Will Disability Endure in Heaven?
Increasingly, differently abled (not a recognized phrase by my spell checker as it changed it to “differently ambled”) persons, mostly Christians, are arguing that their disabilities will remain with them in heaven, in the resurrection. A cynic might say they are just trying to normalize their disabilities and make themselves and others think their disabilities do not diminish their value (which they do not).
This is a theological question and not a subjective question about what some people want to be the case. However, as a theologian, I have no quarrel with people who want to think that their disabilities will continue in heaven. However, I wouldn’t preach that. Not everyone with a disability would be encouraged by such a message.
But let’s think about the question a bit more deeply. As usual, I go to the most extreme case (of what would be the case if the argument held). Imagine a person born with no arms or legs. Or imagine a person who in life acquired quadriplegia. Do those who argue that their hearing deficit or blindness will continue with them in heaven want to say that those persons’ disabilities will be the case in heaven? Again, and more, will there be wheelchairs in heaven? I could go on. Will there be dementia in heaven?
I fully sympathize with those disabled or differently abled persons who do not wish their disability to be considered a “drag” on their full and true humanity. If, within churches, they have come to feel that others consider that to be true, their churches have failed them. Every person, whatever their abilities or disabilities, are of equal value to God and should be of equal value to us.
However, speaking only for myself, I hope that in heaven I will not be old. Old age brings with it many disabilities—compared with, say, thirty years of age. That is why Saint Augustine argued that in heaven, in the resurrection, everyone will be thirty years old. It’s the perfect age because, he said, everyone over thirty would like to be thirty again and everyone under thirty would like to be thirty. I don’t know about that, but it sounds reasonable to me 🙂
So what can we say about this biblically? Well, in his resurrection, Jesus Christ still had his crucifixion scars. One hymn writer wrote about his scars in heaven “in beauty glorified.” What does that mean? Could it be that we will each have our human bodies as they were on earth but without our disabilities disabling us? Could it be that a deaf person will still be deaf but able to “know” what others are saying and what beautiful sounds surround them? Could it be that a blind person will still be blind but not sightless? This is all certainly speculative and paradoxical, but there are mysteries about our existences in the eschaton that cannot now be resolved? I think so.
Personally, I like to think that in heaven, in the resurrection, our bodies and minds will be pristine, free of any impediments to a full and free enjoyment of life. But, if someone says to me he or she would like to be deaf or blind in heaven, I will not argue with him or her. However, as a theologian, I simply beg to disagree. And I am sure that teaching that would offend (or make sad) as many if not more disabled people than it would encourage or make happy.
*Note: If you choose to comment, make sure your comment is relatively brief (no more than 100 words), on topic, addressed to me, civil and respectful (not hostile or argumentative), and devoid of pictures or links.*