Book Review: Krauß, Anne 2014. Barrierefreie Theologie: Das Werk Ulrich Bachs vorgestellt und weitergedacht

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Anne Krauß is a Protestant Lutheran pastor and hospital chaplain in Bavaria. She speaks from her own life experience due to an impairment of the sense of hearing when she reflects on the work of Ulrich Bach (1931-2009), an evangelical theologian who had Polio and needed assistance in later days. Bach’s Theology after Hadamar (Neukirchen, 2006), following a theology after Ausschwitz (the Jewish Holocaust), forms the cornerstone of his hermeneutic, liberation ideological approach. Krauß’s study appears in the series Behinderung-Theologie-Kirche, edited by Johannes Eurich (Diakoniewis-senschaftliches Institut Heidelberg) and Andreas Lob-Hüdepohl (Katholische Hochschule für Sozialwesen Berlin).

In the introductory chapter, Krauß describes the subject area of disability studies as it has developed and is currently presented, especially in German-speaking countries. The thematic complexes of illness, health, pain, suffering and the question of social identity within these basic states of human existence outline the range of considerations. Moving away from the question of theodicy, she looks at the legal frameworks that move an inclusive theology. Here, the definitions of the World Health Organization (disability, illness, disease) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006, ratified by Germany in 2009) form the basis of her understanding. Bach himself has published tirelessly on this topic since 1973 until most recently in 2006 (see above). Initially, his focus was on the diaconal part of disability studies, due to his work at the Evangelische Stiftung and the Diakonieanstalt Martineum. Later he interfered in the controversial debate about the so-called “Abortion Paragraph” (§218 StGB abortion). In his time, the preference utilitarianism of the Australian ethical philosopher Singer is also discussed intensively (see Practical Etics 1979). Bach vehemently opposes a rational-utilitarian view, just as he opposes what he considers the unjustified termination of a pregnancy on suspicion of disability, since it advances the isolation and segregation of people with physical or mental impairments.

In the second chapter the hermeneutic basis of a “theology after Hadamar” is discussed. This is done in reference to the extermination of disabled people in the Third Reich. In particular, the systematically planned “racial cleansing” action T4, planned in Tiergartenstrasse 4 in Berlin, and executed in Hadamar (Hesse) Grafeneck (Baden-Württemberg), Hartstein (Linz; Austria), Bernburg (Saxony-Anhalt), Sonnenstein (Pirma), and Brandenburg (Saale). From a hermeneutic perspective, Bach lays out a theology of the cross as a divine expression of “weakness” and identification with the weak and those perceived as different (pp. 63-97). His contextual approach borrows from the liberation-theological idealism of those postmodern days (1970-2000) and calls for a reorientation of the church in dealing with people with physical and mental limitations. According to him, every human being without exception is close to God. Evil is not demonstrated in disabled or sick people, but in the rejection of God. Profiling through illness or disability (“God wants to test these people”) contradicts the state of being of an affected person (“I am as I am”). Bach goes radically far here by imputing a “euthanasia mentality” or a “theological social racism” when the theologically significant distinction between healthy and sick people is referred to or held on to. In his opinion, this is the cause of unspeakable, harmful effects. Euthanasia, ableism, a hierarchizing Imago-Dei doctrine, and a Doing-Effecting Relation (Tun-Ergehen Zusammenhang) push people with physical or mental impairments to the sidelines (exclusion instead of inclusion), if not to extinction (euthanasia).

In the third chapter, Krauß discusses Bach’s view of healing and cure. In doing so, Bach contradicts the view of a healing mandate for the church. For him, there is only a preaching mandate. “A church that claims a healing mandate, which it does not have, jeopardizes the preaching mandate it has” (p. 126). Krauß spends a considerable amount of time contradicting Bach on this point. In her view, the longing for healing and a “healed” world is the basis of theology (pp. 134-137). “Without healing there is no salvation,” whereas there is no availability of salvation and one is fishing in the mud, so to speak, when healing is claimed (p. 131). These are the limits of theology and medicine. According to Krauß’ interpretations of Bach, the ideas of salvation that are based on the premises of health, efficiency, perfection (critically Henning Luther p. 144) are to be rejected just as much as a mysticism of suffering (Job’s figure in Schleiermacher; p. 140) or a martyrdom in the shadow of the cross (Barth; p. 141), as it is listed in the theologies of Schleiermacher and Barth as the night and shadow side of creation.

In the fourth chapter Krauß works through Bach’s approach once again. In doing so, she reflects on his attitude according to a “barrier-free theology” (see title). In contrast to the above-mentioned ideal conceptions of human existence, Limitation of existence (Daseins-Einschränkung) and Being-dependent (Angewiesen-Sein) should be emphasized. Both categories reflect the actual normality and interdependence of human beings. Accessible theology in this sense historically-thoughtfully precedes modern ideas of inclusion. Krauß goes further with regard to miracle and healing stories to the Roman Catholic theologian Dorothee Wil-helm (biblical stories speak only of normalization and adaptation; p. 175), Ulrike Metternich (dynamis and not miracle stories; p. 176), Andreas Lob-Hüdepohl (see above miracle stories are relational stories; p. 180), the American theologian Kathy Black (Theology of Interdependence; p. 181). She lists as examples of accessibility theology the approaches of Andrea Bieler/Hans-Martin Gutmann (Theory of the Superfluous; p. 200), Henning Luther (see above diaconal pastoral care as a church paradigm; p. 202), Ulf Liedke (Inclusive Anthropology; p. 204), and Nancy Eiesland (the disabled God; p. 206).

Krauß concludes with a theology of the imperfect, leaving the door open for further approaches to confront the phenomena of segregation, discrimination, and othering of people with physical and mental disabilities. The critical research on the work of Ulrich Bach is a source of struggle, especially in the regional churches, for participation, integration and inclusion of people with disabilities. At the same time, the stimulated and ongoing discourse is a challenge to the actors to approach each other and to represent together the diversity of the body of Christ.


