Monday, October 03, 2011

Aspergers Soteriology

My wife and I are fans of the sitcom "Big Bang Theory." Our favorite character is "Sheldon," a science genius who was obviously patterned after someone who has Aspergers disease. Since my wife is a Speech Pathologist who provides therapy for children and adults with Aspergers, I enjoy the benefit of her expertise as we watch the show. She'll often say, "That's exactly what an aspie [the nickname those with the disease call themselves] would say," or "I have a patient who does the same thing as Sheldon." Then, she'll give me a private tutorial about the behavior and thought-processes of those who have Aspergers. For example, many aspies cannot make sense of metaphor. Most have a hard time putting together a narrative in order to tell a story. Many have what we would call a rather ego-centric worldview--if it doesn't pertain to them, then what difference does it make? They also have a high sense of infallibility. And on and on.

All of this got me to thinking: can someone with Aspergers "be saved"?

Now, before I explain what I mean by asking such a provocative question, let me say I'm convinced that there must be many Christians who have Aspergers disease.

What I'm getting at is this: if a person can't make sense of metaphor, if narratives are confusing to them, if a person believes they are infallible [read: they are NOT sinners]--all of which most evangelicals would think are constitutive of the gospel--then how can they come to a "saving knowledge" of Jesus Christ? Or, another way of putting the question, is our typical doctrine of salvation too narrowly defined? Have we established a soteriology that accounts only for people like us, i.e., people who think like us?

Of course, most evangelicals already have an inclusive soteriology, e.g., children, mentally handicapped, perhaps even pagans who have never heard the gospel. Yet, what we typically mean by "hearing the gospel" is based on our understanding of the gospel. So, what if someone can't "understand" the gospel like we do, does it mean they don't believe?

11 comments:

JDTapp said...

I have had 5 or 6 students with various forms of Aspergers in my 3.5 years at SBU. Most indicated they consider themselves Christians, but it never dawned on me to ask them how they see the Gospel.

It seems to me the contextualization of the Gospel to someone with Aspergers wouldn't be so different a concept than contextualization to any other culture or people group. Many people groups understand the Gospel radically differently than a Westerner does, and handle metaphors dramatically differently.

Rodney Reeves said...

JD,

Another way to put the question would be, "How can an aspie contextualize the gospel for us?" In other words, to what extent do we act like we "own" the intellectual property of the gospel?

JD said...

i've often wondered the same about sociopaths. they have the same characteristics as you described the "aspies" having. although in the case of a sociopath within the church, surely there had to be some kind of clarity somewhere along the way, for only the Holy Spirit can lead a person to Jesus Christ Lord.

God, who is infinitely more graceful than any of us can even imagine, surely has all of it worked out beyond our understanding...

Darryl Schafer said...

"To what extent do we act like we 'own' the intellectual property of the gospel?"

Bah! You stole the words right out of my mouth!

ben cassil said...

Inability to form a narrative, sense of infallibility... Maybe the Apostle Paul was an "aspie." ;)

Darryl Schafer said...

Two points for Ben.

Matt E. said...

Ben: Or, like Paul, maybe "aspies" operate with "narrative substructures." :)

Darryl Schafer said...

THREE points for Matt!

JDTapp said...

Thanks for posting this. This post got me thinking: What else do they see differently in my class? How do they understand economics? The Aspergers I've had who are particularly gifted at math see things the other kids don't. But they may also be limited in understanding certain concepts I hadn't thought of before.

Anonymous said...

Just a thought, autism in general is not a disease, and never will be. A disease is caused by some kind of pathogen, such as a bacteria or a virus of sorts, and it is a mental disorder, and for some, it is a gift.

Rodney Reeves said...

Anonymous,

I struggled whether to refer to Aspergers (adult form of autism) as a disease. But, alas, the few MD sites I consulted did.