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A crowd of women watch from under a tree as Jacob wrestles with the angel.

How Disability Reframes Humanity

“Wrestling with oneself, with one’s past, with one’s relationships, with God … These stories push us to use disability to think about the human condition more broadly.” Longstanding narratives about disability shaped our emotional responses, our caregiving responses, and our social commentary, and our treatment of the disabled. But what if we saw disability as the site of divine revelation about God’s kingdom and our place in it? As an expression of power and wisdom and agency, rather than a merely a source of suffering and lack and ignorance. Calli Micale (Palmer Theological Seminary) joins Evan Rosa to discuss how disability reframes our humanity in the Bible. They reflect on three passages: starting in the Old Testament—in Genesis 32—with the story of Jacob wrestling with the Angel, and walking away with much more than a limp and a new name. Continuing with the Gospel, John 9, the story of the Man Born Blind, famous for at least two reasons: the utter stupidity of the disciples to assume “Rabbi, who sinned that this man was born blind?” and the utter visceral of having Jesus make mud with his spit and rub it in the man’s eyes. And finally The Gospel of Mark, chapter 5, the story of the bleeding woman—a story of reaching out in desperate faith, an act of incredible agency and audacity, to touch the edge of Jesus’s garment and be healed. Whether its intellectual disability or physical disability, and regardless of how its acquired, disability plays a role in what we might call God’s subversive kingdom. God’s upside-down-ness (or, maybe we should say human upside-down-ness). The least of these in the eyes of human society are chosen by God to communicate the good news of shalom and justice and salvation—that even those who are already “whole” can be saved. This episode was made possible in part by the generous support of the Tyndale House Foundation. For more information, visit tyndale.foundation.

lines, dots, staircase, stairs

Tolerating Doubt & Ambiguity

Is your faith a house of cards? If you were wrong about one belief would the whole structure just collapse? If even one injury came to you, one instance of broken trust, would the whole castle fall? If one element was seemingly inconsistent or incompatible—would you burn down the house? This depiction of the psychology of faith is quite fragile. It falls over to even the lightest breath. But what would a flexible faith be? Resilient to even the heaviest gusts of life’s hurricanes. It would adapt and grow as a living, responsive faith. Psychologist Elizabeth Hall joins Evan Rosa to discuss the domains of psychology and theology and what it means for each to “stay in their lane”; she introduces a distinction between implicit and explicit knowledge, and identifies the social- and self-imposed pressure to know everything with certainty; we reflect on the recent trends toward deconversion from faith in light of these pressures; and she offers psychologically grounded guidance for approaching doubt and ambiguity in a secure relational context, seeking to make the unspoken or implicit doubts explicit. Rather than remaining perched upon our individualized, certainty-driven house-of-card faith; she lays out a way to inhabit a flexible, resilient, and relationally grounded faith, tolerant of ambiguity and adaptive and secure amidst all our winds of doubt. This episode was made possible in part by the generous support of Blueprint 1543. For more information, visit Blueprint1543.org.

A person working on a metal aerial sign with a lightbulb cut out.

Taking Theology Seriously

Over the past two centuries, colleges have slowly replaced theology departments with religious studies departments. But what happens when theology becomes religious studies? It can produce a more neutral, observational approach that might not fully appreciate the normative claims of religious adherents and their values, commitments, and beliefs. A careful historical and objective study of religious history and the dimensions of religious practice are deeply valuable. But engaging religious texts and voices without a serious appreciation for the normative elements—that is, the things about a theological or religious idea that means your life would have to change—that would be a problem. It would evacuate the true substance and meaning of theological claims as they're experienced by religious adherents. But it would also fail to form students of religion and the humanities in a way that poses significant challenges to their own lived experience. For living a life worthy of their humanity. Today, we share a conversation between Tyler Roberts and Matt Croasmun from November 2016. Tragically, Roberts died at the age of 61 on June 3, 2021. He was Professor of Religious Studies at Grinnell College. In this conversation, Roberts reflects on the contribution of theology to the humanities, the role of religious studies in a critical examination of theology, and the importance of appreciating the kinds of theological and moral claims that can change your life. May his memory be a blessing.

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