What does the cross mean for people with disabilities?

David McLachlan proposes a participatory atonement in which God engages creation’s contingency and vulnerability.

Many volumes have been published in the last decade that explore the theological implications of the lives and experiences of people with disabilities and their caregivers. These books typically include some combination of memoir, biblical exegesis, and theological reflection. Often, they advocate for reformulations of Christian doctrines and practices to make them inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities.

David McLachlan casts Accessible Atonement differently. The book arose from his pastoral work with young people with epilepsy, and its central argument is that Christian doctrine should be formulated from the outset to include people with disabilities. He contrasts this methodology with what he claims is the common practice of “bending” traditional formulations of doctrine to make them more inclusive.

Theologians of disability have reformulated some doctrines, McLachlan notes, including the significance of Jesus’ scars after the resurrection and the relationship between faith and healing. Some biblical studies have recast hermeneutics through the lens of disability. But thus far, he writes, theologians of disability haven’t engaged deeply with the notion of atonement or the meaning of the cross. He suspects this may be in part because atonement has long been associated with sin. Many theologians attempt to disassociate disability and sin, whether on biblical and theological grounds or based on social and scientific understandings.