Reading this book by Brian Brock was a mixed experience for me. Parts I found to be excellent, other parts I found to be less so, and some points I felt were clouded by an exterior of biblical interpretation that made me uneasy.
As a person with diagnosed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and with rather thorough theological training I feel I come to this book from a somewhat unusual position. While I have not thoroughly studied disability theology, I have dipped my feet in from time to time.
I approached this book hoping it would help me to better come to terms with my own disability. To some extent, it did. At many turns, Brock offered perspectives and ideas that are too little heard in the church. However, at other turns I felt there were interpretive moves that did not do justice to the Bible. I acknowledge that this is often inevitable when you put two scholars together, but this was at the level that bothered me. It seemed to me that at some points, like the interpretation of Peter and John’s healing of the beggar at the start of Acts and Philip’s talk with the Ethiopian eunuch, there was a move to read into the biblical story a scheme that was already considered right, rather than let God teach us through the story.
All considered, I found the earlier chapters to contain more I considered problematic, but generally overlaying a true and important message. However, the last two chapters I found to be generally excellent. In these, Brock presents a message that the church needs to hear and respond to if it is to live out God’s will. In the last chapter, I enjoyed reading numerous examples of how churches have responded to various different disabilities. This I found to be an invaluable addition to the book, because, as Brock points out, disability is really a catch-all term to describe many varying conditions that are vastly different. Even conditions bearing the same name can lead to vastly different needs. In all cases, responding appropriately involves listening, being flexible, and bearing with one another in love. Essentially, and I can’t remember if Brock mentioned this, this is how the church ought to approach all people, because all of us have our own troubles and unique circumstances.
This book is available to purchase from eden.co.uk.
Phil Foster, Buccluech Free Church