A Critical Examination of the Interaction of Disability Theology and Ideas of Atonement

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • David Mclachlan

Abstract

This thesis brings together two fields of theological ideas. On the one hand, at the heart of Christian theology and faith are the person and work of Jesus Christ, centred on God's initiative of Atonement through the cross. Here God addresses the whole condition of creation and humanity, usually expressed in terms of dealing with sin. On the other hand, the growing field of Christian disability theology is seeking a positive theological account of disability, viewing it as an integral part of the variety of humanity, and resisting normate assumptions that cast what is regarded as disability in a wholly negative light. Drawing these fields together, does the way we think about the Atonement, and what God addresses and achieves through the Atonement, need to be disrupted and re-formed in light of the insights of disability theology? Conversely, if disability theology is to be distinctively Christian, should the Atonement play a far more foundational role within it than it has to date? If so, given the often negative juxtaposition of disability and sin within theology and in biblical texts, how is all this to come about? The approach taken is first to examine both of these fields and the extent of their current interaction. In particular, their use of ideas and metaphor are explored, to determine whether these provide the means for making that interaction more fruitful. However, the interaction is found to be partial at best, and the ideas and metaphors shared are not found to provide the means for the task at hand. Based on that work, however, a proposal is developed for reconsidering what sort of event the Atonement is, and the nature of God's presence within it. Building on insights from Frances Young, Jurgen Moltmann, Eberhard Jungel and Paul Fiddes, it is proposed that the Atonement should be understood as God'™s deepest, once for all participation in the risk (both moral and contingent) of creation, through which all that alienates us from God and each other is addressed. This opens up a theological space to talk of disability, sin and the cross together, one that does not require all aspects of what we identify as disability to fit into a binary sin/not sin analysis. This Atonement-as-participation also provides an account of the Atonement that is inherently inclusive of humanity in all its variety, where disability is not a special case. This enables God's initiative of the Atonement to function as a foundation for the various themes within disability theology as these continue to develop.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date31 Dec 2018