Disability Studies ; Disability and Bible ; Disability and Church ; Hebrew Bible ; disability theology ; hermeneutics ; Hadamar ; theodicy

ook Review: Boase, Roger (ed.) 2005. Islam and Global Dialogue: Religious Pluralism and the Quest for Peace.

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This work, to which 20 authors contributed, is about exploring how Islam as a religious movement has engaged in interfaith dialogue. Roger Boase, was a professor at the University of Fez / Morocco before moving to the University of London. His comments suggest that he himself is a Muslim (post 17; see below). He has collected a motley assortment of authors on the subject of “Islam and religious pluralism”. In doing so, the main part of the work, contributions 4-11 (pp. 77-190), is devoted to Islam and its relationship to the West, in light of Huntington’s Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order (1996). The second main section, contributions 12-19 (pp. 191-273), deals with Jewish, Christian, and Islamic responses to religious differences. In conclusion-as well as implicitly over the entire work-is the appeal to see religious pluralism as an opportunity and as an expression of human and divine multicolor and to condemn religious strife.

In Part 1 of the collection, John Bowden, editor of SCM Press, directs the reader to the historical origins of religious pluralism within the Enlightenment (Contribution 1; pp. 13-20). Diana L. Eck, Indian studies Harvard University, helpfully defines exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism as the three core philosophical currents of religious expression (paper 2; pp. 21-50). The Christian evangelical world is represented in the spectrum from extremely exclusivist, sometimes also called fundamentalist (e.g., p. 13), as expressed, for example, in the Frankfurt Declaration, to less exclusivist groups that understand themselves as expressions of religious plurality (e.g., United Church of Canada, p. 23). Such spectrums are reflected in all religions, e.g. Islamic Jihad in Islam or Gush Emunim in the Jewish faith. Similarly, this spectrum is also found in inclusive and pluralistic spaces. The image of the West (Part 2) in Islam is examined from a wide variety of perspectives. William Dalrymple, historian and writer, introduces the world of Christian saints and Islamic Sufis (paper 5; pp. 91-101). In doing so, he reveals commonalities in the long coexistence of the two religions. He concludes that the longer one studies Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the more it becomes clear how much it is the foundation of fundamental Islamic content (p. 96). Especially in Eastern Anatolia (Levant) and the Middle East, this Christian-Islamic syncretism, in his opinion, is deeply rooted. Akbar S. Ahmed, Islamic studies at the American University Washington, is known worldwide for his commitment to public dialogue between Islam and other religions (contribution 6; 103-118). His contribution, as elsewhere, assumes that Muslims are hostile to the West because Islam’s achievements are not respected there (pp. 106-107). This blaming of the West is often used and underscores the rift between the Islamic world and the pluralistic Christian West. Antony T. Sullivan, an instructor in the Department of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan, is one of the few to address the tense political situation between the Islamic world and the West, especially the United States (paper 9; pp. 139-158). He tries to understand the West from an Asian perspective (China and India) and to anchor the Arab world as a component within it (p. 139). Further, he introduces the reader to the ecumenical jihad of Roman Catholic scholars (Peter Kreeft, Russell Kirk). The term jihad, which is misunderstood by many Muslims as well as non-Muslims, and the resulting activities are seen as the cause of the West’s negative attitude towards Islam (p. 147).

In the second main section (part three), the Christian-Jewish-Muslim trialogue comes into the conversation as a trilateral dialogue. Tony Bayfield, Director of Reformed Synagogues in the United Kingdom (UK), points out that September 11, 2001, was an attack on all religious thinking (paper 12; pp. 191-202; p. 191). In 5 charges, he describes the dilemma: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are closely related to him but represent the worst functioning kinship or family imaginable (p. 194). None of these three monotheistic scriptural religions abide by the challenges of their own scriptures to strive for peace (p. 195). He indicts Judaism for its absolute theology of election and uniqueness (Indictment 3) and the shaping of all three religions toward fundamentalism (Indictment 4; p. 195). Last, he refers to the exploitation of the Third World by Christianity and the post-Christian West (p. 198). Bayfield’s argument is symptomatic of the approach to religious pluralism as presented in these articles. Murad Wilfried Hofmann, a German diplomat and author in Algeria and Morocco who converted to Islam, defends Islam’s “reserved” position with regard to religious dialogue (article 16; 235-246). In his opinion, America has learned little since September 11, and “Israel” has been forgotten in the whole debate (p. 235). Fanatical evangelical circles would actively fight Islam, with Germany proving to be outstanding. Yet in Islamic states, he observed, religious problems are not an issue at the local level (p. 237). The dhimmi status (non-Muslims in Islamic states) would result in only three restrictions: exclusion from military service, a special tax that was not necessarily higher than the normal tax zakat, and the impossibility of becoming the highest head of state (!; p. 242). Tolerance, ecumenism, and the striving for peace in all religions can only succeed if everyone remains in his is his concluding thesis (p. 244).

The third statement on interreligious dialogue comes from editor Roger Boase, who sees ecumenical Islam as a response to religious pluralism (paper 17; pp. 247-266). He delineates three basic attitudes with regard to religious pluralism.

Those who reject it completely (e.g., those who see themselves as instruments of God),
those who see religious diversity as a blessing and strive toward world peace (e.g., Küng), and finally
those who reject religion in any form (pp. 247-248).
Boase, too, begins with September 11, 2001, and describes the West’s military response in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan as the worst mistake (p. 248). The true dichotomy is not found between Muslims and non-Muslims, but between extremist-exclusivist and inclusive-pluralist groups (p. 249). In his search for common ground, he comes across ecumenical Islam. The Prophet Muhammad himself was involved in the interreligious debate of his environment, as the Koran shows. Seven principles can be derived from it:

There should be no pressure regarding faith (Surah 2:256),
do not insult anyone of a different faith (Surah 6:108),
do not get involved with those who insult your faith (Surah 5:57-58),
speak with tact and courtesy to those of other faiths (Surah 15:88),
seek dialogue with those who argue critically (Surah 3:65),
refrain from speculating about matters of faith (Surah 40:4), and lastly
compete in your own life of faith with those of other faiths in order to motivate them (Surah 5:48; pp. 252-254).
So much for Boase’s interpretation of the Qur’an. The Jewish-Islamic dialogue at the time of the Prophet Muhammad was intense and should be resumed today in the Islamic sphere, as well as outside with regard to Islam as a religious dialogue (p. 262).

