disability and theology #6

For the previous posts on disability and theology click HERE.
For full references, download the reference list HERE.

In truth, no person is without impairment in some form because none manifests the fullness of the image of God in which we are created.
Birch 2007 p185

The human experience of embodiment is really complex. By using the terms ‘disabled’ and ‘able-bodied’ we create two pretty artificial categories. Everybody’s experience of their physical and mental capacity is unique. Indeed, we can have great gifts in one area and be limited in others.

Some authors, like Thomas Reynolds, suggest people are only more or less limited than one another; that disability is simply the manifestation of human vulnerability. And before we jump to thinking that limitedness is a function of the fall, it might be useful to remember that even Adam needed a helper … he wasn’t wholly self-sufficient.

Authors who ask us to recognise our own brokenness often do so in order to elicit our solidarity with people our society would label as ‘disabled’. What this ought to do is help us (whether we have a disability ourselves or not) to regard people with a disability as close to ourselves. It is a framework that can help us love each other better.

But I do think it would be harmful to suggest that there is no difference between the experience of people with a disability and able-bodied people. There are many material ways in which people with a disability are discriminated against in which the able-bodied are not. We must not let a legitimate desire for solidarity blind us to the very real ways in which our society facilitates the exclusion of some, lest we become like the fool who declares ” ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’ without giving them the things needed for the body” (James 2:16).


  1. I did start reading Reynolds for an essay, I was thoroughly enjoying it but never got back to it. Maybe I should get back to it. I liked the idea of a spectrum of ‘ability’ that you mention above. It rings true with discussions that Lisa and I have had.
    I reckon disability is on the cutting edge of Christian anthropology at the mo’ and I am enjoying these insightful posts.
    Hope you guys are having fun os!

    1. Thanks John – I wish I’d had more of a chance to get a bit deeper into what Reynolds had to say too. Would love to hear about the conversations you and Lisa have been having when we get back to Oz!

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