The following is an interesting excerpt from Tony Jones’ post entitled, “The Orthodoxy of Down Syndrome”
Since I’m probably as philosophically as theologically bent, I’ve often struggled with the more conservative conceptions of orthodoxy because they surely tend to overestimate the ability of many human beings to articulate complex theological ideas. Jesus (“Come, follow me”) and Paul (“if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”) both had thresholds of belief to which, I assume, most developmentally challenged persons could rise.
To the argument that we can’t “lower the bar” of belief to chose exceptions in humanity who have the misfortune of a chromosomal abnormality or a tragic brain injury, my counter is that we’re all somewhere on the intellectual spectrum. Take, for instance, intelligence quotient. Some human beings have very high IQs, and some have very low IQS. But most of us fall somewhere in the middle.
Definitions of orthodoxy, or “Christian belief,” it seems to me, should be attainable by every — or nearly every — human being, not just those of us within the two standard deviations of the center of the bell curve of intelligence quotient. In other words, the threshold of belief would not be attainable by someone who is comatose. But it should be attainable by someone who has some verbal ability — or even some ability to communicate thoughts.
Some might want to draw the line for the requirements of orthodoxy somewhere within the range of more cognitive function, but because I fiercely believe that developmentally challenged persons are fully human, I draw the line at a place where those persons are included.
What do you more conservative theologians think about his idea? Is the gospel message easy enough for someone with down syndrome to get? Could we say a person with down syndrome doesn’t understand God or Christ because they do not understand the Nicene Creed or the Chalcedonian formula? Can all people with Down Syndrome understand things like incarnation, substitutionary atonement, etc.? I would love to read your thoughts.
_^_^_^_^_^_^_^_^_^_^_^_^_HT: Tony Jones @ Belief.net
Even I don’t fully understand those things. I totally agree with Mr. Jones. The Bible doesn’t say “Once you understand everything, then you have earned the right to enter heaven and be saved.” Paul and Silas told their jailer simply to “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…”
The way you’ve answered the question actually reveals that you agree with Tony. Tony’s writing style may not make his point as clear as it might be, but basically he’s saying that if you make the gospel hard enough so that a person with down syndrome couldn’t understand or believe it, you’ve made the doctrinal standard for Christianity too hard. Tony was arguing for people with down syndrome to be a measure of how simple the gospel should be, and thereby he was criticizing more conservative theologians who would have doctrinal standards for basic Christianity that would be beyond the reach of someone with down syndrome. Hope that makes more sense now.
Thanks for sharing your opinion!
didn’t i say i agreed?
oops … HAHA!! Sorry. I misread your comment. (now I feel like an idiot)
I misread you to be misreading him.
come on, Brad, give me a little credit