This work is in reference to the current tension between the world religions a pointer to the fact that it is up to each individual to engage theologically with other religions in the way and not to consider them fundamentally radical. Such an expression is present in every religion and should lead to charity or peace intention if one follows the revelations. Since human reality often looks different due to economic or political tensions (poverty, persecution, displacement), the anxious question remains at the end whether such appeals can be implemented or move people to rethink.

Book Review: Grünstäudl, Wolfgang & Schiefer–Ferrari, Markus 2012. Gestörte Lektüre – Disability als hermeneutische Leitkategorie biblischer Exegese Haupt-Reiter

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The ecumenical series Behinderung-Theologie-Kirche [Disability – Theology – Church], as edited by Protestant Professor Johannes Eurich (Diakoniewissenschaftliches Institut Heidelberg) and Roman Catholic Professor Andreas Lob-Hüdepohl (Katholische Hochschule für Sozialwesen Berlin) is at the moment the most comprehensive presentation on the topic of Disability Studies in the German-speaking world. In this fourth volume, 12 contributions from the fields of theology, (curative and special) education, philosophy, ethics, and diaconal work discuss the theological-church context for the inclusion of people with physical or mental disabilities. The Roman Catholic editors Grünstäudl and Schiefer Ferrari are, among others, active at the University of Koblenz-Landau in the field of biblical didactics and biblical studies.

Markus Schiefer Ferrari begins with ‘Conceptions of Difference’. Deviations from the norm, regarding disability and the interpretive strategies that accompany them (p. 18). He elaborates on the common patterns of language used in exegesis with regard to disabled people mentioned in the Bible (e.g., ‘annoying imposition” ‘scum of society’ with regard to the great banquet of Luke 14; p. 19). Likewise, he examines the common association of isolation and equation of disabled people with the ‘poor’ and ‘weak’, as well as the internal biblical refutation of this hypothesis. An, how this is evident when, after all, friends were concerned about a mobility-impaired person, as described in Mk 2:3 (p. 20). Schiefer Ferrari tries to show the widespread metaphorical or figurative interpretation of ‘disability’ by the ‘dropsy’ (Lk 14:13; p. 27). He explores the question complex of stigmatization on the basis of ‘aestheticization’ (pp. 30-31).

The issue of priestly eligibility from Lev 21:16-24 is taken up by Thomas Hieke. He notes that instructions concerning the high priesthood are missing, but he concludes from v. 23 that this is meant there. The ‘desacralization’ that occurred through a handicap is found in parallel also in the ideas of purity of the sacrificial animals, which should show no blemish (p. 59). Hieke speaks of ‘inferior material’, which was not worthy of sacrifice. He suspects an ‘inability’ of disabled people and God wants to spare them cultic ‘mishaps’ due to their physical limitations (p. 60). Lastly, Hieke strongly rejects the frequently assumed ‘proximity to the sphere of death’ due to physical deficits, since the designated may participate in the cult and eat anything holy.

Michael Tilly devotes himself to the Pauline treatment of disability. He summarizes the Pauline argumentation as a ‘biographically conditioned and at the same time apologetically motivated re-evaluation’ of one’s own weakness and illness into a charismatic qualification for the apostleship. Tilly provides an outlook in the context of the approach of the concept of ‘normality’ to a ‘successful’ life, which is not based on health and ability (pp. 79-80).

Markus Tiwald contributes to the understanding of illness and health (pp. 81-97).

Alois Stimpfle examines New Testament constructions of reality. He connects these with interesting, real biographical experiences of people with disabilities (pp. 105-107), namely Arnold Beisser (polio), Ilja Seifert (paraplegia) and Heike Beckedorf (thalidomide damage). Stimpfle sees an anthropological constant in the New Testament approach. She locates disability ‘outside the domain of the Spirit of God’. It is there, he says, that correction or healing also takes place (p. 115). He concludes that disability as a hermeneutical guiding category is suitable for working through the perception of the bodily senses, whether these are preserved in full or with limitations, in homiletics, exegesis and catechumenate in an Inclusion-oriented way.

Three contributions by Tobias Nicklas, Ilaria L. E. Ramelli and Wolfgang Grünstäudl deal with early Christian receptions. Tobias Nicklas presents about reference to God with regard to the corporeality of man (pp. 127-140). In antiquity, where physical or mental limitations threatened the existence much more than in modern times and led to distressful situations, the term ‘salvation’ and its semantic language environment ‘Heil-(ig)-ung’ (wordplay: healing – sanctification) had to be interpreted differently than today. The whole of man is central in early Christian literature. Likewise, the unexpected hermeneutical interpretation of a ‘weak’ sufferer on the cross in contrast to other religious ideas of the time. Ilaria L. E. Ramelli (pp. 141-159) elaborates literary-historically on the works of Bardaisan of Edessa (†222) and Origin of Alexandria (†255). He describes the Stoic ideas about adiaphora (indifferent thing) and apokatastis (recreation). The tripartite division into body, soul and spirit helped both ancient authors to refer from the common pattern of divine punishment or inherited sin to disability as an ‘indifferent thing’. Thereby, the actual severity of ‘true’ disability or illness is set in the soul and metaphorically interpreted to sin (pp. 158-159). Wolfgang Grünstäudl (pp. 160-179) talks about ‘Didymus of Alexandria’ also called ‘the blind’ (*313-†398) and the eye of the bride as an allusion to the Song of Songs or the ability to recognize Christ as the bridegroom. It is about ancient ideas on blindness and seeing. In particular, the phenomenon of an active, inclusive church father with a visual impairment from childhood is inspiring here (pp. 177-179).

