Book Review: Murrow, David 2011. Warum Männer nicht zum Gottesdienst gehen

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From a female perspective, the review of this book would have to be different, but gender-related issues are notoriously controversial. Murrow has summarized his observations and findings on the topic of “church/community and men.”

As head of the institution (a website worth reading), it has come to his attention that Christian churches / congregations do not reflect what he calls the “masculine spirit” in their environment. “Masculinity” with all its manifestations is not in demand in the church, he said. He observed that the rather few men in congregations are in majority passive or bored and somehow uncomfortable (Introduction). He legitimately questions whether this could be an unintended consequence of the current structure and orientation of the church/community? It is reinforced by the opinions he often hears “religion is a women’s issue” and “masculinity plays no role in the church.”

What about men in the church? Contrary to the accusations that the church is patriarchal and male-dominant in its nature, the practical activities in the congregation tend to attract female workers. Children’s work, cleaning, prayer, pastoral care, music, it is ultimately the faithful women of the congregation who determine continuity and ultimately the structure of the congregation. This dominant female presence has ultimately, in the minds of men, given “the church” the reputation of a women’s club. Above all, the male factors of fun, challenge, and adventure are not sought after in churches. Controversial issues are not raised, unanswerable questions are immediately preached to, the typical churchgoer is humble, neat, dutiful and above all: nice. This conformity does not fascinate men; they stay away or are passive. Murrow is realistic, many men like to indulge their own god outside the church (selfishness, addiction, crime), but revivals have shown men are religious. There is a lack of long term challenges to attract men to the church. Many current church forms are clearly not challenging in this regard.

Even if you don’t agree to all of it, it is a book worth reading. Even if everything is different in “our” church, it challenges one to think through this issue. Some of the numerous suggestions for shaping church, in terms of male participation, could be taken up at any time (e.g. linguistic conventions, testosterone elements in worship, forms of prayer).


Church ; gender ; church planting ; missiology ; authority

Book Review: Lingel, Joshua, Morton, Jeff & Nikides, Bill (eds.) 2011. Chrislam: How Missionaries Are Promoting an Islamized Gospel

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This work should be seen as a response to an intense discussion in church and missionary circles in the United States about approaches to contextualization in the Islamic sphere. Among other things, it is about Bible translations that are adapted to the Islamic world in their language use and that are mostly supervised and supported linguistically, technically and financially by so-called Insider Movements (IM), but partly by Western organizations.

The Faculty of Theology in Biola has been particularly prominent in the discussion, as it has taken the lead in preparing general statements on this subject for some church federations (free churches). The essays presented here constitute a very detailed and courageous collection and summary of research from the last decade. The collection is impressive for its scope, the use of a tremendous amount of opinions and publications on the subject, and the presentation of both sides. Proponents and critics, from the latter circle the work comes, come to the language and find hearing. Unfortunately, so a downer of this work, the proponents are always described from a critical point of view. In addition to the critical editors, Georges Houssney, John Span, Roger Dixon, David Talley, Emir Caner, David Abernathy, Adam Simnowitz, Abdul Qurban, Edward Ayub, Elijah Abraham, Bassam Madany, Sasan Tavassolie and old sources (Zwemer, Cook) have their say.

The editors rightly assume that the “problem” of contextualizing Bible translations in the Islamic world can only be answered in close connection with the “Insider Movement” developments. Consequently, and for the benefit of the reader, they develop their critical argumentation on the basis of numerous perspectives of insiders and outsiders. It is primarily the insider accounts that enrich the debate.

The editors divide the problem into the three subject areas of missiology, theology, and translation studies. From a theological-missiological point of view, the chapters on hermeneutics (chapter 2) and

– on hermeneutics (chapter 2),

– missiology (chapter 3) and

– the insider perspectives (chapter 5)

a rich fund of critical arguments on ethical, hermeneutical, sociological, and psychological issues of this kind of contextualization. For the field of contextualized Bible translations and for Bible translators, chapters 2 and 4 give a good overview of the theological-missiological reservations. These include the ingratiation with Islam, the abandonment of the doctrine of the Trinity, the betrayal of Christians from an Islamic background, who use the family names in the description of the Trinity to distinguish themselves from Islam, and many more arguments.

The entire account is based on two arguments. First, the insider movement and the spectrum of contextualization in Islam (C1-C6 spectrum) developed by Travis is criticized, thus rejecting the option of a “dualistic presence” as a “Muslim” Christian. This would remain with good conscience attached to the Islamic background on a sociological level. Secondly, approaches to a linguistic-cultural contextualization in the Islamic area are moved into the realm of syncretism. A vivid anecdote in the introduction (pp. 8-10) describes the tension of this problem. A Western Christian “Jim” and a local Christian from an Islamic background “Tahwil” engage in a dialogue in which it becomes clear that Tahwil is mentored by Jim, but the latter picks up so much from Islam that Tahwil no longer knows whether he is actually a Christian or a Muslim.

This book is a fund for discussion. For critics, it provides a summary and categorization of the many issues surrounding this subject. For proponents, it provides insight into the movement’s potential weaknesses, as well as a comprehensive overview of the main arguments from a critical perspective. For readers unfamiliar with the discussion, the criticism in this book is so strong that it is not possible to get an objective impression of the subject only with the help of the book.


Insider Movements ; Bible translation ; missionary movement ; century of Bible translation ; global church ; glocal church ; church development aid ; church workers

Book Review: Du Mez, Kristin Kobes 2015. A New Gospel for Women: Katharine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian Feminism

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Du Mez presents a combination of evangelical missiology and theology, Bible translation, intercultural theology and contemporary history, all represented in one person: Katharine Bushnell. The study is carried out under the theme “conservative Christian feminism”. Kristine Kobes Du Mez carries the reader back into the period of the American-British evangelical revivals of the 19th and 20th centuries, namely the Methodist movement. Her topics are: Ideologically embossed anti-feminist Bible translation, colonialism, slavery, prostitution and child abuse in regard of (male) Christian responsibility and participation. The Commonwealth, and geographically-specific China, India and Australia come in focus.

In the preface Du Mez presents Bushnell’s translation of the story of creation in Genesis 1-3 (: ix-x; Preface). Only in the course of the biography of Bushnell becomes clear how this, at first impression, irritating translation of the Bible came to be. As the seventh of nine siblings Bushnell was born in 1855 in Peru, Illinois. She moved with the family, then the age of 15, to 130 km distant Evanston. This town was known as evangelical Methodist Mecca and one of the evangelical Christian feminist strongholds (:13-15; :12-26; A Paradise for Women).

