Thursday, November 20, 2008

amos yong’s theology and disability chapter 2

Chapter Two – The Blind, the Deaf, and the Lame. Biblical and Historical Trajectories.
Yong considers how “disability” has been portrayed in the Bible and in church history. “The reader should be warned that some of what follows may be discouraging and even depressing, especially when read by a person with disability looking for biblical edification.” (21). Notions of God healing in reality communicate that people with disabilities are in some way lesser in God’s Kingdom. Disability is linked to evil spirits in some New Testament texts (eg Mark 1:32-34), while other texts hint that disability is linked to personal sin (John 5:14). “Clearly, then, “disability” in the New Testament funtions rhetorically to call attention to negative realities such as sin, evil spirits, spiritual degeneration, and moral reprobation.” (27).

While a number of Christian saints were disabled, including Margaret of Castello (1287-1320) and Teresa de Cartenga (born 1415-1420), the Reformation period offers a bleak picture of the church’s attitudes toward disability. Luther suggested a 12 year old mentally retarded boy be drowned because he was deemed demon possessed. When John Locke, Essays Concerning Human Understanding (1690) chose to define human beings on basis of rationality, he noted that those unable to think rationally were thus less than human. For Locke, this justified infanticide of the disabled.

Yong then summarises what he considers to be a theology of disability present in the church today.
1 – disabilities are ordained or permitted by God
2 – people who are disabled are encouraged to trust God
3 – church is to meet these people’s needs.
Yong is not convinced that such a theology is robust enough. He is on a mission, to redeem what he considers a poor and simplistic reading of the Bible, along with poorly applied theologies through history.

Until you read this chapter, what theological answers would you have given to the topic of human disability? Have you considered before the underlying messages given to the differently-abled by an intellectual and logical approach to Christianity?

Posted by steve at 04:54 PM

1 Comment

  1. John Hall, former Professor of Religious Studies at Birmingham University makes similar and perceptive comments about the biblical portryal of blindness and the use of light/darkness, which has a different resonance when you are partiallly sighted or blind, as in his case. It offers a completely different reading depending on your location to the text.

    Comment by Gary Manders — November 21, 2008 @ 1:20 am

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