Disability, Theology, and the Cross of Christ
Studies in Religion, Theology, and Disability
Imprint: Baylor University Press
208 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.00 in
- Published: April 2021
The atonement—where God in Jesus Christ addresses sin and the whole of the human predicament—lies at the heart of the Christian faith and life. Its saving power is for all people, and yet a deep hesitancy has prevented meaningful discussion of the cross’ relevance for people with disabilities. Speaking of disability and the multifaceted concept of the atonement has created an unresolvable tension, not least because sin and disability often seem to be associated within the biblical text. While work in disability theology has made great progress in developing a positive theological framework for disability as an integral part of human diversity, it has so far fallen short of grappling with this particular set of interpretive challenges presented by the cross.
In Accessible Atonement, reflecting on his experience as both a pastor and a theologian, David McLachlan brings the themes and objectives of disability theology into close conversation with traditional ideas of the cross as Jesus’ sacrifice, justice, and victory. From this conversation emerges an account of the atonement as God’s deepest, once-for-all participation in both the moral and contingent risk of creation, where all that alienates us from God and each other is addressed. Such an atonement is inherently inclusive of all people and is not one that is extended to disability as a "special case." This approach to the atonement opens up space to address both the redemption of sin and the possibilities of spiritual and bodily healing.
What McLachlan leads us to discover is that, when revisited in this way, the cross—perhaps surprisingly—becomes the cornerstone of Christian disability theology and the foundation of many of its arguments. Far from excluding those who find themselves physically or mentally outside of assumed "norms," the atoning death of Christ creates a vital space of inclusion and affirmation for such persons within the life of the church.
Part 1. Current interactions
1 Disability Theology and the Cross
2 Making Sense of the Atonement: Models, Theories, and Metaphor
3 Seeking Connections: First Steps in a Response
Part 2. Proposed Interactions
4 Atonement-as-Participation: An Inherently Inclusive Account
5 The Cross as the Foundation for Disability Theology
6 Continuity of the Traditional Models
By using disability as a lens through which to explore the ramifications of traditional understandings of atonement, McLachlan made me realize that I have often struggled with the ways that sin is so awkwardly and unfairly used as a reason for disability. Seeing atonement as God’s deepest participation in the contingencies of creation indeed gives me new and solid ground on which to stand, as I believe it will for many others.~Bill Gaventa, author of Disability and Spirituality: Recovering Wholeness and Founder and Director Emeritus, Institute on Theology and Disability
While much has been written on disability theology and theories of atonement, little work has yet been done on how the two fields interconnect. In this important and timely work, David McLachlan shows how rich and mutually enlightening a conversation can be had when both topics are considered together. This groundbreaking book investigates this conversation with care and precision, showing how ideas from each field should challenge and refine our thinking in the other. This is invaluable reading for all concerned about reflecting on and practicing real inclusion in the Church.~Eleanor McLaughlin, Lecturer in Theology and Ethics, Regent's Park College, University of Oxford
This lucid and compelling study is the fruit of many years’ reflection. McLachlan considers disability theology and the cross of Christ in such a way that both are illuminated. This is a pathbreaking work. Those who have already thought deeply about the issues raised in these pages will benefit greatly from engaging with the author’s arguments. Those who are new to the field of disability theology will struggle to find a more insightful or satisfying introduction. Highly commended.~Peter Morden, Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Spurgeon’s College, London, and Honorary Research Fellow, Bristol Baptist College