The Holiness movement, especially under the leadership of women, clashed there in contrast to the strict Victorian gender segregation (:27-61; Virtue, Vice, and Victorian Women). This resulted in the participation of women at management level and in education (z. B. Northwestern Female College). The evangelization of women by men was criticized loudly. The outspoken Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society from the Methodist Episcopal Church (WFMS) was led by Frances Willard, Bushnell’s neighbor (:19). For decades she became her mentor, based on a mutually benefiting relationship (:21). Bushnell studied theology and the languages of the Biblical base text. Exegesis and hermeneutics became her favorite.

Based on emphasis on missiology oriented to other counties and on women in science, in the context of the Methodists, Bushnell further studied medicine (:24-25). In 1879 she went as Medical Intern-expert to China. Her trip stood under the influence of Christian feminism, the Christianization of women by women, and the so-called “social-purification campaign” (:27; social purity crusade). Here, in a foreign land, she recognized for the first time, significantly the (un)conscious reduction of women. She learned about the motivations by men behind, and why women leave this with them. She was, at that time unaware of her own imperialist-colonialist approach. In the Chinese translation of the Bible she found basic ideas for paternalistic and ideological bias in the global Christian context. As an example she addressed Philippians 4:2-3. In the Chinese translation the text referred to two male assistants, while the basic text speaks of Euodia and Syntyche as female assistants (:39-40). Even worse, was the theological “proof” of her male counterparts regarding this erroneous translation.

Bushnell got the chance to work for the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) (:41). Back in the US she examined different scientific links between prostitution and male influence in Wisconsin, such as she had perceived in China (:60-62; :62-85; Heathen Slaves, Christian Rulers). Her big breakthrough came with an investigation for targeted prostitution by British soldiers in the Indian part of the Commonwealth. Under false pretenses, however, based on official assignment, she could discover there the conduct of British troops with Indian women. False marriage-promises led to a sort of “official” prostitution. As a consequence, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, suicide and social ostracism lead in turn to resistance against the British population (:69-71). Bushnell and Andrew, her friend, were able to prove this for China. Their findings led to strong protests in the Commonwealth but were scientifically sound. Bushnell was probably the first woman of that time, to declare publicly Christian theological thinking responsible for crimes against women (:86-89; :86-107; The Crime is the Fruit of the Theology).

Bushnell began her own Bible lessons for women: God’s Word for Women. At the same time she studied English Bible translations of their paternalistic mistranslations. She quickly realized that the understanding of the history of creation fundamentally influenced paternalist interpretation (:108-129; Leaving Eden). In particular, the position of Eve after the Fall was the key exegetical matter of fact (:130-151; Reedeming Eve). She borrows at the same time from anthropological and religious studies. The matriarchy, as an early social system served her as foundation for the special divine transferred responsibility of the man against the woman. Not as protector of woman, but as a God-opposite, absolutely equal to the woman. Only later paternalistic interpretation postponed this particular responsibility on the shoulder of the woman, who was now at the mercy of male power structures (:150-151).

Liberal movements in American-British Protestantism leveled in the long run the gender issue, and thus the participation of women in theological space (:152-162;). By the early 20th century a new liberal feminist wave began, for them Bushnell’s conservative approach was not enough. Bushnell spoke in favor of the family, against abortion and contraception (birth control) from (:163-178; A Prophet without Honor).

Since the so-called “modern liberal feminism” could not eliminate the discrimination of women, it became the “new morality” and “conservative Christian feminism” that rediscovered Bushnell for intercultural theology (:179-187; Conclusion: The Challenge of Christian Feminism).

In summary, this study is recommended to anyone who wants to educate on the subjects gender-question, human trafficking, prostitution, feminism and ideology in Bible translation.


Gender ; human trafficking ; prostitution ; feminism; ideology in Bible translation ; colonialism ; post-colonialism ; maternalism ; paternalism

Book Review: Conner, Benjamin T. 2018. Disabling Mission, Enabling Witness: Exploring Missiology Through the Lens of Disability Studies

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Benjamin T. Conner (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is professor of practical theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. There he also directs graduate education in disability studies and practical ministry. His critical plea consists of the observation that the church does not make use of the potential that lies in people with physical or mental disabilities. The church is not fulfilling its mission of gathering all social groups in reflection of human diversity. Disableism (USA ableism), the rejection of disabled persons, and paternalism prevent the faithful from opening up to this group of persons.

Conner begins by describing his observations within the church when it comes to people who do not follow the church’s daily life as expected. His etic ethnographic descriptions form the starting point of a non-disabled person positioning himself in Disability Missiology, an entirely new field. The relevant missiological questions for Conner are, first, what concepts or practices are appropriate to approach disability studies in a way that speaks to people with physical or mental challenges? Second, he is interested in the questions these individuals pose around missiology (p. 11).

Using several examples, Conner explores the question of what “disability” is and how to speak of it. Although about 15-20% of the world’s population falls under the WHO definition of disability, the life experience around “disability” is a topic in the middle of society, since everyone has been or will be temporarily physically or mentally limited due to age. Following the social disability model (UK), “disability” is constructed by the non-disabled. This is done in order to distinguish oneself from those who are supposedly “different” in their physical or mental state of life (p. 20-21). This is a heterogeneous group that cannot be limited to single criteria. Moreover, these constructs vary and change globally and locally depending on ethnicity and their cultural-linguistic worldviews. Conner ventures into transcultural perceptions of “disability,” but only in a very limited way and only for Native Indians and one North African ethnic group (pp. 22-24).

Conner then stays in the North American context and provides an overview of the particular problems of disabled people’s inactivity, abuse, and violence against them in family, homes, or workplaces (pp. 28-30). They are also particularly threatened or affected by poverty, homelessness, isolation, criminalization, or incarceration in the context there.

Missiology as a practice-oriented discipline should do justice to the diversity of human societies (p. 36). In the last century, North American missiological circles self-critically stated in the so-called Hocking Report (1932) that their mission was mostly accompanied by colonialist expansion. Conner now counters this with a concept based on the Missio Dei, i.e. God’s initiative in the mission, secondly on becoming native through contextualization, and thirdly on the Christian witness as a proclamation of the social pluriformity of Christian presence (p. 39). Particularly noteworthy is his emphasis on conversion as the central process of becoming indigenous within the contextualization (Andrew Walls; p. 42). Furthermore, missiology represents the discipline of Christian witness. Christian witness here includes proclamation to the outside world and communion to the inside world (pp. 50-54). On the latter, Conner troubles James Edward Lesslie Newbigin (1979), whose article Not Whole without the Handicapped pointed out the church’s disableism due to physical and spiritual exclusion of disabled persons.

