to devote full-time to his passion for spreading the Gospel of peace and justice, which he believes is at the heart of Jesus’ faith. With the birth of Paul’s new ministry, Discipleship Seminars in Mimetic Theory, he looks forward to sharing this passion and learning together with other disciples. Learn more…

    Paul offers Discipleship Seminars In Mimetic Theory
    Equipping disciples to engage in the politics of justice

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    The Seventh Story: Us, Them, and the End of Violence

    by Gareth Higgins & Brian McLaren

    “People often ask for the most accessible way into the work of René Girard. Here it is! So accessible it’s based on a children’s storybook — a new story to reframe (within the insights of Mimetic Theory) the story which is saving the world.” ~ Paul Nuechterlein


    Theology Beyond Metaphysics: Transformative Semiotics of René Girard

    by Anthony W. Bartlett

    “For anyone interested in the theological application of the thought of René Girard, Tony Bartlett has long been essential reading. Here he outdoes himself in the clarity with which he makes potentially complicated matters simple. He brings us to the heart of why and how Girard’s insight communicates an epochal shift in lived understanding of both the gospel and what it means to be human.” — James Alison


    Postcards from Babylon: The Church in American Exile

    by Brian Zahnd

    “In a bold and daring articulation, Brian Zahnd has sketched a ‘Theology of the Cross’ for our time and place in the United States of the twenty-first century. . . . He sees that the Gospel is inherently and inescapably countercultural because the God of the Gospel is in particular and passionate solidarity with the ‘left behind.’” — Walter Brueggemann


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