The final unit of this ‘Disturbed Reading’ discusses special education irritations. Erik Weber, Lars Mohr, Anita Müller-Friese, and Matthias Bahr address the design of inclusive teaching in terms of planning, elaboration, and practice orientation. Erik Weber takes up the social model in disability studies (pp. 180-201). He uses the cultural model of Dederich. The latter argued body-phenomenologically and focused on the experience of being disabled (pp. 199-200). Lars Mohr (pp. 202-218) is dedicated to the mandate from Gen 1:26-28 to dominium terrae, as he calls it, i.e. the claim to world domination and this despite severe disability (p. 202). The creation of man ‘in the image of God’ is the basis of any kind of ‘ruling over the earth’ (p. 208). The worlds of experience of severely handicapped people have a lasting effect and a great impression, but they must be able to come into their own, which is the mission and goal of special education (p. 217). Anita Müller-Friese (pp. 219-235) and Matthias Bahr (pp. 236-253) round up this work with practical biblical didactic suggestions for the poetic and narrative texts of the Bible.

The target group of this collection are Bible teachers who are looking for Inclusion-oriented basics and aids for their work. In addition to a wide range of projects, the theological-hermeneutical treatment of inclusion as a guiding principle has been presented helpfully.

Book Review: Georges, Jayson & Baker, Mark D. 2016. Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures: Biblical Foundations and Practical Essentials

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Georges (MDiv, Talbot) and Baker (Ph.D, Duke University) can draw on their own missiological experience on the topic. Georges spent nine years working in Central Asia and Baker ten in Honduras. Right at the beginning, they make it clear that their approach can only be a tendency-representing approximation between different conscience orientations. It is not entirely clear where they locate their research, however, they seem to understand their experiences as ethnographic studies from a cultural anthropology (ethnology) perspective (Chapter 1 paragraphs 2 and 3). In each case, the findings cited are supported at the beginning by a practical ethnographic observation.

As an introduction, the authors use ISIS propaganda to examine the references to honor and shame (honor-shame) contained therein (p. 15). This contrasts with the North American-North European orientation of conscience, which is oriented toward innocence/justice and guilt (p. 37). The example of the American War Department, for the study of Japanese culture, by anthropologist Ruth Benedict, in order to understand Japanese conscience orientation, illustrates the deep cognitive divide between cultural imprints (p. 16).

The authors state that each ideological-theological school of thought is based in its values on a fundamental imprint of conscience. Therefore, they understand their approach as complementary and not absolute (p. 23).

In specific steps they introduce the thought structures of societies oriented on honor and shame. What is right and what is wrong is decided there collectively and relevant to the relationship. In contrast to this is the philosophical-legal perception in guilt-oriented social groups. Their summary is: guilt-orientation teaches, “I made a mistake, I have to admit it”, shame, on the other hand, says, “I am a mistake, I have to hide it” (pp. 37-38).

Values determine behavior and thus are fundamental cues. Using the following sets of themes, this is explained in more detail for honor and shame oriented societies:

the dynamics of patronage as a societal phenomenon,
indirect communication,
at collectivism oriented in individual occasions,
the purity-impurity paradigm,
the social role system, and lastly,
host-friendship (p. 50).
Specifically: The patronage or paternalism (not corruption) of guilt-oriented societies is based on a reciprocal relationship of unequal partners. The patron guarantees the physical provision of material resources (food, building and defense materials) and receives loyalty, bondage and allegiance in return. The gain of prestige (honor) is threatened by the simultaneous loss of the same through misconduct, caused by not sharing available resources. Indirect communication is a harmony and relationship-oriented form of communication. It does not expose anyone and is respectful and loyal to the interlocutor (p. 53). In the one-to-one social event, the respect relationship is brought to the fore. Thus, respect is also paramount in relation to waiting, e.g., for higher-ups at a wedding, even if the bride and groom, or wedding guests, have to wait (not to be confused with convenience). Purity represents order, the right thing in the right place, whereas impurity signals the wrong thing in the wrong place (no legalism! p. 55). Hospitality always seeks to give the quantitatively and qualitatively best for the guests (no obligation!). Feasts represent social honor events in which food is used as a counter value in the framework of reciprocal expectations (see above) (p. 58).

In the theological realm, the second part, the values and interpretations of guilt and justice oriented (Western) societies are compared with those of honor and shame oriented societies. Since the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament were anchored in the latter societies, the gap with today’s Western interpretation becomes clear. Financial, individual and social independence lead to egalitarian, respect-independent, enrichment-oriented, law-and-order, rational and punctuality-oriented communities and churches (p. 60). In contrast, the biblical emphasis is on the glory of God reflected in the likeness of man (Ps 8:5). Sin becomes a denial of this honor to God and man. Honor, therefore, is based on status. This is dependent on physical, spiritual and psychological factors. Here the authors refer to the disabled Mephi-Bosheth of Jonathan’s descendants, to whom King David paid respect out of compassion and his descent (2 Sam 3:9; p. 83). Unfortunately, the authors lack an inclusive approach here.

Next, Georges and Baker consider the biblical episode of the sinner woman oiling Jesus’ feet with her hair in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50). Apparently Simon had not followed the practice of washing his feet, a grievance that the woman picked up on, thereby exposing Simon according to Jesus (pp. 98-99). Georges and Baker give another example with the parable of the “prodigal son” (Luke 15:12-32). Impressively, Jesus took up the shame and honor orientation of his environment to point out abuse and transgression. He repeatedly exposed his disciples, the Pharisees or even official rulers to illustrate the values of the Kingdom of God. This has cumulated in the overcoming of death through the cross, which was declared as a great shame – curse (Dt 21:23; p. 175). In their retelling, they emphasize the possibility of overcoming the loss of face before God in relationship to Jesus the Christ.

Georges and Baker introduce practical consequences of the described orientations of conscience in the third part of their treatise. They address spiritual orientation, relational relationships, evangelism, conversion, ethical consequences, and community in such contexts. As appendices, they offer a bible passage index (Appendix 1), bible stories (Appendix 2) and references to further resources on the subject (Appendix 3). From Georges’ wealth of experience come re-interpretations of biblical stories he worked out with people on the spectrum of conscience discussed, which are incorporated into this third part.