In the third part, Conner points to the situation of the deaf. The missiological orientation of his observations reveals the paternalistic attitude of church workers when it comes to meeting people with aural limitations. The deaf community is particularly interesting in this regard, as there are groups within its ranks who value themselves as non-disabled. They argue that Deaf language is a fully inclusive communicative base that is open to everyone. This means that there is no restriction for this community. According to their interpretation, the construct “deaf, mute” obviously serves to stigmatize this group, even though there is no objective criterion of “otherness.” Conner informs readers of their racial discrimination, such as that exhibited by Alexander Graham Bell (*1847-†1922), inventor of the telephone (p. 73). He called for the complete extermination of this deaf defective human race. Similarly, the evangelization of deaf or hearing-impaired persons, as practiced by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet (*1787-†1851), reflected a paternalistic arrogance. To him they were “heathens” to whom he was sent. Conner rightly asks why a “physical otherness” is equated with paganism? As a consequence, Gallaudet founded a pedagogical home, which was supposed to break through their sickness of spirit and their limitation of intellect in order to reach religious knowledge (p. 79). Conner points out that Gallaudet later applied the same arguments to indigenous Hawaiians. Nevertheless, based on his pedagogical premises, Gallaudet supports sign language but discriminates against those who fail to reach perfection in tongue reading or in learning written language (pp. 83-85).

Conner ventures a critical comparison with the indigenization of Christianity in Africa. There, Bible translation contributed significantly to the development of distinct Christian theological expressions after indigenous exegetes broke away from Western influence and found their own approaches to the Gospel. The deaf community also broke away from words and interpreted, through sign language, the implied interpersonal events described in the events. Their warm interpretation is enriching the church, Conner says (pp. 97-98).

In the final section, Conner describes his hermeneutical approach to iconic witness (p. 103). He has mental disabilities in mind. He counters their stigmatization with a change of perspective from rationalism to relationalism of human being. According to this interpretation, the iconic nature of our human existence is based on the mutual encounter and represents a sacrament of creation that brings God to bear in all human beings (p. 139).

Conner provides an anthropological-theological study that offers room for further research. To what extent the hermeneutical concept of “iconic witness” he presents is new or helpful in this regard remains to be seen.


missiology ; intercultural theology ; deafness ; deaf-mute ; iconic witness ; hermeneutics of symbols ; iconic witness.

Boow Review: Schipper, Jeremy 2011. Disability & Isaiah’s Suffering Servant

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This work is increasingly noticed in theological circles. The basic exegetical message that the description of the suffering of the Servant of God is an actual rather than an imagined or transmissible disability of a person also has missiological implications. In particular, it calls into question the diaconal-ethical orientation of the church toward people with disabilities.

Jeremy Schipper is a professor of Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) at Temple University in Pennsylvania. He has been involved with disability studies in relation to the Hebrew Bible since 2006. In doing so, he questions the common interpretive practice of interpreting the descriptions of disability or the disabled primarily allegorically. He sees no reason to approach the Hebrew Bible in this way, neither inner-biblically nor in the religious and linguistic comparison with other ancient writings. He is cautious and admits this approach as a possible option, but does not want to leave it as the only or preferred possibility (Conclusion, pp. 110-112). Schipper demonstrates that this approach is especially evident in the interpretations of the Servant of God in Isaiah 53.

In the interpretation of Isaiah he follows the general tradition, which divides Isaiah 53 into two parts: A divine speech or oracle as introduction and conclusion (52:13-15 and 53:11b-12) and as main part a psalm about the servant (53:1-11a). He rejects the theory that the psalm is a later insertion between two divine speeches, and thus that originally there was no description of an impairment, because of the different text-critical findings. He also emphasizes the variety of descriptions of disability and disabled people in the Hebrew Bible, especially in Isaiah (disability imagery).

Disability studies reveal three models of disability perception. The medical model, the social model from the UK, and the cultural model from the USA (pp. 14-20). The former is now declared inadequate. Schipper chooses a practice-based approach to disability. For him, age-related phenomena caused by slow deterioration are not included, but explicitly mentioned infertility (male, female, eunuchs), mobility, visual, hearing and mental limitations are. Ancient texts describe the timely perception of disability, but they do not give sufficient definitions of it.

Schipper cites the inner-biblical spiritual transmissions (metaphors) that play with vocabulary out of the realm of disability, of which Isaiah is not sparing (e.g., Isa 42:19; 56:10). Isaiah 53, however, goes beyond this, as the real physical and mental limitation of a person is described.

Another interpretation defines the servant as “suffering” but not disabled (p. 32; see below). In contrast, the experience of social isolation (Isa 53:3) points to a “real” rejection by otherness or disability. Implications of a religious substitution, such as from the Hittite and Assyrian realms for mentally handicapped persons used in place of the sick king, are not sufficiently evidenced to apply to Isa 53. Schipper discusses theories of a skin disease as proposed by Duhn (pp. 40-42) as well as interpretations that exclude disability as an interpretive option, namely of a servant of God who was injured (pp. 42-45; so, e.g., Whybray), killed (pp. 45-49), recovering (pp. 49-55), or imprisoned (pp. 55-57).

Chapter 3 is devoted to a text-critical analysis of Isaiah 53. In the course of antiquity, according to Schipper, a shift in view from a disabled servant of God to a non-disabled one is evident. Especially the Targum (ancient Aramaic interpretive translations) break away from the image of a disabled servant and speak more of an “anointed” (mšhy) rather than a “deformed” person (mišhat; Isa 52:14; pp. 69-71). In contrast, Jerome in the Vulgate and commentaries uses vocabulary from the realm of disability (p. 71).

The New Testament evidence extends to quotations from Isaiah 53 in the New Testament. Jesus’ healings and miracles form the reference. In addition to Matt 8:17, John 12:28 should also be mentioned, though in both cases disability does not play a role, but Jesus’ rejection despite his healings. Other passages referring to Isaiah 53 also point not to disability but to rejection and suffering. For example, in Lk 22:37, Mk 15:28 – Jesus as an innocent; in Acts 8:32-33 and 1Pt 2:22 – a martyr or in Rom 10:16 and 15:21 – reactions to the Servant of God. This New Testament tendency is likely to support the longstanding shift from understanding disabled people to the suffering servant of God.

In chapter 4, Schipper examines the myriad interpretations of the Servant of God as suffering, real-existent or to be interpreted collectively. At least fifteen historical persons are found in the interpretation (p. 84). The Servant is interpreted early on as Jesus, then again as Messiah (e.g. Justin, 2nd century; pp. 89-91), as king (pp. 91-93) or as prophet (pp. 93-99). Collective interpretations point to Israel, as represented, for example, by Origen in the 3rd century (pp. 99-100), or to suffering Zion (pp. 104-106). To illustrate the predominant tendency toward non-disability, Schipper also lists references to disability in terms of the Messiah or the Servant of God (pp. 85-89; including leprosy or the state of Eunuchs).

