Autism and the Church
Bible, Theology, and Community
Imprint: Baylor University Press
239 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 in
- Published: March 2021
An estimated 76 million people worldwide are affected by autism—current figures suggest that 1 in 100 people live somewhere along the autism spectrum, though many remain undiagnosed. Frequently, autism occurs alongside other conditions, such as anxiety or depression. Yet despite autism’s prevalence and impact, the church remains slow to adapt, with responses that are often poorly informed and irresponsible. In Autism and the Church Grant Macaskill provides a careful, attentive, and sustained analysis of the reality of autism within the church and how this should be approached theologically.
Macaskill demonstrates that attempts to read the Bible with reference to autism are often deficient because they move too quickly from the study of particular texts to claims about the condition and how it should be viewed. This leads some Christians to see autism as something that should be healed or even exorcised. Macaskill instead invites readers to struggle with the biblical canon, in ways shaped by the traditions of the early church, to a process of interpretation that calls upon the church, following Christ’s teaching, to cherish those who experience autism as part of the diverse gifting of Christ’s body. Accordingly, he calls churches to consider the implications of autism in their congregations and to explore how best to accommodate the particular needs of autistic people in public worship and pastoral care, while valuing their distinctive contribution. In short, Macaskill challenges the church to "think biblically" about autism.
Autism and the Church teaches readers that those with autism belong to the church, demonstrating that, if responsibly read, the Bible provides a resource that enables the church to recognize the value of those with autism. Macaskill shows how the Bible can help both individuals and church bodies flourish, even as the church deals faithfully with the opportunities and challenges that come with understanding autism. He writes as a biblical scholar intimately familiar with the experience of autism, dealing honestly with the real difficulties that can accompany the condition, while challenging misconceptions.
Introduction: Autism and Church
1. Real Autism: Characteristics and Explanations
2. Autism and the Bible: The Challenge of Reading Responsibly
3. Autism and the Body of Christ: Incarnation for the Church
4. Autism in the Church: A Sensory Space for All God’s People
5. The Dark Side of Autism: Anxiety, Depression, and Addiction
6. Autism and Christian Practices: The Challenge of Pastoral Care
Conclusion: Toward a Theology of Autism
Autism and the Church is a well-researched and beautifully written theological reflection on a much misunderstood condition, the persons who have it, and the body of Christ to which they belong. As a parent of a child with autism, I found the book to be alternatively enlightening, encouraging, pastoral, and profoundly moving. As a biblical scholar and theologian, I appreciated the skill, expertise, and wisdom brought by the author to a diverse set of important questions. Grant Macaskill has given the church and the world a great gift.~Michael Martin, Associate Professor of New Testament, Lubbock Christian University
It’s about time that the 21st century church had some resources to enable consideration of and ministry to and with people with autism. Wherever we find ourselves – or our friends or loved ones – on the spectrum, Grant Macaskill brings his well-honed skills as a biblical scholar to bear on the realities that many in the church live with and face. We find here a theologically rich, practically meaningful, and spiritually encouraging word that will not only enable coping with but also empower faithful discipleship amid the challenges and opportunities autism presents today.~Amos Yong, Professor of Theology & Mission, Fuller Theological Seminary
In this excellent contribution to the field of disability theology, Grant Macaskill brings his skills as a New Testament scholar into critical conversation with the experience of autism. The result is a thorough, humane, and quite fascinating exploration of autism which not only breaks new intellectual ground but also offers fresh possibilities for faithful practices that understand and respect the complexities of living well with autism. This book is an excellent contribution to a growing field of enquiry.~John Swinton, Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies, School of Divinity, University of Aberdeen
Scientifically informed, pastorally sensitive, theologically engaged, and accessibly written, Grant Macaskill’s book will greatly help Christians to ‘think biblically’ about the important issue of autism and about how best to enable people with autism fully to participate in the life of the church. His broadly evangelical principles for engaging scripture in relation to such modern challenges will also help his readers to think wisely and sensitively about other pressing issues too.~David G. Horrell, Professor of New Testament Studies and Director of the Centre for Biblical Studies, University of Exeter
In sum, a terrific book, necessary for anyone who has autism, who has family with autism, or pastors a church with autistic people and their careers. Five stars from me!~Mike Bird, Patheos