God is different from us. His thoughts, His ways, His perspectives are different from ours. In fact, He is so different that He cannot be known by us unless He chooses to be known. Everything we know about God is because God has chosen to reveal it to us. What He does reveal is how different He is and that how, by coming to know Him personally, we too become different. Indeed, we become so different from those without a personal relationship with God that we stand out and often find ourselves in conflict with a secular worldview.
What the Church has to offer the world is found in its difference from the world. The world needs the Church but what happens when this difference is eroded by the delusion of sameness? Simply, the Church then has little or nothing to offer the world that the world does not already have. Sooner or later, it becomes impotent and irrelevant. Yet, by not fearing its own difference and by having confidence in the difference released through the gospel and the Spirit, the Church can offer wisdom unattainable by any other means or agency to wider society.
My passion is that the Church would discover and share its wisdom about people with intellectual disabilities; people who bring the gift of difference. The Church needs to sing a new song. First it needs to learn it. Yet, in reality, the power of people with intellectual disabilities often stuns and/or scares the Church. Practice (finding solutions) is sought without theology (forming a spiritual foundation) and ecclesiology (facing up to what/who Church is for). Do we simply need to re-discover how revolutionary we are? Perhaps my young daughter Amy (who has Down syndrome) can help?
In 1 Corinthians 1.18-2.16 we find embedded a discernible pattern for advancing this different perspective amid the roots of spiritual revolution. There is a strong secular view of things; established over time, respected and creating a body of perceived wisdom. The world sees the message of the Cross as foolishness, as outrageous weakness. Then, a new and different perspective is introduced which has its source in God and its expression in the gospel of Jesus. The Cross is not foolishness but wisdom, not weakness but strength. Next, this new and different perspective confronts the prevailing secular perspectives. The gospel brings an entirely new/different perspective for the secular world to engage with. World perspectives (drawn from past and current philosophical thinking and social convention) are confronted. There is a new way of thinking!
Crucially, the Church is the prophetic voice of this new and different perspective. Our calling is to articulate divine perspectives which confront mere human perspectives. We must challenge perspectives that de-value and de-humanise people wherever these are found! Without the biblical, theological and spiritual perspectives the Church can contribute, wider society will, by default, build the future solely on understandings of human strength, intellectual capacity and economic productivity. Unknowingly, society needs the Church to lead the way by advancing the very different perspective of the Christian God. That’s why Tiō (The Centre for Intellectual Disability Theology and Ministry) exists – to help the church sing a new song!
Find out more at www.belfastbiblecollege.com/tio
Book now for our Conference 2016: ‘Honouring the Indispensable (1 Cor. 12:22-26)’ on 10-11 June
Dr. Ian Dickson
Director, Tiō – The Centre for Intellectual Disability Theology and Ministry