Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Plested, Marcus

Second Advisor

Nussberger, Danielle K.

Third Advisor

Duns, Ryan G.

Abstract

What is the meaning of theories of redemption, and what use do they have? This dissertation answers these questions from the vantage point of two ideas from Girardian Mimetic Theory: the hypothesis that human relationality is rooted in triangular structures of desire, and the hypothesis that the sacrificial death of Christ is what Girard calls a scapegoating event.For Girard, ritual sacrifice is a repetition of an original scapegoating event on which social cohesion depends. With the death of Christ, scapegoating has been denuded and sacrifice rendered inoperable, bringing humanity into a novel historical situation. Using Girard’s early seminal texts alongside crucial developments in his later work, I develop the thesis that the redemptive work is structurally a sacrificial act, but aimed at the transcending of sacrifice and the transformation of the generative potential of scapegoating; correspondingly with this objective redemptive work, believers in Christ undergo a conversion that consists in their re-orientation as subjects within a structure of transcendence determined by this sacrificial generativity. This thesis represents a significantly more systematic appraisal of the positive theological utility of sacrifice than is found in Girard’s work. To bolster my thesis, I reread key biblical and classical theological sources. The biblical foundation narratives and interplay of textual sources witness to a subtle subversion of scapegoating and sacrifice while still relying on sacrifice as an ordering principle. I then examine the paradigmatic theories of redemption of Peter Abelard, Anselm, and Gregory of Nyssa. Each of these theories exhibits the same sacrificial logic, despite the different ways they configure redemption. I conclude that theories of redemption give us ways to map the reality brought about by the process of redemption. They facilitate the believer, whose triangular relationality has been re-oriented toward the transcendent God, in navigating the new situation in which sacrifice has been transformed.

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