Theology, Disability, and the Body of Christ
Studies in Religion, Theology, and Disability
Imprint: Baylor University Press
392 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: August 2020
The church welcomes all—or it should.
The church has long proven itself a safe refuge despite the sad reality that it can be, and has been, unwelcoming toward those perceived as different. This is especially true of the contemporary church’s response to those with disabilities—a response often at surprising variance with its historic practices of care. The church once helped shape western morality to cherish these individuals with love and acceptance. It is thus ironic when today’s church neglects this care, or practices care with no awareness of the rich theological history out of which such moral sensibilities originally emerged. In Wondrously Wounded, Brian Brock reclaims the church’s historic theology of disability and extends it to demonstrate that people with disabilities, like all created in God’s image, are servants of God’s redemptive work.
Brock divides his volume into five parts. Part one chronicles how early Christianity valued and cared for those with disabilities, putting into practice Jesus’ teachings about divine mercy in decidedly countercultural ways. Part two details how a rise in the fear of disability tempted the church away from these merciful practices as well as its confession of the infinite worth of all God has created. Part three traces how the fear of difference continues to negatively shape contemporary practices in today’s schools, churches, and politics. Part four lays the foundations of a vision of Christian life that is resistant to this pervasive fear. Finally, Part five shows how the recognition of all people as part of the body of Christ not only demonstrates the love of Christ but displaces the fear of disability in a manner that invites the church beyond even the most ambitious contemporary hopes for full inclusion.
Brock interweaves his historical and theological analysis with the narrative of his own disabled son, Adam. These stories vividly bring into view the vulnerability, as well as the power, of the disabled in contemporary society. Ultimately, Brock argues, those with disabilities are conduits of spiritual gifts that the church desperately needs. Wondrously Wounded is an appeal to the church to find itself broken and remade by the presence of Christ on offer in the lives of those society has labeled "disabled."
Introduction: Disability as a Matter of the Heart
Part One: Disability in the Christian Tradition
1. Wonders from Jesus to Augustine
2. Wonders from Christendom to Modernity
Part Two: Welcome and Screening—Doxology and Anti-Doxology
3. Practicing Welcome in the New World of Genetic Testing
4. Prenatal Testing as Anti-Doxology
Part Three: Systems, Norms, and Modern Medicine—Attending to Creatures
5. Two Critiques of Orthodox Medical Ethics
6. Quality of Life in an Industrialized Age
Part Four: The Everydayness of Mercy and Wonder
7. Health in a Fallen World
8. Autism and Christian Hope
Part Five: Body-Life as the Communicative Life of the Worshiping Community
9. The Peculiar Togetherness of the Body of Christ
10. A Remarkable Stroke in a Strange and Remarkable War
Brian Brock shows us how ‘wonder’ better describes the disabled than ‘the disabled.’ More precisely, he shows us how shared life with the disabled naturally enjoins us to wonder. Despite our contemporary culture’s inability to receive the world as gift, God won’t give up on us. The fact that Brock makes this argument by marshaling theological resources in order to tell the beautiful story of his son Adam tells everything you need to know about the courage, insight and power of Wondrously Wounded.~Jonathan Tran, Associate Professor of Philosophical Theology and George W. Baines Chair of Religion, Baylor University
This is a powerful book. Situated by his experience as a parent of a child with disabilities and drawing from a wide-ranging engagement with Christian traditions, Brock’s analysis offers rich theological and ethical insights that cultivate fertile new ground for reimagining disability outside modern frames of normalcy. The book is sure to become a standard reference in the field. But more, it should be read by all those studying Christian theology and ethics, and learning to live and wonder as members of one another in the Body of Christ.~Thomas E. Reynolds, Vice-Principal and Associate Professor of Theology, University of Toronto
…This book is a wonder. Filled with insight, passion, and love, it calls us to open our eyes and find God at work through the Holy Spirit in each member of Christ’s body.~Aaron Klink, The Christian Century
The strengths of Wondrously Wounded are legion....With hope he calls the church to a far deeper and more challenging vocation, seeing it as a traiing ground for eliminating modernity’s exclusionary categories that the church too often capitulates to.~Jason Reimer Greig, The Conrad Grebel Review
There is much to be gained from reading Brock’s well‐researched book, as it deftly combines familiar questions and themes in theology and disability with new insights and surprising emphases. Above all, the author loves rigorous theological argument and analysis, as is displayed by his abundant and frequently rich notes.~Hans S. Reinders, Modern Theology
Brock is speaking with confidence about the paradoxes in modern medical thought and practice and about the uneasy way in which modern Christians have adopted secular consumeristic assumptions. His is a powerful call to arms: to resist the social and cultural structures that induce us to distance ourselves from other and to accept the powerful command of the spirit to receive and embrace others. All of this he grounds in a richly developed incarnational theology of the flesh that is practically brought to bear upon the practices of societies and communities that should know better.~Candida Moss, Scottish Journal of Theology
... Wondrously Wounded is an impressive achievement. Within it, Brock engages a wide range of voices from ancient, medieval, reformational, and modern theologians to medical ethicists and disability researchers. It would benefit not only theologians who are already invested in theological reflection upon disability, but those interested in theological anthropology, medical ethics, and ecclesiology.~Shaun C. Brown, Reading Religion