Item description for I See Satan Fall Like Lightning by Rene Girard & James G. Williams...
Overview The author of Violence and the Sacred looks at the gospels as a map of human behavior and sees striking parallels with modern human behavior. Original.
Publishers Description Rene Girard holds up the gospels as mirrors that reveal our broken humanity, and shows that they also reflect a new reality that can make us whole. Like Simone Weil, Girard looks at the Bible as a map of human behavior, and sees Jesus Christ as the turning point leading to new life.
The title echoes Jesus' words: "I saw Satan falling like lightning from heaven". Girard persuades us that even as our world grows increasingly violent the power of the Christ-event is so great that the evils of scapegoating and sacrifice are being defeated even now. A new community, God's nonviolent kingdom, is being realized -- even now.
Citations And Professional Reviews I See Satan Fall Like Lightning by Rene Girard & James G. Williams has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Christian Century - 12/12/2001 page 24
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Studio: Orbis Books
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9" Width: 6.14" Height: 0.66" Weight: 0.7 lbs.
Release Date Feb 7, 2001
Publisher Orbis Books
ISBN 1570753199 ISBN13 9781570753190
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More About Rene Girard & James G. Williams
Rene Girard is a member of the French Academy and Emeritus Professor at Stanford University. His books have been translated and acclaimed worldwide. He received the Modern Language Association s Award for Lifetime Scholarly Achievement in 2008."
Rene Girard has an academic affiliation as follows - Stanford University.
Rene Girard has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about I See Satan Fall Like Lightning?
Girard, Christianity, and Nietzsche Nov 21, 2008
Since previous reviewers have already provided good reviews of Girard and this book I thought I might speak on a (perhaps) not minor point that has yet to be mentioned. It is little remarked, although it really should be noted more often, how well (and not without a note of admiration too!) some of the best Christian thinkers have read Nietzsche. Girard is one example, the theologian Karl Barth is another.
"Nietzsche was the first philosopher to understand that the collective violence of myths and rituals (everything he named "Dionysos") is of the same type as the violence of the Passion. The difference between them is not in the facts, which are the same in both cases, but in their interpretation." (p. 171)
Indeed, Girard goes so far as to say that, "he discovers the truth that I only repeat after him, the truth that dominates this book: in the Dionysian passion and the Passion there is the same collective violence. But the interpretation is different..."
Girard goes on to quote Nietzsche at length at this point. Later Girard observes,
"...myths are based on a unanimous persecution. Judaism and Christianity destroy this unanimity in order to defend the victims unjustly condemned and to condemn the executioners unjustly legitimated.
As incredible as it may seem, no one made this simple but fundamental discovery before Nietzsche - no one, not even a Christian!" (p. 172)
Similarly, Barth (ahem) 'admires' (in a digression in the 'Church Dogmatics' that needs to be read more often) for seeing clearly (and saying loudly) the difference between a humanity in which each individual is focused on his own sovereign self and a humanity dedicated to the 'fellow-man'.
"The new thing in Nietzsche was the fact that the development of humanity without the fellow-man [...] reached in him a much more advanced, explosive, dangerous, and yet also vulnerable stage..." (Karl Barth, "Church Dogmatics", excerpted as an essay in "Studies in Nietzsche and the Judaeo-Christian Tradition", James C. O'Flaherty, editor.)
For both Barth and Girard, Nietzsche clearly sees Christianity as it is (or was) in the Greek New Testament. By speaking his opposition to it, as clearly as he did, he helped Christianity achieve a greater understanding of itself.
For Barth, Nietzsche is "...the most consistent champion and prophet of humanity without the fellow-man. It is another matter, and one that objectively considered is to the praise of Nietzsche, that he thus hurled himself against the strongest and not the weakest point in the opposing front. With his discovery of the Crucified and His host he discovered the Gospel itself in a form which was missed even by the majority of its champions, let alone its opponents, in the nineteenth century. And by having to attack it in this form, he has done us the good office of bringing before us the fact that we have to keep to this form as unconditionally as he rejected it, in self-evident antithesis not only to him, but to the whole tradition on behalf of which he made this final hopeless sally." (Barth, in above, pp. 373-374)
The 'tradition' Barth refers to is embodied in the history of the secret, but (according to Barth) true meaning of European history from the Renaissance through German Idealism. It is a line that goes from Machiavelli and Cesare Borgia through Goethe and Hegel and then reaches its highpoint in Nietzsche.
