Disability, Healing, and Jesus: Perspectives and Practices from the Gospels

Publication Date



Healing and disability can be loaded subjects in a Christian context. While the Gospels depict Jesus frequently engaging in healing with positive responses from those he healed, churches that attempt to heal in the way of Jesus today do not always do so in ways that are well received or truly healing for people with disabilities. A disconnect exists between how practices of healing today impact the people around them and the ways Jesus' healings interacted with those in his context. Much of this stems from how the healing narratives are interpreted, and the interpreters' pre-understandings of what constitutes sickness and health.

I look at diverse interpreters' readings of the Gospel healing narratives as they approach the texts through two distinct lenses: a biomedical lens and a lens that privileges the lived experience of people with disabilities. Each approach yields insight and notices particular details in the text which form different healing practices today. Finally, I develop a holistic way of interpreting the healing narratives that takes these and other approaches into account, and suggest concrete practices from the resulting interpretation.

In interviewing church leaders, I notice practices that intentionally engage people with disabilities tend to be done for logistical reasons or as acts of kindness based on general notions of Christian love. But many of these practices are much more than practically helpful or vaguely kind, they embody faithfulness to the way of Jesus Christ who loved and healed people in particular and concrete ways in the Gospels. As followers of Jesus, we need a strong connection to his practices of healing in the Gospels, and to allow our current and future practices to be informed by them. Using William Spohn's method of analogical imagination to be both faithful to the text and creative in using it in our different context, I offer constructive thoughts on how churches can be communities of healing in the way of Jesus today for people with disabilities, in ways that truly are healing.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Theology (PhD in Theology)

First Advisor

Stassen, Glen H.

Document Type





Jesus Christ, Person and offices, People with disabilities, Church work with people with disabilities, Disabilities, Healing, Spiritual healing


Missions and World Christianity


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