I was recently visiting another blog (nicea.blogspot.com) where there were
discussions about Barth's ideas on election. These postings caused me to wonder
about election as it relates to individuals with mental retardation. There are
those who would say that by virtue of impaired cognitive abilities, these
individuals have been elected and are on the salvation fast track. Interesting
that biological conditions could have such spiritual implications.
Let us assume two things, for a moment. First, that people are created by God in God's image. So when God tells Moses, "who makes the mouth of man" (Exodus 4:11) He is implying, "I made your mouth the way it is." In the case of Paul who asks for a disability to be taken from him, his "thorn in the flesh" God's response is "My grace is sufficient for you my power is perfected in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). So first, people are made the way they are, they are not mistakes. Secondly, if people with severe cognitive disabilities are automatically saved by virtue of their impaired condition, a view held by some, then salvation efforts on our part are unnecessary (a reason I have been given at times for a lack of involvement by the church towards such people). Now obviously you may not agree with either of these propositions. Maybe you think disability is not an expression of God's creative range. You might also think that people with cognitive disabilities, particularly severe cognitive disabilities are not saved even though they have limited cognitive ability restricting their ability to respond to the gospel message. I will give you both of those points. I will give you that the issues I am describing in a very cursory fashion need much more research and thought.
However, if God has placed among us, people that He designed, who He plans to "save" simply by virtue of the fact that they have a limited opportunity to respond, well, it just seems to me that I might pay attention to those people in order to understand what God is telling me about Himself and about myself by putting people with such characteristics in our midst.
If people are not given a pass regarding salvation, then how would a loving and just God facilitate salvation for such people? Could there be a kind of a community component to salvation for such people? I note in the passage where the paralyzed man is lowered through the roof (Luke 5:20) it says "Seeing their faith, He (Jesus) said, Friend, your sins are forgiven you." Seeing the faith of those who lowered him through the roof, he forgives the disabled man of his sins. Very interesting. He doesn't say, "friend you are healed," he says "friend your sins are forgiven you." He does later say, "get up and walk" but only to illustrate that He has the power to forgive sins. So it could be that God is looking to us those around people with disabilities to show our faith such that even something as powerful as the forgivness of sins might be seen in another.
Finally, whether or not people with disabilities, particularly those who are born with disabilities are reflective of God's creative range, all disabled people are people who must be respected as people who are equal as people, who are loved as people, and who are valued people. I remember many years ago when a light came on for me that everything in the Bible that I cling to as a Christian applies equally to people who are disabled as well. I had so "othered" people with disabilities, that I didn't see the Bible as even applying to them. I think many people still do that today. They do that in their actions, they do that with their questions. A good friend asked me the other day "How do you deal with people with disabilities in counseling when they 'play games' in counseling using their disability as a crutch?" My response was, "How is that different from any other person who plays games in counseling? How would your response be any different for the person with a disability than any other person?" Can you see how that question sees a person with a disability as something different than just a person?
I have grown to believe that people with disabilities are designed to be as they are because they are critical, they are an essential part of the body of Christ. People with disabilities change the people around them and the enviornments around them, and I think those changes are far and away mostly positive changes. That is not all they bring to a social environment, but it is an important part of what they bring to a social environments.
So after 300 postings at this blog, I still wrestle with the questions I had at the beginning. But God is teaching me and I am gaining new insights. May God grow us all such that we see people as He sees them.