The theme of conscience orientation has a certain tradition in anthropology and missiology. It has been critically questioned in research, e.g., whether it would not be better to assume a purity vs. impurity orientation in certain contexts (e.g., Wheatcroft 2005). The elaboration here does not address this, which is a point of criticism. As a source of ideas and also for understanding biblical contexts in terms of an honor and shame orientation, this work offers deep practical insights.


conscience orientation ; elenctics ; shame ; honor ; collectivism ; purity ; impurity ; evangelism ; Islam ; Buddhism ; religious studies ; anthropology ; ethnography ; disability ; disability studies

Book Review: Harvey, Richard 2009. Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology: A Constructive Approach. Studies in Messianic Jewish Theology

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Richard Harvey is Academic Dean and Tutor in Hebrew and Jewish Studies at All Nations College near London. According to Harvey, Messianic Judaism (originally Hebrew Christianity; p. 10) currently includes about 150,000 Jewish believers in the Messiah Jesus Christ (p. 2). Although this is a relatively small number, the Messianic movement is politically and spiritually explosive and significant from a missiological perspective on church building. Other messianic movements, also called insider movements, from other religious contexts (e.g., in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism) measure themselves or are measured against this Jewish movement. Official Judaism usually rejects this movement as non-Jewish (e.g., the Central Council of Jews in Germany).

Harvey examines eight types of messianic Jewish theology (pp. 267-277):

Type 1 Jewish Christianity, Christocentric and Reform (Baruch Maoz);
Type 2 Dispensational Hebrew Christianity (Arnold Fruchtenbaum);
Type 3 Israel Nationality and Restoration (Gershon Nerel);
Type 4 New Testament Halacha, Charismatic and Evangelical (Daniel Juster, David Stern);
Type 5 Traditional Judaism and the Messiah (Mi-chael Schiffmann, John Fischer, Ariel Berkowitz);
Type 6 Post-missionary Messianic Judaism (Mark Kinzer, Richard Nichol, Tsvi Sadan);
Type 7 Rabbinic Halacha in Light of the New Testament (Joseph Shulam);
Type 8 Messianic Rabbinic Orthodoxy (Elazar Brandt, Uri Marcus).
He discusses these eight types through five thematic blocks:

1. God’s nature, agency, and attributes (can the one God of Israel and the Christian Trinity be the same?)

2. The Messiah (Messianic Jewish Christology)

3. Torah in theory (the meaning and interpretation of Torah in light of Yeshua/ Jesus)

4. Torah in practice (Messianic practice of the Sabbath, food regulations, and Passover/Easter)

5. Eschatology (the various models used in the movement to describe the future of Israel).

After the author’s recommendation, Chapter 9, “Conclusion: The Future of Messianic Jewish Theology,” provides a comprehensive summary that describes his findings and places them in Jewish theological contexts. There he mentions again all problem areas and connecting points of the eight presented Messianic Jewish theologies and gives an insight and outlook on the possible developments of this movement with regard to global Christianity.

Some Jewish anthropologists (e.g., Devra Jaffe among Messianic gatherings in Philadelphia and Houston 2000; p. 23), Jewish sociologists (Elliot Cohen, Jewish Buddhist examines Jewish backlash 2004; pp. 26-27), and non-Jewish religious scholars (e.g., Bulent Şenay Islamic theological historian on the theology of the movement 2000; pp. 19, 188) have also examined and described the Jewish Messianic movement. Harvey’s inclusion of these perspectives provides insight into the perception of this movement from public, critical Jewish, and critical as well as approving Christian perspectives. In sympathetic Christian circles, the movement is interpreted as contextualization (Glasser, Fuller Seminary; p. 35), rediscovery of origins (re-discovery), or (re)union of the body of Christ (Hegstad, Norwegian Lutheran; p. 37).

Prominent unresolved problem areas include Jewish monotheism versus the dogmatic biblical Trinity (pp. 49-50, 66-67 Maoz “person-like Trinity”), the understanding and position of Jesus Christ in the Hebrew Bible as well as Jewish tradition (e.g., Kinzer p. 47), Jewish halakhic food regulations (kosher vs. treife), and finally the observance of the Sabbath and other Jewish festivals (p. 188).

The measure of the range of perception and interpretation on these areas demonstrates closeness to or rejection of Jewish worship within Messianic Jewish groups. Harvey’s merit is to have elicited the eight types and related them to one another. With regard to the discussion of bringing the Jewish people back into the fold, the most recent proclamation of the Protestant Church on the Year of Reformation (November 2016), under the impression of Lutheran anti-Judaism, rejected any involvement in attempts to convert Jewish people. It remains to be seen how Messianic Judaism will deal with such demarcations.

Book Review: Melcher, Sarah J., Parsons, Mikeal C. & Yong, Amos 2017. The Bible and Disability: A Commentary

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This theological-missiological commentary is aimed at church practice and diakonia (Christian aid work). Here, the genre of biblical commentaries is joined by another specialization, which looks at biblical books of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament from the perspective of disability studies. In twelve contributions, the thirteen authors describe how the biblical texts are received from the perspective of disability studies and what impact the texts might have on the church’s view of disability in general and people with physical or mental limitations.

In the introduction, Sarah J. Melcher reviews the history of Disability Studies in the context of the church and its history of interpreting the biblical texts. The mainstream works on disability studies from the fields of theology (e.g. Eiesland 1994), medical anthropology (Avalos 1995 and 1999) and those concerning the experiences of disabled interpreters (e.g. blindness in Hull 2001) are extensively reviewed.

She herself takes on the two books of Genesis and Exodus. She devotes brief attention to the question of the Imago Dei in relation to human disability. The defining theme running through both books represents female infertility. This “disability” is also, in part, a divine curse (pp. 29, 40; Gen. 20:17-18). Ex 4:11 becomes the key verse: Then said the LORD unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who makes dumb or deaf, seeing or blind? Not I the LORD? She emphasizes that this passage is written to understand that disability, contrary to the previous interpretation in Genesis, is neither a curse nor a blessing, but a God-given part of human existence (p. 50).

