What do I think of Bethany McKinney Fox’s book published by IVP Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Normally when I get a chance to read anything on the disabled community, I jump at it. After all, I am on the autism spectrum having Aspergers and my wife also has the condition as well as Borderline, PTSD, and a few others. Disability awareness is something important to both of us.
Yet I wondered how much could be said on disability and the way of Jesus. After all, when you read the Gospels, it looks pretty clear. A person with a disability comes to Jesus. Jesus heals them. Many times, the story is complete at that point. What am I missing?
For a start, I was pleased to see that Fox goes into the culture of the Bible and points out how we talk about biomedical healing more than anything else. For the ancient perspective, there were also problems of the soul and those were believed to affect physical health. We know today they weren’t entirely wrong either. You kill someone’s spirit as it were and they will suffer physical maladies often.
There was also not only the sickness itself, but also the way the sickness was perceived. In Jesus’s day, a leper didn’t just had leprosy. He was an outcast to the community and cut off from society and would have to shout out that he was unclean when he walked down the street so people wouldn’t get close to him. The woman with the issue of blood would know this as well since blood rendered one unclean.
Some people might not actually appreciate a desire to heal. For my own part, if there was announced tomorrow a cure for Aspergers that anyone could take and would be free with no side effects, I would say “Thanks, but no thanks.” Do I have some disadvantages in social situations and with my diet and such? Absolutely, but I would rather have those than risk losing the intellectual advantages that I think Aspergers gives me.
It’s presumptuous to go up to a person who has a disability and immediately give a prayer for healing. Many people might not want healing in that way and think that their disability is being used for the glory of God. Not only that, but you are implying automatically that there is something defective about them and they need to be cured so they can be normal, you know, like you.
From here, Fox goes on to interact with people in the medical field who also specialize in the New Testament. Here we get insights into how they see healing in the texts. Healing is also not just physical, but can often be connected to salvation, even with the word we use for being saved referring to someone being healed.
But why not go to the disabled themselves? Fox does that, talking to people with disabilities who again specialize in Biblical studies in some way. They share their insights into how they see the text and what it means. There are a number of hermeneutics for approaching the text from a disabled perspective and readers will agree and disagree with some perspectives here.
After this, Fox goes on to interview pastors of seven different churches in her part of the world, all of them rather large churches, to see how they approach disability. Some did have healing services. Some fully integrated the disabled into their community. One pastor even had a disability himself.
Finally, we get to the way of Jesus. This is the most important part of the book, of course, so I will not be saying anything about it. After all, you need to get the book yourself and read it for yourself, but many of Fox’s ideas I hope would get embraced in the church. There are several people with disabilities and they need Jesus just as much as anyone else does.
Please go and get this book and read it. Try to make your church friendly towards people with disabilities. They can be some of the best people you will ever know.