It is Schipper’s merit to have shown in brief how a biblical text, here Isaiah 53, can lose an original nuance and subsequently take all kinds of interpretative directions. With regard to disability, this is particularly tragic, since the “glocal” church must actively counteract an inherent paternalistic tendency or exclusion, in order to live up to its “inclusive” effect of being the church for all of all.

Isaiah ; Hebrew Bible ; Disability Studies ; suffering ; theodicy ; healing ; missiology ; theology

Book Review: Larsen, Timothy 2014. The Slain God: Anthropologists and the Christian Faith.

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Timothy Larsen teaches as professor of Christian philosophy (Christian thought) at Wheaton College. He received his doctorate in history from the University of Stirling (Scotland) in 1997. In this work, Larsen explores Christian thought in the burgeoning science of secular Anglophone anthropology (engl. ethnology). The basic scholarly tenor, whether this is true or not, is that anthropology is “anti-religious” and hence exhibits an “anti-faith” attitude (p. 9). With the title ” The Slain God” he shows which theoretical-philosophical worlds of thought developed among critics as well as among proponents of Christian-ethical values. Of interest to missiologists is the apologetic thrust as it emerges in the scientific discourse with the discipline of anthropology (ethnology).

The discipline of anthropology, which has been developing since the mid-19th century, is underestimated in its overall scientific influence and often reduced to evolutionary Darwinism and cultural anthropology. Larsen limits his study to British social anthropologists because, in his opinion, they exhibit the broadest diversity of thought (p. 2). Left untouched are the research fields of applied, biological-physical, evolutionist, sociocultural, or linguistic anthropology, as well as archaeology.

Larsen begins with a historical review, pointing to the early initial ethnographic research of C. Prichard (1786-1848). Also, explicitly Christian ethnographers, such as the method. Revd. Edwin William Smith (1876-1957), and also nonreligious freethinkers, such as Edmund Leach (1910-89), are mentioned. However, to give an overall outline of developments in anthropology, he chooses the following anthropologist/s: E. B. Tylor (1832-1917), James Frazer (1854-1941), E. E. Evans-Pritchard (1902-1973), Mary Douglas (1921-2007), Victor (1920-1983), and Edith Turner (1921- ).

The anthropological-scientific discourse leads through the initial social-evolutionist approach (Tylor, Frazer), to functionalism (Malinowski), from there to functional-structuralism (Radcliffe-Brown), and to modern approaches (p. 6).

“Religion” is often regarded as “superstition” in anthropology. Because of this critical-rejectionist attitude, it was negotiated from a sociological point of view as “projection” or “compensation,” at the level of “maintaining social solidarity” (p. 10; Evans-Pritchard). Personal faith or membership in a faith community was viewed critically, such as the charge to Mary Douglas that “No sincere anthropologist can be a Catholic” (2005:105). How did such thinking affect anthropology?

E. B. Tylor built his anthropological approach on August Comte (1798-1857). The latter, in turn, used an evolutionist approach and viewed all human processes under a higher evolving triad: theological-fictional, metaphysical-abstract, and scientific-positive (p. 21). Tylor introduced the “comparative method” based on “similar stages of development” in all peoples. “Primitive stages” were thereby already passed through by the “more highly developed” ethnic groups (p. 22). “Animism” is with him the “science of the savages” (savages), “magic” the “incomplete approach to science” and “religion” has the “aim to explain nature” (pp. 23-25).

James George Frazer introduces another evolutionary three-step, namely the socio-logical phases of “magic”, “religion”, and “science” (p. 41). Every culture passes through these. For him, this is also true of Judeo-Christian doctrine, as a transitional form, reflected in the biblical stories. Jesus Christ’s death becomes the later “Haman of the year.” A cycle that recurrently defines itself as either “salvation history” (believers) or “superstition” (critics) (ibid.). Nonetheless, he engages with theologians and later even fears that his views might strengthen the same in their beliefs (pp. 78-79, according to Larsen).

Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard (1902-1973) brought ethnography to bear as a comparative or descriptive discipline. His goal was to trans-port “them” to “us” (English culture) (p. 84). At the same time, he went through personal experiences (2 world wars, death of parents, suicidal death of wife in 1959, early death of first son in 1941; pp. 115-16) that led him to the Catholic faith, but as a critical, but convinced, Bible-reading believer (1941; pp. 95, 102). With Franz Steiner, he calls for “religion” to be treated as an independent anthropological rather than an evolving object of research (p. 127). He was well aware of the anti-religious and anti-faith attitude of his discipline (1947; pp. 80, 96). Undeterred by this, he spiritually followed his father, who was a reverend in the Church of England (p. 82). His fame (chair of anthropology at Oxford University; honor of knighthood 1971; p. 82) is attested in the eulogy on him, as “the most brilliant anthropological thinker of us all” (Firth; p. 81).

Mary Douglas was overwhelmed by the impact of religious food rules and their implementation (p. 120). She studied spontaneous responses to rituals from the standpoint that formal, written, and structured “natural symbols” are better than informal, personal, and timeless ones (Purity and Danger; p. 135). In contrast to Evans-Pritchard, who calls “magic” flawed, Douglas equates “magic” with religious sacraments or basic Christian statements (pp. 144-145). Her studies of Leviticus, in Purity and Danger, show her openness to biblical content, which did not prevent her from interpreting the Bible allegorically (pp. 151-155). At the same time, she rejected the historical-critical approach of theologians to the Bible as inadmissible for anthropologists, since research material should not be arbitrarily dissected by the scientist (p. 153).

Victor Turner (1920-1983) and Edith Turner (1921- ; married 1943) are known for their atheistic beginnings and later conversion to Roman Catholicism (1958; p. 182). Negative childhood experiences pushed both of them out of the Christian space. Only “faith experiences” in Africa (initiation rites, religious rituals) brought them together anew with the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical “world of experience” (pp. 183-185). Her research on “pilgrimages,” based on her own religious experience, the infant death of her daughter in 1960, made her famous since 1968 (p. 194). Edith Turner continues to be active in anthropology today.

With this historical outline, Larsen offers a fascinating study of a human discipline that feels pressured to have to logically explain everything transcendent. As a result, it develops methods that approach transcendence only insofar as they displace it into the realm of experience. Larsen, as a convinced Christian, does not necessarily remain objective himself, which he should justify more clearly in the preface. For this reason, one gets an insight into the “how” of rejecting attitudes, but misses “objective” reasons of the “why”.