David Tabb Stewart discusses Leviticus through Deuteronomy. Leviticus takes on the societal range of the Hebrews and brings individual disabilities into view. For him, the book of Deuteronomy represents the idealization of the “abled” [non-disabled], Leviticus the legal guide to the ideal, and Exodus the historical guide to the ideal (on the way; p. 85).

Jeremy Schipper, examines the historical books of the “deuteronomy history” following, from Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings books. Joshua and Ruth stand out for him in the conspicuous absence of any reference to disabilities (pp. 96-97). Disability by old age, skin disease, prophetic blinding (2 Kings 6:18-20), and punishment for discrimination against the disabled (e.g., Elisha in verses :23-24) thematically pervade the books of Kings.

Kerry H. Wynn discusses the “historic scriptures.” These include Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. While Esther has no reference to disability at all, there is a metaphorical transfer of the city of Jerusalem in Ezra and Nehemiah that can be classified as “disabling.” Chronicles, as well as the books of Kings (see above) contain many references to disability. The outstanding narrative around disability, namely that about Jonathan’s paralyzed son Mephi-Bosheth (also Mefiboshet), is absent from Chronicles because, according to Wynn, it has no historical-theological significance (p. 124).

Sarah J. Melcher takes over Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. In her text-critical opinion, Proverbs is exclusively written by Abled (p. 163; Prov. 3:1-2). The limitations of human abilities described in Ecclesiastes represent the God-ordained framework of creation (p. 166.). Job offers a particular challenge for disability studies, as suffering, disability, and illness are attributed to divine involvement.

Jennifer Koosed discusses the Psalms, Lamentations, and Song of Songs. In the book of Psalms, creation and the Creator are placed in the context of prediction and theodicy. In doing so, the Creator is both described with a broken body and ideally contrasted with physically broken idols. Images of brokenness via muteness, deafness, blindness, paralysis, and inability to smell (sensory disability) are innumerable.

Other Contributors are: J. Blake Couey Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Minor Prophets. Candida R. Moss Mark, Matthew. David F. Watson Lucan works. James Clark-Soles Johannine literature. Arthur J. Dewe and Anna C. Miller Pauline literature. Martin Albl Epistle to the Hebrews, Catholic epistles.

This commentary offers a variety of references to ancient views about disabled people. It is critical in many places in its evaluation of linguistic connotations that express metaphorical meaning in terms of disability. The commentators are sensitive to implications that can be inferred from the texts but are not necessarily meant.


Disability Studies ; Bible ; biblical commentary ; commentary ; hermeneutics ; exegesis.

Book Review: Lukens-Bull, Ronald 2005. A Peaceful Jihad. Negotiating Identity and Modernity in Muslim Java

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The Islam of Indonesia, the subject of this study is Java, is a colorful mixture of religions, ethnic groups and various interests. The anthropological study, written by an outsider (etic perspective), describes the life of an Islâmic-run boarding school (Indonesian pesantren) called Al-Hikam. The students of the pesantren study at colleges or in secular subjects at outside institutions and live in the boarding school according to traditional Indonesian-Islamic understanding. In this pesantren religious education is given by the dean and his closest confidants themselves. In addition, students can enroll in Arabic, English or some other subjects at the boarding school. The dean is considered a blessing giver and religious role model.

The study is captivating in its ethnographic studies of individual subjects. The reader is transported into the environment of an Islamic boarding school, to which a Westerner has only limited access. Not only the pesantren, but also the facilities associated with it are described. These include cemeteries, pilgrimage sites (Tebu Ireng, pp. 28-29), recreational facilities and religious centers. The historical review provides insight into the founding period (19th century) and the development of the boarding school.

The author is essentially concerned with the confrontation of Islam with modernity and postmodernity. Education is seen as the essential element of change and renewal of Islamic life. The demand for interreligious, intercultural and multilingual education within the framework of Islam is representative of the changes addressed (chs. 3-4). Influences on pesantren come from outside and within. Richer Islamic states (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Iran) want to influence the education offered and the running of the boarding school through financial support. The boarding school management emphasizes that the simultaneous teaching of Arabic and English combines traditional with modern life. Students learn theological-Islamic basics on the Arabic Qur’an and modern world views in parallel. One also opens up in the religious field by studying, for example, Christianity and Asian religions through their scriptures (Bi-bel, Vedas, Baghadvitta).

In a further step the author examines diverse guidance models of the pesantren (chapter 5). He compares democratic and dictatorial models, which can also be found in political parties, public institutions and semi-governmental organizations. The leadership and social structure in the pesantren is characterized by the veneration of individuals, strict moral standards, and a simple lifestyle. In the process, cultural values are addressed that benefit the propagation and internal reinforcement (jihad) of Islam (Ch 6).

This ethnographic work gives anthropologists and missiologists a good insight into the Islamic world of Indonesia. Specifically, it enlightens about Islamic educational institutions and their governance structures.

Indonesia ; pesantren ; Islamic school ; religious education ; Islam ; interreligious ; jihad

Book Review: Eurich, Johannes & Lob–Hüdepohl, Andreas 2014. Behinderung – Profile inklusiver Theologie, Diakonie und Kirche.

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The ecumenical series Behinderung-Theologie-Kirche, as edited by the Protestant Professor Johannes Eurich (Diakoniewissenschaftliches Institut Heidelberg) and the Roman Catholic Professor Andreas Lob-Hüdepohl (Katholische Hochschule für Sozialwesen Berlin), is currently the most comprehensive on the topic of Disability Studies in the German-speaking world. In 21 contributions, from the fields of special education, pastoral care for the disabled, ethics, diaconia and canon law, the ecclesiastical context of the inclusion of people with physical or mental disabilities is discussed. The starting point will be the publications of the World Council of Churches “Church of All. A preliminary declaration” (2004) and the Catholic bishops of Germany under the motto “unBehindert Leben und Glauben teilen” (2003), which arose around the European Year of People with Disabilities (2003). In the preface, the ecclesiastical-theological guiding idea becomes clear, namely to perceive people with disabilities, who have so far rather been objects to be talked about, now as subjects of their own testimony of faith (p. 9).

