Theology and Down Syndrome: Reimagining Disability in Late Modernity

Amos Yong’s Theology and Down Syndrome represents an ambitious attempt by an Evangelical theologian to come to grips with the conditions and conundrums of disability in a contemporary Christian context. The book’s nine chapters and formidable bibliography inquire into cognitive disability of all kinds, not, despite its title, narrowly into Down syndrome alone. Yong writes in the dense idiom of critical academic theology and disability studies that may put off some readers, but the text is leavened with epigraphs, personal asides, and case studies that will appeal to most readers.

Yong sets himself three aims in this volume: to edify the reader, to contribute a new perspective to the field of systematic theology, and to transform the church into a more hospitable hearth for disabled people. Implied in these three aims—the existential, the theological, and the pastoral—are the rather different audiences to whom the book is addressed: Christian believers with a personal interest in Down syndrome in particular or disability in general; theologians interested in the implications of disability; and church leaders and members facing the challenges of ministering to disabled congregants. Not coincidentally, Yong himself fits all three profiles. His youngest brother, Mark, was diagnosed shortly after birth with Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome. Therefore, short personal vignettes are dispersed throughout the text in italicized asides. As a working academic theologian, Yong brings his family’s acquaintance with disability to bear on his professional interest in theology. And Yong’s personal background in the evangelical missionary effort overseas has honed his sensitivity to the practical challenges faced by disabled believers in the context of a faith community.

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