Anthropology ; Ethnology ; Apologetics ; Church criticism ; Faith ; Christianity

Book Review: Morton, Jeff 2012. Insider Movements: Biblically Incredible or Incredibly Brilliant?

Morton, Jeff 2012. Insider Movements: Biblically Incredible or Incredibly Brilliant? Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 126 Seiten

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Jeff Morton is a professor at Biola University’s Cook School of Intercultural Studies. As in his previous works Two Messiahs (2011) and as co-editor of Chrislam (2011), in the present work, within the framework of 12 succinct articles, he has explored so-called “Insider Movements,” also called “Jesus Movements.” Inspired by movements that follow Jesus as the “Messiah” (Messiah Movements) (e.g. Messianic believers of Jewish background), he examines those from the Islamic realm. Morton goes into the – for the whole discussion very helpful – division into a theological understanding of religion, biblical foundations and the understanding of conversion. He sifts through these three areas using statements made in Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ) and the International Journal of Frontiers Mission (IJFM) by key proponents Kevin Higgins (Global Team; IJFM 2004-2009), Lewis Rebecca (Fron-tiers; IJFM 2007-2010), Dudley Woodberry (Fuller Seminary; 1989; 1996; 2007), and Rick Brown (SIL International; IJFM 2004-2010). Because of its timeliness, the World Evangelical Alliance’s (WEA) denying position regarding Islam-contextualized terminology in Bible translations, published in April 2013, is not addressed. He answers questions about the identity of Muslim messiah followers, the understanding of church, and the translation of terminology objectionable to Islam in Bible translations or scriptural material in his other publications.

Right from the introduction and in the first chapter, Morton makes it clear that he views Islam as a “false religion with a false message about a false hope delivered by a false prophet, and written in a book filled with false claims” (p. 9; emphasis in original. EW). To demonstrate what he sees as the serious differences between the biblical and Quranic understandings of God, Morton uses the proper names Yahweh and Jesus in contrast to the Islamic Allah. In doing so, the anti-Christian orientation of Islam becomes clear to him above all in the Quranic textual content, which he points to as evidence throughout.

Chapter two illuminates the idea of an, according to Higgins, original orthodox Islam, which is renewed from within by Messianic Muslims and has not removed far from Original Christian views (p. 14). On the basis of the central event of the incarnation of Jesus, he shows the “anti-Christian spirit” (p. 17) of Islam, which rejects it. Morton goes on to discuss his three main arguments (see above) on the basis of selected biblical textual evidence from proponents of the Insider Movement.

He further discusses Gen 14:17-20, the appearance of Mechizedek, king of Salem (chapter three). Higgins sees in this pericope an action of God (El in v. 18 in reference to Semitic Elohim and Allah) in other religions, namely the religion of Melchizedek, which is a foreshadowing of the Messiah. Morton rejects this. The latter assumes that Melchizedek’s religion, similar to Abraham’s, worshipped the true God Yahweh at its core, and therefore took heed with Yahweh.

In chapter four, Morton discusses 2 Kings 5:15-19. According to Higgins, the story of Naaman and his cure of leprosy by the prophet Elisha is another indication that a believer should remain in his religious-cultural environment. The fact that Naaman took to Aram from Israel’s earth shows that he was to remain in his cultural-religious tradition with the prophet’s permission. Through the biblical linkage of the possession of Israel’s earth and the God of Israel now worshipped by him (v 15, 17), this story shows that one can worship Yahweh even as a non-Israelite. At the, end Morton rejects such, as an argument from silence, since no qualitative statement would be made about Naaman’s position in relation to the God of Abraham.

In chapter five, Morton discusses Jonah 1 and the position of the prophet and the ship’s crew as evidence of non-Jewish Yahweh worship. In his opinion their relationship to Yahweh, based solely on the prayers mentioned, cannot, in his view, be considered evidence of a real relationship to God.

John 4 and Acts 8 are further passages that are considered by proponents as evidence of non-Jewish followers of the Yahweh cult and are supposed to prove that these people groups remained in their religious-cultural environment (chapter 6). The conversions from the Samaritan people are often seen by proponents as examples of Insider Movements (pp. 36-37). Morton, however, again rules out such a derivation from the argument from silence. Since there is no mention of a detailed conversion of the Samaritans, nothing can be said about it.

Acts 15:19-21 (chapter 7), Acts 17:22-23, 28 (chapter 8), 1 Corinthians 7:17-20 (chapter 9), and 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (chapter 10) round out the considerations, though the argument remains similar.

In chapter 10, Morton takes up a comparison by Woodberry that is noteworthy here. The latter sees similarities between the Decalogue of Exodus 20 and the same commandments in the Qur’an. Morton compares the two and concludes that (1) the Sabbath commandment was not taken up in the Quran because Muslims use Friday as a holiday (p. 74), (2) that there are two commandments that are not clearly answered in the Quran (no other gods, do not kill), but (3) that the other commandments also appear in the Quran. Muhammad remains a plagiarist for Morton. Interesting at this point is that Morton traces Woodberry’s remarks on an approach to Islam back to John Wilder’s 1977 article: Some Reflections on Possibilities for People Movements Among Muslims (Missiology 1977). The whole represents for Morton what has become a long-running and dangerous paradigm shift in evangelical theology.

Morton then moves on to an understanding of return and conversion and Christianization (chapter 11). He sees the main concern of the proponents of Insider Movements as wanting to avoid at all costs Christianization or, in the worst case, Westernization of faithful followers of Jesus from Islam (pp. 88-90). Morton makes it clear that this basic assumption is wrong, since a convert does not become a Christian by name, but a true Christ follower who can call himself anything he likes, but who belongs to “Christ”. In this context, cultural-religious arguments play only a minor role. Finally, Morton concludes with a clear rejection of the Insider Movements as part of true Christhood (chapter 12).

Also worth mentioning are the two appendices. Appendix 1 contains a policy statement by Bassam Madany against the initialization of Insider Movements as a Western product. Appendix 2 is an examination by Roger Dixon of Insider Movements in West Java, Indonesia. Roger Dixon has been partly involved in the movement (also in Bangladesh) and concludes that it is a false gospel and a false approach that has opened many rifts instead of closing them.

This book is helpful in getting a picture of the theology and missiology of proponents and opponents of the Insider Movement approach. It is ironic, or sarcastically negative, in places, which is consistent with the author’s “evangelical biblical” and “conservative” understanding. If a theological approach to Islam – and this is the crux of the matter in this discussion – is not desired, then one comes to such conclusions. Above all, the contention between Scripture and the Quran make this study a tool for apologetic inquiry. Finally, it should be said that the overemphasis on a Western influence in the formation of Insider Movements does not represent the whole truth. In part, Christian development workers in the Islamic world encountered pre-existing circles of messiah followers whom they took on. The latter development, however, does not appear in Morton’s work.