Interesting are the various also critical perspectives on inclusion that are taken here, as well as topics that are self-reflective and worth thinking about. These include Catholic canon law oriented toward the physical deficit with regard to the office of ordination or as a minister of the church, the Lord’s Supper as a place of being unbroken, disability and sexuality as a taboo subject, as well as disability and growing old.

Ottmar Fuchs interprets inclusion as a theological guiding category (pp. 12-36). He criticizes the exclusionary black-and-white picture of “fundamentalist” circles and their stigmatization attempts to maintain the fronts (pp. 19, 26). He defines the concept of compassion on two levels. On the one hand, ‘pity’ can be motivated by a natural defensive attitude due to embarrassing emotion, but on the other hand it is also a creative co-suffering that grows and becomes active (p. 22). From this, Fuchs derives his definition of compassion as interrupting compassionate pain, which he considers to be sustainable enough to bridge what is meant as deficient in the disabled person (pp. 26-28). He is critical of the general uncritical approval of inclusion without involving the people concerned themselves (costs, dismantling of state and private sponsors, etc.). A topic that Thomas Günther also takes up (pp. 92-94).

Roman Catholic canon law is criticized by Ottmar Fuchs (pp. 27-28), as well as by Thomas Schüller (pp. 178-186), especially its treatment of disabled theologians, which is reflected in the church. A similarly critical view of the Protestant pastoral ministry law is found in Thomas Jakubowski. It is similar to Catholic Church law, which is based on the patriarchal civil service law based on state welfare and grants a special position to the group of addressees. In such legal constellations, people with disabilities fall through the cracks because of their needs, because they are considered ‘beneficiaries’ or ‘noble disabled people’ for cost reasons, because of their otherness.

The question of suffering or theodicy is discussed by several authors. Johannes von Lüpke looks for points of reference in the ‘poor’ and the ‘needy’. In his opinion, the gospels revolve around this group of people. They tie in with the instructions (Torah) given in the Hebrew Bible for the compensation of social injustice, as symbolized by the ‘poor and widows’. In this sense he can speak of the divinity of disabled persons (p. 37-40). Thomas Günter looks critically at the creation discourse of Genesis. Instead of the ‘good creation’ he finds the immanent divine ‘defense’ and ‘elimination’ of unwanted states as norm. For example, chaos becomes order, darkest night becomes light day, and man is alone as a tragic condition. This post-control of God runs through the Bible and ends alone in the self-limitation of God. It is God Himself who can be found in this readjustment. In it the unbridgeable gap between the human states of being is abolished (p. 75). Manfred Oeming deals with the doing-becoming context (TEZ) of the Holy Scripture. He works out a “short-term retribution” in the interpretation, this shortens truths and looks for culprits. He therefore defines the TEZ as a rule of thumb, which also allows exceptions (p. 116). Markus Schiefer-Ferrari presents on the theology of rupture with regard to the breaking of the bread and the being broken of the body of Christ. In doing so, while rejecting the exegetical finding introduced by John Hull, who had an impairment of the sense of sight, he finds an inclusive approach in the ‘image of the Lord’s Supper’. Here, it is not the communal aspect of the meal, but precisely the diversity of the actors that becomes the reflection and expression of inclusive Christian diversity (p. 142).

There are two contributions on the topic of disability and sexuality. One by Andreas Lob-Hüdepohl (pp. 154-166) and one by Thorsten Hinz and Joachim Walter (pp. 284-286). The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities singles out the sexual sphere as requiring special protection. Assaults on weaker women, especially those who are dependent on care, is nothing new. With regard to people with physical or mental limitations, a special need for protection and also application is demanded. How should an assisted person live sexuality? How can active or passive sexual assistance look like without ending up as prostitution? How can a church that advocated sexual eugenics (sterilization, abortion) during the Third Reich credibly offer assistance in this area (p. 162)?

The other contributions discuss ecclesiastical inclusive models for shaping the church in diversity (Sabine Schäper, Wolfhard Schweiker, Johannes Eurich, Cornelia Coenen-Marx), as well as individual projects (Bettina Kiesbye and Inge Ostertag, Jochen Straub, Kyra Seufert and Gerd Frey-Seufert). Brigitte Huber’s brief reflection on the new church documents mentioned in the opening section above is worth mentioning (pp. 244-247), since their influence on church practice is not yet foreseeable.

It is not entirely clear according to which criteria this compilation took place or which target group was aimed at. Nevertheless, the contributions are indicative of areas of research in disability studies, especially with regard to diakonia as the inner mission of the church. In addition to a wide range of projects, the theological-hermeneutical reappraisal of inclusion as a guiding principle has been helpfully presented.

Book Review: Danys, Miroslav 2016. Diakonie im Herzen Europas: Ursprünge, Entwicklungen und aktuelle Herausforderungen in West & Ost, neu betrachtet aus Anlass des Reformationsjubiläums

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Miroslav Danys (pastor; East European representative of the Lippische Landeskirche) is described as a missiological bridge builder between East and West (quote on the cover). He is a connoisseur of communism and an observer of developments after the political changes of the 1990s. Danys sees the future of diaconia (church lead social work) in a well-connected Europe. Only with the help of the church can such a social institution, which respects all people, be maintained.

His homeland is the Teschener Land with the city of the same name (Cieszyn), which he locates in Central Europe. This geographical area is placed in today’s Poland on the border with the Czech Republic. The main focus of his research is the church-community diaconia, both before, during and after the political change. He focuses primarily on the former GDR (former East-Germany), the part of Poland he knows, and the Czech Republic. The political will and the spirit of the times are closely related to the possibilities of development of church-community diaconia.

Danys begins with a retrospective. He looks at the person of Lorenzo Vallas (15th century), who, according to Danys, founded during the Reformation the social work in the late Middle Ages. His work was prepared by the Ultramontanes, who included disciples of Peter Valdes, the founder of the Waldensians. From the 11th-12th centuries, the medieval era of “early industrialization” led to the lower class of wage laborers. The specialized work attitude brought for a higher productivity in the context of the emerging early capitalism, but also forced this stratum of the population often into poverty and thus into social dependence. This was countered by the church-parish diaconia. Initiated by private individuals or church institutions, the model of Jesus’ martyrdom forms the practical and theological basis of social service to others (p. 8).

