Wednesday, May 20, 2009

amos yong’s theology and disability chapter 6

Chapter 6 – Reimaging the Doctrines of Creation, Providence, and the Imago Dei. Rehabilitating Down Syndrome and Disability, pp. 155-193. (For earlier: see Yong’s Chapter one; Yong’s Chapter two; Yong’s Chapter three.)

This is a superb chapter. Yong points out how destructive to the disabled are traditional Christian understandings of creation. “Put most succinctly, if God is the creator and sustainer of the world and all that is in it, then God is also responsible for disability.” (162). Yong then explores what I would call “the dark side” of the theory of evolution: that is, that just as genetic variation ensures survival of the fittest, so it produces the chromosonal abnormalities including the likes of Downs Syndrome.

Given these observations, both of theology and of evolution, what follows is a reformulation of doctrines of sin and Fall, a movement from “the idea of divine omnipotence causing all events to divine omnicompassion redeeming all events.” (169) Yong’s use of the four fences of the Chalcedonian Creed is a creative refreshing of classical Christian understandings.

This continues as Yong turns to Jesus. He notes recent advances in neuroscience and an emergent (nothing to with church) anthropology, which defines humans in holistic and relational terms, and explores this as a potential way to move beyond more functional (people have value because of what they do) and materialistic (people have value because of what they earn) notions of being human. “A disability perspective exposes how modernity’s notions of freedom, autonomy, and expertise undermine the kind of social flourishing that comes with mutuality, reciprocity, and interrelationality.” (187)

Yong explores the nailscarred and tortured body of Jesus as a “disabled God.” This allows him to connect Jesus, creation, being human and disability. “God’s redemptive work as revealed in the cross and resurrection also illuminates divine nonviolence and nonintrusive action that effectively, even miraculously, brings life out of death, novelty out of impossibility, and beauty out of suffering and hardship.” (180)

This offers a way to respect and seek redemption for all human beings. “Hence, the question concerns not the dependence of the disabled on the nondisabled but the other way around: the nondisabled are dependent on the disabled, whom God has chosen to be a means of saving grace.” (188)

It is a fresh and challenging chapter. Yong has a creative mind. He is reading widely and summarising superly. All the time, his personal experience of disability lends authenticity and groundedness.

Posted by steve at 03:11 PM

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