Book Review: Rispler-Chaim, Vardit 2007. Disability in Islamic Law

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Vardit Rispler-Chaim is a professor of Arabic studies (language and literature) at the University of Haifa. Her field of research includes the legal provisions of Islamic legislation and their ethical implications. Her publications relate to practical areas of law such as human rights (1992), medical ethics (1993), women’s rights (1995), genetic research (1998), abortion (1999), and people with physical or mental disabilities (2007). As a yield for missiology, her research broadens the view on other religions with regard to the social position there and the ethical ideas on this latter group of persons.

In 96 pages, she describes Islamic jurisprudence with regard to people with disabilities. It subdivides into the exercise of religious duties by people with limitations (pp. 19-40), the position of the same with regard to jihad (pp. 41-46), the moral-ethical opinion on marriage with regard to people with physical or mental limitations (pp. 47-68), the legal perception of intersexual people (hermaphrodites; khunta; pp. 69-74), and finally the deliberate or unconscious injury/mutilation by people (pp. 75-92). A detailed appendix contains all the important fatwas (binding legal information) on the above-mentioned areas (pp. 97-134). An index to disabilities, to the Islamic-Arabic terminology used, and to the personalities mentioned in the book (pp. 163-171) are rounding up her research.

In her introduction, Rispler-Chaim addresses the perception of people with physical or mental disabilities in the public sphere and their social position with regard to human rights. She relates Islamic terminology used in religious Arabic to currently known limitations (pp. 3-5; e.g., marid pl. marda “sick person” vs. marad “disease”). Her ethical-medical debate is based on the widely used medical model in disability studies, but she is aware of the social and cultural model (pp. 16-17). Her research also includes AIDS and intersex people (see below; pp. 10, 17), two areas on which there are a lot of fatwas. Homosexuality and AIDS are considered in Islam as a consequence of ethical and moral rejection.

World religions are similar in their social structure. There are the insiders and outsiders, the pious laity and the religiously responsible leaders (monks, clerics, etc.). Besides, people with physical or mental limitations generate in religious people the overall question of the meaning in life (theodicy). God, gods or divine powers have to be brought in line with the deviation from the normal (as also for diseases and catastrophes). In Islam, the cause of all deviation is causally founded in Allah; at the same time, it is up to the believer to seek blame not in Allah, but in himself (pp. 8-9). Reason (kafa’a, ‘aql) plays the basic prerequisite for meeting the religious demands of the religious communities (p. 20). Lack of reason excludes from or limits religious responsibility (e.g., leadership responsibility; p. 25).

Ritual purity (tahara) performs the foundation of the five Islamic religious obligations/pillars: the confession (not discussed), prayer five times (30:17; pp. 23-27), fasting (pp. 27-33), pilgrimage (pp. 34-37), alms tax (pp. 37-38).

Ritual ablutions for prayer are based, among other things, on the Qur’anic saying “In it [the Moschee. EW.] are people who like to purify themselves, and Allah loves those who purify themselves” (9:108; p. 19). People with limitations often cannot comply. Islamic jurisprudence therefore provides for exceptions. Rispler-Chaim emphasizes that each Islamic school of law has its own interpretation on this. The violation of the ritual purity commandment concerns above all the contamination by body fluids (urine, saliva, blood, menstruation, and sperm). Natural or also artificial exits are to be kept pure and closed during the prayers, e.g. by tampon, bandage, medical closures. Generally exempted are people with mental impairment, epileptics and unconscious people (p. 20). The Hanafites equate the former with children and enjoin them from the cleanings. If a person with disabilities (e.g., mobility impairment) finds help for ablution, he may use it. Alternatively to water sand is possible (special clay, dirt; p. 21, Fatwa 1996 of Mufti ‘Atiyya Saqr; 4:43; 5:6 and 2:267). There are also exceptions and recommendations for the prayer movements of kneeling, standing, lying (rak’as), such as leaning against the wall or objects. The obligatory prayer with its movements is recommended by fatwa as a rehabilitation measure (p. 27). Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi (2000) ordered the translation of the Friday prayer for the deaf through sign language, which triggered fierce backlash as it distracted all believers (p. 2).

A role as imam is only possible to a limited extent for people with physical or mental disabilities (p. 25). Conceivable, but not preferred, are imams with limitations for the group of people they belong to (blindness, deafness, incontinence, castration).

Fasting is generally not recommended for people with paralysis in order to spare the heart. People with skin impairments, on the other hand, are advised to fast as a rehabilitation measure (p. 33).

The pilgrimage is recommended only for people who have no mobility impairment and no psychological impairment (e.g., 2:196). For those who perform the pilgrimage with assistive devices, become ill in the process, or overcome their impairment after the journey, it is not valid and should be repeated (Mufti ‘Atiyya Saqr and ‘Abd al-Qadir in 1993).

People with impairments are partially exempted from alms tax. They are compared to children who are also exempt (p. 38). As recipients, mentally impaired people in particular benefit from the tax under the aspect of poverty and need of help (9:60).

According to the interpretation, “the blind, the sick and the crippled” (24:61) are excluded from jihad, as are the mentally ill (pp. 42-43). The legislation provides exemptions for non-Muslims under Islamic rule for the disabled, as they fall under “the weak” and are considered harmless.

Rispler-Chaim discusses marriage requirements for people with disabilities, infertility, and genetic impairments (pp. 59-61). In Islamic soteriological terms, beauty, wealth, and childbearing capacity are especially rewarded (health remains unmentioned; pp. 49-52), which often generally excludes people with limitations. Since adoption is forbidden in Islam, Rispler-Chaim argues, medical methods for determining infertility or genetic defects are particularly sought after in Islam (p. 60).

Rispler-Chaim discusses intersexual people in great detail (pp. 69-74). Gender reassignment surgeries are approved by many fatwas if the “benefit” has been examined by experts (pp. 73-74). What is left open is what constitutes a “whole” man or woman.

Rispler-Chaim’s research provides deep insights into ethical and moral aspects of Islam, which are particularly evident in the treatment of people with disabilities as social indicators.

Book Review: Rynkiewich, Michael A. 2011. Soul, Self, and Society

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Prof. Michael Rynkiewich is an anthropologist at the faculty of Asbury Theological Seminary and the E. Stanley Jones School of Mission and Evangelism. His scholarly anthropological activities in the context of Christian Development Assistance go back well into the 1970s.

