Disability and the Way of Jesus

Disability and the Way of Jesus October 12, 2019

Bethany McKinney Fox
Disability and the Way of Jesus: Holistic Healing in the Gospels and the Church
Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2019.
Available at IVP  and Koorong

By Laura Thierry

The Gospels present us with a stunning picture of a shalomic Messiah who brings healing in abundance. But trying to make sense of and imitate his “healing” within our very different cultural contexts, can, according to the lived experience of many within the Church who experience disability, be anything but healing. How can we understand and live into Jesus’ healing way in a manner that truly brings his Shalom to his image-bearers?

Such complex and essential questions form the spring-board from which Bethany McKinney Fox writes Disability and the Way of Jesus: Holistic Healing in the Gospels and the Church.  It is written with a “constructive purpose” in mind, namely “to create a framework for Christian communities to be places of healing in the way of Jesus, with particular attention to members with disabilities (an attention found in Jesus own life)” (p. 4). The source from which Fox draws this framework is the Gospels’ healing narratives, engaged with extensively, judiciously, and constructively. In doing so she expresses her commitment to carefully avoiding naïve and hurtful applications of the Biblical text, but also holding firmly to their authoritative and fecund nature as Scripture, “not… ignoring the healing narratives but… finding the truly way of Jesus and then following it” (p. 8).

Fox begins by laying forth a set of tools necessary for bridging the gap between the text and today, particularly those of medical anthropology and analogical imagination. An element that makes this first chapter particularly enjoyable (though present throughout the whole book) is the clarity with which Fox defines each new term at its introduction to the conversation. Chapter two proceeds to explore Jesus healing ministry within his own cultural context. This is followed by an enlightening chapter surveying how medical doctors within a largely modern, Western context have understood Jesus’ healing ministry, serving to bring into sharper focus the lens many from the same cultural context will likely share, even if inadvertently. Chapter four brings the voices of those with a lived experience of disability to the conversation as they interpret Jesus’ acts. A chapter in dialogue with the experiences of pastors rounds of the exploration, before Fox concludes with two chapters of constructive application for the building of communities that truly express the healing way of Jesus.

This is a deeply insightful, circumspect, and beneficial book. The integrity of its approach in its ability to both hold onto the goodness of Scripture’s accounts of Jesus’ work, and interpret them with close attention to both our own cultural lens’s and those of the culture into which they were written bears forth valuable, pastorally rich fruit. Additionally, the inclusion of a variety of first-person accounts from the lives and stories of those who experience disability adds pastoral, dignifying depth to the projects constructive goals. Finally, its ability to synthesize current scholarly discussion on disability and biblical studies in a format accessible for the Church is a great gift. As such, Disability and the Way of Jesus provides a timely and valuable contribution to the continuing conversation of how God’s people can faithfully walk in the healing way of Jesus within their unique contexts.

Laura Thierry a PhD student at Ridley College, researching medieval hagiography, Christology, and theology of the body.

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