Rethinking the Image of God in Light of Those with Severe Cognitive Disabilities – page 7


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From the Winter 2017 issue of Knowing & Doing:

Rethinking the Image of God in Light of Those with Severe Cognitive Disabilities

by George C. Hammond, D.Min.
Teaching Fellow, C.S. Lewis Insitute - Loudoun County Pastor, Bethel Presbyterian Church

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  Finally, be careful with your suggestions. People can make suggestions out of true concern, not realizing the pain they cause. “You two should go away on a cruise for a week to get away from it all.” What are they to do with the child while they are gone? Where will they find the money? (There is significant cost to having a child with severe disabilities.) If you make such a suggestion …doing so with an offer to help (or maybe to take responsibility) for the care of the child while the family is gone and perhaps taking a collection from members of the church to gift parents with the trip would show true concern and understanding. Well-meaning suggestions without offers to help can increase loneliness and a sense that no one understands.
  Like all people, those like Rebecca are made in the image of God. Rebecca is a constant reminder to me that I am broken but nonetheless made in the image of God. Her inabilities highlight my inability to save myself. Her presence in my life has made me more aware that in the new heavens and new earth God will restore Rebecca and me to what He created us to be in Christ Jesus.


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1 See, e.g., St. Basil the Great, On the Human Condition, trans. Nonna Verna Harrison (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2005).
2 This included a belief that the nonmaterial aspects and entities in the world were good and that physical entities and aspects were suspect.
3 See Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. 3 (1945–1951; repr., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2010), 220.
4 See, e.g., John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2013), 784–85.
5 Pallab K. Maulik and Catherine K. Harbour, “Epidemiology of Intellectual Disability,” International Encyclopedia of Rehabilitation, sv. “Severity of Disorder,” accessed March 8, 2013, en/article/144/.
6 Nancy Eisland, The Disabled God (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994).

George Hammond is the Pastor of Bethel Presbyterian Church in Leesburg, VA and Teaching Fellow for the C.S. Lewis Institute – Loudoun County, VA. He graduated from Westminster in 1992 with his M.Div., and from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with the degree of Doctor of Ministry in 2014. Pastor Hammond has contributed to publications like Westminster Theological Journal and New Horizons, as well as secular periodicals. He has served as chairman of the candidates and credentials committee of the Presbytery of the Mid-Atlantic, Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He now serves in the Committee of Home Missions and Church Extension. Pastor Hammond lives in Loudoun County with his wife Donna and their four children.


Recommended Reading:
George C. Hammond, It Has Not Yet Appeared What We Shall Be: A Reconsideration of the Imago Dei in Light of Those with Severe Cognitive Disabilities (Reformed Academic Dissertations) (P&R Publishing, 2017)

The doctrine of the imago Dei has been criticized for technically excluding people who suffer from severe cognitive disabilities. With such people in mind, Hammond reexamines the doctrine and sets forth a more accurate and inclusive understanding. This work concludes with implications and practical applications to help seminary professors, pastors, and church members include, embrace, and welcome people with severe intellectual disabilities and their families.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE:  Knowing & Doing is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.



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