It is still too soon to tell if these 'services' Nietzsche performs for Christianity (the uncovering of the true meaning of all myth - and the opposition of Christianity to it; and the radical championing by Christianity of the helpless, the neighbor, the 'fellow-man', against the great of the world) were the first step toward a Christian reawakening or - its demise.
But this struggle between Nietzsche and Christianity is but a subset of the agon between Philosophy and Christianity. (Which is itself a part of the even greater argument between Philosophy and Religion.) In the ancient world Apollonius of Tyana was regarded as a philosopher. In his essay on him Girard calls him a sage. Briefly, Apollonius finds himself in a City in Crisis; he 'solves' this Crisis by the sacrifice (i.e., the stoning) of an innocent but unimportant man. After the stoning the City is restored to health...
To the Christian all men have intrinsic value, they are, after all, 'children of God'! Philosophy rejects this selfishness. In the final analysis to the philosophers (I should here say 'perhaps') there are no important individuals... "All that matters are the results", Nietzsche has said. With those words alone Apollonius is absolved. Indeed, one even suspects that the the philosophical 'value' of the Nietzschean Overman derives from his utility for human culture and (or) civilization. In other words, the Overman Himself is also a tool...
That is in itself interesting, but it too does not explain why so many religious people read Nietzsche with such interest. It is not merely Nietzsche's keen insight into the true nature of Christianity, to which both Barth and Girard attest, that accounts for this. Nietzsche, with his 'god' Dionysus, recognizes that there is something beyond the reach of both science and reason. And if there always is this 'Something Else', some Unknown, then Religion is the permanent recognition of (and response to) this 'Other'. Indeed, how many modern philosophers would have exclaimed "I, the last disciple of the philosopher Dionysus -- I, the teacher of the eternal recurrence", as Nietzsche does towards the end of his "Twilight of the Idols"? Ultimately, Nietzsche is no modern atheist; if he were he would never have written his Zarathustra or spoken of Dionysus and Eternal Return.
"Have I been understood?-- Dionysus versus the Crucified..." (Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, Why I am a Destiny, section 9.) Yes, now we understand. Myth replaces myth, utility supplants utility. Can you say "Eternal Return of the Same"? Nietzsche, the great enemy of Christianity, has in his books covertly conceded the necessity of Religion. At bottom, it is this concession, and the fact that it is the concession of a philosopher, that continually fascinates religious minds with his thought.
This book is among Girard's best. If you have the slightest interest in Christianity it is worth reading more than once. This note of mine was concerned with the connection between Nietzsche and Christianity and I certainly do not want to leave the impression that this was all Girard has to say. He is justly famous for his explication of myth through his original work on mimetic violence. For that alone one should read this book.
Thought-Provoking, But Dismissive of Scripture Aug 6, 2008
This book is a real and powerful challenge to traditional thinking regarding sacrifice, atonement, etc. Especially interesting are Girard's explanations of imitative desire and the scapegoat mechanism. Perhaps the biggest flaw I found in Girard's argumentation is that he claims that Satan really DOES cast out Satan, in direct contradiction to what Jesus recognizes as the source of his power to cast out demons--the Holy Spirit within Him.
One really has to wonder how such an obviously intelligent man (as Girard clearly is) would so grossly misinterpret Scripture to try to make it fit with his theory, but I guess he's not the first nor the last highly intelligent person who ever did such a thing.
The really odd thing to my mind is that if it is true, as Girard claims, that it is actually Satan who in fact casts himself out and not Jesus by the Holy Spirit's power, then the line is effectively erased between God and Satan, and the New Testament apostolic witness that Jesus came to "destroy the works of the Devil, (1 John 3:8)" and to "destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the Devil" (Heb. 2:14) should instead be read as meaning, "Satan was manifested in order to cast himself out, thereby preserving his own control over the social order." And where does this leave the pervasive New Testament theme of Jesus' victory over Satan--throughout Christ's public ministry, and not just by virtue of the crucifixion and resurrection?
While on the one hand Girard's idea of Satan's plot to kill Jesus as being thwarted in the end by Jesus' vindication/resurrection makes sense both scripturally and traditionally with the classic view of the atonement, in the specific context of Jesus' question about Satan casting out Satan, Girard's theory simply misses what Jesus himself says is the source of power for the exorcisms being manifested through His ministry.
As I said, Girard is obviously a very intelligent thinker and writer; it just seems to me that he goes beyond what is written in Scripture (either ignoring or dismissing it altogether when it comes to whom casts out Satan) and even flatly contradicts it (and his own Roman Catholic tradition) where it suits his theory.
