Rene Girard on Mousetrap Atonement

…Origin and many of the Greek fathers elaborated a thesis that played a great role as the first centuries of Christianity unfolded, that of Satan duped by the Cross. Satan means the same in this formulation as those St. Paul names as the “princes of this world.” In Western Christianity this thesis has not met with the same favor as in the East, and finally, as far as I know, it disappeared. Western theologians suspected it of being “magical thought.” They have wondered whether it attributes a role to God that is unworthy.
The thesis interprets the Cross as a kind of divine trap, a ruse of God that is even stronger and cleverer than Satan’s ruses. Certain Fathers amplified this idea into a strange metaphor that contributed to the distrust in the West. Christ is compared to the bait the fisher puts on the hook to catch a hungry fish, and that fish is Satan.
The role this discourse ascribes to Satan troubles the Western mind….
Western theology, in rejecting the idea of Satan tricked by the Cross, has lost a pearl of great price in the sphere of anthropology.
Medieval and modern theories of redemption all look in the direction of God for the causes of the Crucifixion: God’s honor, God’s justice, even God’s anger, must be satisfied. These theories don’t succeed because they don’t look seriously in the direction where the answer must lie: sinful humanity, human relations, mimetic contagion, which is the same thing as Satan. They speak much of original sin, but they fail to make the idea concrete. That is why they give an impression of being arbitrary and unjust to human beings, even if they are theologically sound.

…The idea of Satan duped by the Cross is therefore not magical at all and in no way offends the dignity of God. The trick that traps Satan does not include the least bit of either violence or dishonesty on God’s part. It is not really a ruse or trick; it is rather the inability of the prince of this world to understand the divine love. If Satan does not see God, it is because he is violent contagion itself. The devil is extremely clever concerning everything having to do with rivalistic conflicts, with scandals and their outcome in persecution, but he is blind to all reality other than that. Satan turns bad contagion into something I hope not to do myself, a totalitarian and infallible theory that makes the theoretician deaf and blind to the love of God for humankind and to the love that human beings share with God, however imperfectly.”

— Rene Girard, I See Satan Fall like Lightening. (Orbis Books) p. 149 – 151

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