In this publication, Rynkiewich processes his observations on the application of anthropology as an auxiliary discipline of missiology. He works slowly through an overview of anthropology before venturing into a “Christian anthropology” (chapter 13; pp. 243-250). His assessment is self-critical and reflects on the current state of anthropological (in German-speaking countries: ethnology) research in missiology. In his opinion, a deep gap opens up, with regard to the scientific discipline of anthropology and the application of the auxiliary discipline of anthropology in the context of missiology. But more on this later. How it came to this and what ways out are provided, he presents a historical review and short overview of anthropology.

In his introduction (Chapter 1; Anthropology, Theology and Missiology), Rynkiewich describes the life of a worker named Lakan from Papua New Guinea and his economic migration. As the narrative unfolds, it becomes clear that Lakan, like most modern people, is a member of many different social networks. With regard to these developments, the concepts of culture, “mother” language, diaspora, and religion become relative in the anthropological context. In what Rynkiewich calls the “standard model of anthropology” in missiology, the above terms are assumed to be static (p. 65). This corresponds to the state of anthropology in the 1950-1960s, but since then humanity has changed significantly due to migration, diaspora, transnationalism, urbanization, and globalization. As human societies have changed, anthropological research has also evolved. However, this development did not find its way into missiology. Rather, it stuck to the static image of the family, the individual versus collective society, and the people as a homogeneous unit (common origin, common language, and homeland).

In 12 chapters, Rynkiewich works his way through the areas of culture, ethnocentrism, and contextualization (chapter 2; pp. 11-44); language, symbols, and intercultural communication (chapter 3; pp. 45-63); the self, society, and behavior (chapter 4; pp. 64-77); marriage, family, and kinship (chapter 5; pp. 78-99); economics, development, and mission (chapter 6; pp. 100-120); politics, power, and law (chapter 7; pp. 121-133); religion, faith, and ritual (chapter 8; pp. 134-154); caste, class, and ethnicity (chapter 9; pp. 155-168); colonialism, neocolonialism, and post colonialism (chapter 10; 169-197); migration, diaspora, and transnationalism (chapter 11; pp. 198-213); urbanization and globalization (chapter 12; pp. 214-242); and a Christian anthropology (chapter 13; pp. 243 – 250). With this outline, Rynkiewich embarks on a journey through the history of the fledgling scientific discipline of anthropology.

Chapter 2 begins with the self-image of a society and how it is reflected externally as “culture”. In ethnography, cultures are described externally, in ethnology (comparative anthropology; not to be confused with the German term Ethnologie) they are compared with each other. In the course of the developments of cultural descriptions (ethnographies) a “cultural relativism” has formed. This assumes that a “culture” would be unique, delimitable and homogeneous in itself (p. 27). The basis of such assumption is ethnocentrism. Such thinking led in its consequence to racism and the racial ideological expression of anthropological ways of thinking. As a result, parts of anthropology came to a dead end with the racial ideological accompaniments of both world wars. At this point, Rynkiewich interpolates a somewhat off-kilter section on “culture shock” that describes the challenges of the anthropologist and missiologist in foreign environments. He then examines the relationship of biblical message (gospel) to “culture” within the framework of contextualization (Niebuhr, Carson, Menuge, Yoder). He contrasts contextualization with ethnocentrism. His result, the message must be brought to the people in their context, that is, one’s own ethnocentrism must be broken through in favor of an enculturation of the message. The incarnation of God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth is the theological basis for this. Unfortunately, he does not explain this thesis in more detail, which would be very welcome missiologically (p. 41).

In the third chapter Rynkiewich gives an overview of linguistics in anthropology and missiology. The most important insight is, the ever faster progressing linguistic extinction of languages, which are exposed to dominant national and lingua franca. Otherwise, it is a general overview of the disciplines of linguistics and their importance for intercultural communication [this would have been better studied separately. EW.).

In the fourth chapter, Rynkiewich then breaks down the static understanding of culture within the framework of deconstructuralism (p. 65). He shows that “culture” is a product of human enculturation by means of the different and multifaceted roles and the associated status that an individual holds in different social contexts. The construct “culture” is a relative and not fixable concept, even less are “cultures” comparable with each other. Similarly, he also negates the distinction of a cultural orientation to honor and shame or sin and guilt as introduced by Ruth Fulton Benedict (1946). Nevertheless, he uses the image of the “theory to the face” (p. 74; also “name”) and describes it in the categories he criticizes (!). He therefore recommends in his summary (p. 77) that a description of society should be made from cultural, social, ecological, and historical perspectives.

In the fifth chapter on marriage, family and kinship, Rynkiewich describes various family and kinship systems that have been extensively studied around the world (Iroquois, Hawaiians, Marshallese, Americans). Polygamy, as polygyny (man – several women) and polyandry (woman – several men), he devotes to the church in the contexts where few men are accessible and where women are oppressed. He concludes that the church has developed different strategies to deal with this form of human cohabitation. The motivation for the church is purely practical. He sees a theological defense of a monogamy-heterosexual relationship anchored in the Western cultural context and not as a generally valid postulate in view of the many different social systems (pp. 95-97).

At this point, for reasons of space, we turn to the seventh chapter on politics. In this chapter, the normal zeitgeist influence in anthropology is particularly evident. The interaction of law and politics is usually treated from the inadequate viewpoint of better or less developed “public institutions” (p. 129). However, every society has effective systems to regulate dispute and conflict and thus to guarantee internal and external order (Hoebel). These institutions and their interactions should be the subject of contextualization when biblical legal systems are introduced into a new cultural context in Christian Development (p. 130). Moreover, this process is in itself deeply political and must be seen as such by the church as well.

In the tenth chapter on colonialism, neo- and post colonialism, Rynkiewich points to the close and indissoluble interlocking of anthropology and missiology as colonialist activity in history and the present (p. 169). Whether one would want to go so far with him as to accept the Western creation narrative – the search for Eden and the Promised Land – as the cause of colonialism remains to be questioned. He makes clear, however, that Christian biblical hermeneutics have been consistently flexible over the centuries in justifying colonialism (pp. 186-188). Political and ecclesiastical interests can hardly be separated in retrospect. A kenotic (kenosis = self-emptying) approach seems to him a means out of the dilemma (p. 197). As mentioned in the beginning, due to the urbanization of mankind, the globalization due to the swelling mobility and the increasing nor-mal case of the “diaspora” that goes along with it, some things become questionable. Whether people migrate within a country or worldwide (who still lives in his “homeland”), “diaspora” now describes people outside their ancestral “homeland”. A static understanding of “culture”, “mother tongue”, the individual as a “person” and even objectivity in the science of anthropology is no longer tenable today. Rather, intersubjective and deconstructive features come to the fore in describing society. First, one’s subjectivity must be named, then the object of inquiry deconstructed, and then constructed again in terms of anthropological description (Derrida).

