Friday, August 3, 2012

Book Review: Disability and the Gospel

Disability and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace. Michael S. Beates. 2012. Crossway. 192 pages.

I've read many books on the gospel, but this is my first book that I've read that addresses disability and "brokenness." In part one, Beates addresses what the Bible has to say about the image of God, what it means to be made in the image of God, what the fall did to that image, how some reflect brokenness more visibly than others--but all are are in fact broken. In the first chapter, he looks for God's voice in the Old Testament; in the second chapter, he looks for God's voice in the four gospels; in the third chapter, he looks for God's voice in the rest of the New Testament; in the fourth chapter, he makes his conclusions about what the Bible as a whole has to say to disabled people, to the church, to believers everywhere. In part two, he has pulled together voices from the past. These writers aren't addressing physical (or mental) disabilities so much as they are addressing "the image of God" and what being created in God's image means to humanity. What does being made in God's image mean. Was that image broken completely by the fall? Do men and women still reflect God's image? Is God's Image just about morality OR just about intellectual reasoning OR just about emotion? In the fifth chapter, he looks at ancient sources; in the sixth chapter, he looks at more modern sources. In part three, Beates examines voices of today. In chapter seven, he looks at secular sources. In chapter eight, he examines "Christian" sources--conservative and liberal. These two chapters examine the definition of human life, or, what it means to be considered as being both human and alive. Are there "degrees" of worth and value? Are there "degrees" of being alive? Some are seen as having more value, obviously, and others are seen as being expendable. In the secular chapter, there are (disturbing) examples of people whose "humanity" has been taken away, or, argued away. Frightening judgments being made about who has a right to live, and who should "mercifully" be killed. In part four, Beates addresses the church and looks ahead to the future. Chapter nine being titled, "What the Church Must Say to the World In the Twenty-First Century" and chapter ten being titled, "Sovereignty and the Whispering Voice of Hope." He definitely argues that the church needs to be doing more to reach out to those with disabilities, to families with disabled members. For example, he shares stories he's heard from different people about how they have visited churches--in some cases church after church after church after church--and been turned away because of disruptions and differences. He argues that the Christian church is NOT complete until it includes those with disabilities. He definitely asks some hard questions.

Why do we in the evangelical church in the West demand that everyone be "normal" and look the same? Why do we as a culture try so hard (and succeed so well!) at hiding people with disabilities from our everyday view? Why do people with visible and invisible brokenness often feel as though they have to hide the problem in order to join God's people for worship? And finally, and perhaps most importantly, what answers does the good news of the gospel give us for these questions, and how does the gospel give us hope in these situations? (16-7)
How can the church embrace people with disabilities more biblically and more effectively and thus live the gospel more fully before the watching world? We must set out to destroy some dangerously outmoded concepts about people with disabilities and how they must be treated. We must revisit our deeply ensconced cultural assumptions about what it means to be 'normal' as opposed to what it might mean to live for years in a state that must be considered 'brokenness.' (19)
Disability & The Gospel is a thought-provoking book. It might at first appear only to be about disabilities--mental, physical, emotional, etc. But it is about so much more. It is about what it means to be human, about the value of human life, the value placed in human life by the Creator, about what it means to be created by God and for God--in God's image. It is about how people should treat each other IN LIGHT OF THE FACT that humans have been created in God's Image. No life is worthless, no life is expendable. Some people are more obviously "broken" than others--but ALL are broken on the inside and in need of God's mercy and grace IF they are to be saved. Christians should recognize not only their own brokenness but others as well. They should be welcoming and accepting--recognizing the fact that they have much to learn. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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