The Limit as Grace: A conversation between disability theology and Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Tuesday 30 October
Room 201, St Alphege Building, King Alfred Quarter, University of Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester, Hampshire SO22 4NR

A talk by Dr Eleanor McLaughlin, Lecturer from the University's Department of Theology, Religion and Philosophy.

This paper seeks to bring Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s account of human freedom and limitation into discussion with disability theology, building on Michael Mawson’s recent work on Bonhoeffer and disability. Bonhoeffer’s book Creation and Fall explores such theological concepts as divine grace, human freedom and limitation, and the limit imposed on the individual by the existence of the other. Disability theology questions embodiment theologies’ normativization of the body. Theologians of disability argue that embodiment theologies fail to reflect the multiplicity of human physical experiences, thus alienating people who self-identify as disabled. A consequence of the trend towards the normativization of human bodies is that ‘non-normal’ bodies are described as limited, where ‘normal’ bodies are not. Deborah Creamer challenges this assumption, arguing for a model of ‘limitness’ that encompasses all of humanity. I will argue that Creamer’s idea of an ontological human ‘limitness’ alongside Bonhoeffer’s interpretation of human limitation as a manifestation of God's grace can help contemporary conversations about disability and ability, and in fact provides a framework in which humanity in general can live more comfortably within its limits.

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