In conclusion, the criticisms of the misuse of anthropology within missiology touched upon here are very central but not new. It weighs heavily that, against better judgment, missiology does not move here and dissolve its static view. Rynkiewich in this short outline on the coexistence of anthropology and missiology has touched on problems, but in my opinion has not pointed out alternative methods that enable the missiologist now to work anthropologically. Here anthropology itself is already quite a bit further, as the approaches of intersubjectivism and deconstructivism show. Bernard in Research Methods in Anthropology (2006) and Barnard in History and Theory in Anthropology (2000) are approaching missiology more closely in their accounts. It is the practice-based “applied anthropology” that thrives on the comparison of social and cultural idiosyncrasies, for which a structuralist perspective is necessary.

Book Review: Yong, Amos 2011. The Bible, Disability, and the Church

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In missiology, unlike in theology, Disability Studies have not yet arrived. Disability Studies have an influence on missiological issues (church building, Bible translation, evangelism) based on hermeneutical and anthropological grounds. Amos, as a systematic theologian, provides an inclusion-oriented ecclesiology.

He writes from the perspective of a theologian whose brother Mark, 10 years younger, lives with Down syndrome (pp. 1-5). The father is pastor of a small, vibrant church in Northern California (p. 2). Amos briefly describes his observations of how his parents, church members, strangers, and even friends interact with his younger brother. He has already done so in detail in his worthwhile first publication, Theology and Down Syndrome: Reimagining Disability in Late Modernity (2007. Waco: Baylor University Press; note p. 5). The physical complications of “Down syndrome” come up as well (pp. 2-3), as do the mutual psychological-physical interdependencies between caregivers (nurses) and Mark (pp. 3-4). In this work, he focuses on interesting missiologist-ecclesiological and sociological questions regarding Disability Studies.

The author takes the reader on a search to the “theological meaning” of disability/disability (p. 5). In doing so, he is aware of the critical, theological insider voices that argue on discrimination against the disabled in the Biblical revelation (p. 6; “deniers”). He critically engages with these serious voices. Amos, however, wants to counter this perspective, by the redemptive hope about the experience of “disability” (pp. 6-7).

“Disability” for Amos is demarcated both, for one from “illness” and also from “not being disabled” (pp. 9-10). Although there are obviously no clear boundaries, those that address themselves as being meant know about a clear dividing line in society. They notice this immediately in the exclusion from and the marginalization by “the Normal”, defined in the term “being different”. This “otherness”, applied from the outside, also leads to manifold hostility towards the disabled (ableism). But what if the Christian community itself nurtures such tendencies, if the Bible itself fuels “ableism” or if such conclusions are drawn from it? Amos demands a tremendous courage of self-criticism from the Christian reader here (pp. 11-12).

Amos throws three premises into the field in order to argue in a result-oriented way despite generally existing prejudices (p. 13:

1) People with physical or mental limitations are made in the image of God (imago dei). Such is especially true through the filter of weakness in the person of Christ (imago Christi).

2) People with physical or mental limitations are first and foremost “human beings” and only secondarily “people with limitations”. They alone – not the “normals” – are entitled as agents to dispose of their limitations.

3) Still, physical-psychic limitations are present them as “the evil” (sin, satanic influences), or blame them of blemishes (ugliness, auxiliary tools, missing extremities) to be eliminated.

Amos’s gradation begins with theological reflections on the Hebrew Bible. Its cultic (purity) laws (e.g. Lev. 21:17-23) reflect God’s ideas on holiness. Priests with restrictions, are mentioned, but excluded from the cult such as the sacrificial service that is the entry into the Holy of Holies. They are forbidden certain services, but not participation, such as eating the sacrifices. Interestingly, people with aesthetic external limitations (not hearing or sensory limitations; p. 20) are also affected by the prohibitions. Deut 28:15-68 provides a broad outline of cultural and social exclusion based on disability and disease. Amos reflects on common Judeo-Christian commentaries (pp. 23-29). He places these in the context of other Old Testament references. For example, Jacob’s encounter with God resulting in a walking disability (hip; pp. 30-32), Mephibosheth’s (Saul’s grandson; pp. 32-34) paralysis, and at length Job’s “deformities” (monstrosity; pp. 35-40). Amos tries to summarize the Hebrew Bible’s treatment of disability under the aspect of “lamentation”, following the Psalms (pp. 40-47). Lament includes the common, searching question of being with God along people with and without disabilities (What do you want to say, O God?).

With regard to the New Testament, Amos uses mainly the Gospels for a clarification of the question of theodicy. Either the blind man (John 9; pp. 50-57) or demonic possession (p. 61), always the forgiveness of sins precedes the healings of the sick (pp. 60-63). Sin as such and disability/illness, as well as possession, are placed in close proximity to each other in the biblical context. Amos uses the strict separation of healing and forgiveness as taught by Jesus as a starting point to separate these three areas. He distrusts the conventional interpretations in common commentaries that do not make a clear separation (pp. 62-63).

Pentecost becomes for him the absolute turning point (from p. 73). Healing proceeds from God’s touch. From Pentecost on, all “believers” are directly touched by God, without any limitation (multisensory epistemology and holistic spirituality p. 78). Besides this being included, of people with limitations, in the divine covenant, Amos moves progressively to the Pauline texts. There he develops an inclusion-oriented “theology of weakness” (p. 88). He derives it from the presumed weakness or limitation of the apostle Paul. On this he builds his inclusive theology, which is based on the weakness of the church as an image of the weakness of Christ (chapter 4). The church itself, like an inclusive classroom that gathers people with limitations as well as the gifted and the “normal,” represents a holistic body. “With each other” one benefits “from each other” and thereby represents a holistic church social system.

In the final chapter, Amos outlines an inclusion-oriented ethic for the church. It is based on a) Jesus the high priest “compassionate in all things” (Heb 5), b) the church’s banquet hospitality open to all (e.g., Lk 14:15-24), and c) God’s rule over all and everything (Mt 25:31-46; pp. 130-136).

Amos works in a balanced and deliberative way toward an inclusion-oriented theological design. This emphasizes the meaning and value of people with limitations. For missiology, especially diacony and evangelism, this provides an opportunity for active enriching participation of all in the body of Christ. Critical is his positivistic view of biblical narratives and pericopes, which (un)consciously overlooks the ancient, paternalistic approach in dealing with people with limitations. However, it is his merit to cut extreme positions and to strike a balance between those in need of help, their intrinsic value and those willing to care.