Dany’s gaze now turns to the territory of present-day Poland. From the 17th century it became a settlement area of German migrants from the West and Jewish pogrom refugees from the East (Russia). The German migrants brought with them Protestant thinking, the Bible and its liturgical aids. Using the example of Edmund Holtz, he describes the establishment of the Lutheran Deaconess Motherhouse movement, which developed from a home for persons with epilepsy and was established by Holtz in Lódź (p. 14). The Lutheran church was also able to develop similar diaconal structures in the Estonian-Latvian Baltic.

As an example, he presents the next historical strand of diaconal work in Poland at the Lutheran Epidemic House, now a hospital, in Warsaw. Founded in 1736 in a cemetery for dissidents, it became a care facility for Protestant sick or injured. After World War I, it opened its doors to all seeking help and became widely known (pp. 17-19). During World War II, it adjoined the Warsaw Ghetto and served as a place of refuge for a few Jewish ghetto refugees. It was completely destroyed in 1944 (p. 21).

Under communism, any public diaconia was nipped in the bud, since the state saw itself as the entity that provided for everyone. Church-community diakonia shifted to inner-church service to the needy. However, the scope for action was different in the various state entities, as the examples of the GDR (former East Germany), the Czechoslovak Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and the Baltic States teach us.

In the Czech Republic, the small eight-person deaconess ministry rose to fame in the early 19th century, as its fully trained nurses were one of the few institutions able to help many wounded war victims during World War I (pp. 63-64).

According to Danys, the communist party in the ČSR fell on particularly open ears, which crippled the church diaconia. Private property was almost completely banned, and the diaconia and churches were nationalized and thus run and paid for by the ideological enemy (p. 66). A 1956 study by Vlastimil Jaša describes the accompanying unsolved state problems in child and youth care, prostitution, the fight against alcoholism, the problem of divorces, abortions, childlessness and one-child marriages, and suicide. These were issues that had been concealed from the communist public. Taking up these grievances, after the fall of communism the deaconry was completely handed over into the hands of the Evangelical Church of the Bohemian Brethren (EKBB) (p. 74). The deaconesses had dissolved. The work is now focused on old people’s homes, the service to people with physical or mental limitations and therapeutic aids (p. 75). The church-community diaconia was now understood as a business enterprise in the social sector. In order to re-emphasize the ethical aspects of care, service and sacrifice, the diaconia was placed under a demanding charter in 1999.

In the Teschen Land (Poland), on the other hand, pietism led to an allegiance to the state and to simultaneous dissidents performing dissidentism (p. 85). Kulisz founded there in 1907 an institution called “Bethesda” (p. 89). The church-community diaconia became the expression of spiritual life in the whole region.

In the GDR, Poland and Hungary, diaconia was closely linked to church structures, which in turn could look to Western contacts and payments. Obviously, these relationships were the basis for better medical and nursing care than in other countries. The GDR in particular profited from these structures by using foreign capital to provide care.

After the fall of communism, the financial plight of the socialist countries became critical, especially for people with physical or mental limitations. The church and community structures in the countries discussed were able to address this need, even with Western personnel and financial assistance, and to develop their own diaconal structures.

Danys gives an excellent review and overview of the development of diaconia in Central Europe. Especially with regard to the missiological side of congregational building, disability studies and the church-congregational dealing with the “others” (otherness) in times of upheaval, his explanations offer helpful insights.


Diaconia ; disability studies ; disability ; disabled people ; church social services ; Poland ; Czechoslovakia

Book Review: Noor, Sikand & Bruinessen 2007 The Madrasa in Asia

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This book is an essay collection of 9 papers on the Islamic theological education system in Asia and its reform movements. Noor is a teacher/lecturer at the School of International Studies in Singapore, Sikand is a professional writer from India, and van Bruinessen is a sociologist and was professor emeritus at Utrecht University. All three are or have been active in teaching in the Islamic world as well.

This book describes from an anthropological and sociological perspective the importance of the medresse (Arab. derived from darasa “to study,” school, p. 9) in the Islamic region, focusing on Asia. Individual madrasas, as well as entire networks from India (e.g., Deo-band), Pakistan, China, Malaysia, and Indonesia are described and examined here. The designated madrasas are private and non-university educational institutions offering secular and theological subjects. The secular subjects are taught on the foundation of an Islamic understanding so that the student can develop and move within the framework of an Islamic environment.

The book provides a good historical insight into the motivations that led to the formation of madrasas in individual situations and how they developed over long periods of time. Unanimously, the authors and the schools they examine argue for renewal and reorientation in the conception of Islamic education in these institutions. This is especially true in the secular education sector, which is usually too narrowly and one-sidedly limited to the Islamic sphere. The demand is to open up international, intercultural and interreligious contexts to a non-Islamic audience as well. These reform approaches are already underway or are being vigorously called for.

The overarching theme of the essays is the internal and external renewal of the madrasas and the internal and external resistance to it. Thus, the madrassa itself becomes a political institution in which the mutual oppositional forces of Islam are revealed (reformers vs. conservatives).

The work excels in its detailed portrayal of these two forces in Islam. However, in my opinion, it loses objectivity due to an overvaluation of the reform movement, which could just as easily be seen as a normal process of adaptation. In part, this paints a picture of the threat to the madrasas that is not necessarily realistic. This assessment is somewhat qualified by the fact that the activities that develop out of the madrasas are clearly anti-reformist. As a result, a clearly described tension emerges between reformers and counterforces in these educational institutions. Some personal biographical fates of students enrich the sketched picture.

It is a clear contemporary perspective on “modern” Islam. Anyone who studies this topic will get an impression of the politically active forces in this space, where they come from, how they operate, and how they are generated. Since madrasas provide a path to education primarily for poor citizens, these Islamic educational institutions represent elementary opinion makers. This work is also important for those who want to learn about the various networks and linkages currently active in the Asian-Islamic education sector.