I laughed out loud at myself when I ran across the first sentence to this post. It seems I have been comparing and contrasting things from the beginning of my writing for the blog.
This was written and first published on the old disability ministry blog site on October 6, 2008. It looked so awful there that I’m posting it in its entirety here:
I was reading two different articles recently, and found the contrast between them to be startling.
The first was by a mother of a child with Down Syndrome, and her desire to understand it from a biblical perspective:
(You can read the whole article here: God, do you care)
Here’s the situation. Moses is at the burning bush. God wants him to go to Pharaoh, and Moses begins making excuses. “Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently, nor in time past, nor since Thou hast spoken to Thy servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” And the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.” Exodus 4:10-12
Here the Lord is taking responsibility for a “disability.” And He claimed to have made it that way on purpose! (emphasis mine) My Mary was not a genetic “accident.” She was designed that way by God. But the real exciting thing is that God doesn’t see dumbness, or blindness or deafness as a disability at all. He couldn’t see any reason that Moses’ speech impediment should stop him. God promised to not only be with him, but to teach his mouth what to say. Moses’ success in life did not depend on his own skills, but on the God who would be with him.
Now contrast the above with a more scholarly look at disability and theology:
(You can read the entire article, a book review of The Disabled God, here: Theology Today )
Any given event or series of events in the world – a Beethoven symphony; the overthrow of long-established repressive governments in eastern Europe; the church bus crash in Carrollton County, Kentucky, killing thirty-seven children; the governmentally-sanctioned disappearance, torture, and killing of hundreds of Argentinean citizens during the 1970s; the birth of “crack” babies and babies born with AIDS or other horrible maladies-is seen not as lying under or within God’s controlling power and will, but as emerging from a multiplicity of factors. God is one determining factor, even a necessary determining factor, but not the controlling, determining factor. (emphasis mine)
There is a world because there is God, but every event in that world arises out of the mutually creative activities of God and the creatures. In this sense, though strictly in this sense, God and the world are co-creators of each event. God draws the world into being and draws individual creatures toward particular, relevant responses on the basis of God’s aims of love, justice, and richness of experience. But creatures respond not only to God’s aim but out of their own history, environment, and perspective. That response can vary from radical rejection of God’s will to mild qualification. Thus, in this view, Hitler’s murderous policy toward European Jews or the recent Philippine earthquake or the AIDS epidemic or deafness or blindness or paralysis of limbs would never simply be attributed to God. (emphasis mine) Rather, God would be seen as responding to these kinds of events as God responds to all kinds of events: by seeking to draw or lure from them consequences that are compassionate, creative, and redemptive.
Why the difference? A first answer is that this mother is taking into consideration the entire scripture, rather than a single text. Knowing all the scripture is important to grasping something of the character of God. In this case, she sees, rightly, that God claims responsibility for hard things like disability. In Exodus 4 and John 9, God specifically says he created some to be disabled – end of story, no other explanation possible. And thus she is able to grasp something of the wisdom of God:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-17
The second answer is that this mother is taking seriously that God is God, and has authority over everything:
But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? Romas 9:20-21
It is best summed up by this quote from Abraham Kuyper:
There is not an inch in the whole area of human existence of which Christ, the sovereign of all, does not cry ‘It is mine.’
Oh people of God, cling to that kind of sovereign, powerful Jesus, and not one who is ‘just one factor’ in all that happens in the world!