THEOLOGICAL TEACHINGS ABOUT DISABILITY: IS GOD RESPONSIBLE?

Hermen Kroesbergen

Abstract


This article argues that to know that God is or is not responsible for someone’s suffering is a special kind of knowledge, namely first-person knowledge. First, two examples are discussed: Maggie who feels it to be oppressive that others say that God is responsible for her disability; and Robert who, contrary to his rational beliefs, experiences God behind the crisis in his life. The shift of Paul from praying to remove the thorn in his flesh to accepting it, then, shows that both Maggie and Robert are within the bounds of paradigmatic Christian language. After discussing some inadequate theological ways of speaking about being in God’s hands, it will be concluded that knowing about God’s responsibility for someone’s suffering is first-person knowledge, comparable to our language about feeling pain. Theological teachings about disability – either claiming God is responsible or not – therefore are both pastorally inadequate and conceptually confused.

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