Though I gave this book three stars, I did so mainly because the book nevertheless is very thought-provoking in many ways. I certainly would recommend it as an important book among many on the nature of the atonement and spiritual conflict. However, for a far more thoroughly Christian and biblical view of these themes, (the war between God and Satan, etc.), I would much more highly recommend Gustaf Aulen's Christus Victor.
Girard at his most brilliant Feb 11, 2003
Over the course of his long career, Girard has moved from literary criticism to anthropology to Biblical exegesis. This work of comparative religion sees him at his clearest and most brilliant as he compares the Gospel readings of violence to mythological interpretations that conceal the role mimetic desire plays in our conflicts. Especially revealing is a late chapter on "the concern for victims," the absolute value of modern culture. But it is in the book's final pages, where Girard finally postulates the existence of a power superior to violent contagion, that I See Satan Fall Like Lightning becomes truly great. This is a work of superb intelligence, among the most powerful and thought-provoking I have ever read.
Won't convince the skeptical Dec 7, 2002
Overall, this is an interesting, concise presentation of the anthropological importance of the contents of biblical narratives as contrasted with the the other narratives close in proximity in the general sectarian milieu from which the Bible emerged. Though a certain way of thinking and approaching the texts is explored that is itself dynamic and inspiring, it fails to be more than merely rhetorically convincing. Strangly, Girard claims throughout his text that his observations and interpretations are neither apologetic or biased towards Christian interpretation but, rather, scientific. While it is plausible that the scientific side of his argument has been established in greater detail by those that endorse his theories about mimetic desire culminating violence in human societies and as the foundation of human society, it's not contained in these pages. Nonetheless, this still serves as an interesting introduction to Girard's ideas being both short and straightforward.
French Egghead Knows His Stuff Jun 17, 2001
Not an easy book to summarize. Girard is a French egghead and former Stanford professor who believes to understand human behavior, we must first understand something he terms*mimetic desire*. . .with mimetic desire meaning that people only desire what other people have or what other people desire. Simply put, people imitate the desires of other people (role models). Further, this imitation leads to conflict (Girard terms this conflict *scandal*) which turns violent. This violence threatens to tear apart communities, and is only remedied when all rivals of mimetic desire unite against a single victim, and sacrifice that victim (a *scapegoat*). Girard identifies Satan as both the instigator of scandals, which cause the disorder, and the sacrifices of the victims, which then restore order. Hence, Girard answers Christ's famous question "how can Satan cast out Satan?" Satan causes disorder in the world, and then restores order in the world, in order to remain in control of the world. Girard demonstrates in this amazing book that human sacrifice is the very foundation of civilization (similar to The J Man's own theories as outlined in The Cain Theory of Civilization). Of course, the greatest example of the *single victim mechanism* is the crucifixion of Jesus. Jerusalem is on the brink of riot, but the masses imitate the murderous desire of the Jewish hierarchy toward Christ. So powerful is the violent contagion of this mimetic desire, even Jesus' disciples become infected (Peter's denial of Christ being the most famous example). The crucifixion of Christ, sanctioned by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, placates the mob and restores order. Hence, Satan believes once again his *single victim mechanism* will enable him to maintain control of the world, and also to defeat the Son of God. Satan, the Accuser, has accused Christ before the crowd, and the crowd has believed Satan's lie. They call for Christ to be put to death. Girard reveals Satan has used this tactic over and over again throughout human history. It is the cornerstone of the myths and false religions which hold the world in his bondage. But Christ defeats Satan at his own game, through the Resurrection. The Resurrection unmasks Satan as an impostor. Christ's innocence, revealed by the Resurrection, nails Satan's accusation to the cross, and publicly exposes it for the lie it is. Christ's resurrection frees His disciples from the violent contagion of mimetic desire, and they set about to take the Gospel to the world. As Paul wrote, it is the power of the cross "which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory" (I Corinthians 2:8). This is an academic text, not easy to read and not without its flaws (Girard is foggy on the exact nature of Satan, and is not a Bible literalist), but Girard's understanding of human behavior as the Bible reveals it, and Satan's ability to manipulate human behavior, make this an important book to read in an age when the violent contagion of mimetic desire unites the world again and again in near-planetary acts of *single victim mechanics* (Iraq, Serbia). . .with those acts seeming as test runs for the Apocalypse to come.