Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Scott Cowdell, Rene Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture, and Crisis

Academic journal article Journal of Ecumenical Studies

Scott Cowdell, Rene Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture, and Crisis

Article excerpt

Scott Cowdell, Rene Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture, and Crisis. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013. Pp. 259. $34.00, paper.

In this very-well-researched book, one is introduced to the basics of the Girardian theory, which provides the basis for Girard's insights on secularism and modernity. As Cowdell puts it, "It is a fragile modernity, an incomplete secularization, and a dark future that Girard offers us" (p. 14), but all is not lost. He also tells us that if we learn from the teachings of Girard, then humanity may yet be saved from Girard's dark future.

The first three chapters of the book serve as a primer for Girardian thinking on mimesis and scapegoating, as well as Girard's unorthodox interpretation of both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Testament. Cowdell attempts to describe the salient elements of these terms and theories that are required to understand what he writes in the fourth and fifth chapters. Yet, for one who has never studied Girard, the first three chapters may likely prove difficult fully to comprehend. Cowdell often uses literature to explain the essence of Girard's thoughts, but, unless one is familiar with the books and myths that are being referenced, this could cause more confusion than understanding. Cowdell synthesizes Girard's theories, which took a lifetime to create, into just over 100 pages, leaving the novice reader with many unanswered questions, such as how the notion of free will plays into Girardian thinking.

The final chapters of Cowdell's book describe Girard's views on secularism and modernity. …

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