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God Beyond Words

God Beyond Words

Christian Theology and the Spiritual Experiences of People with Profound Intellectual Disabilities

Jill Harshaw

Part of the Studies in Religion and Theology series

Quick Overview

Responding to the view that people with profound intellectual disabilities cannot enjoy spiritual experiences, this book pushes the boundaries of intellectual disability theology. Thought-provoking and sensitive, this book poses important questions about the nature of faith and how the Church treats people with intellectual disabilities.
Details Price Qty
Paperback / softback
2016, 8.98in x 5.98in / 228mm x 152mm, 208pp
ISBN: 9781785920448
2016, ePUB, 208pp
ISBN: 978-1-78450-302-4
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In this groundbreaking book, Jill Harshaw explores the spiritual experiences of people with profound intellectual disabilities with regard to their capacity to enjoy life-giving spiritual experiences in their own right.

The author expertly argues that our thinking of spiritual life needs to start not with our assumptions about people who are unable to speak for themselves, but with what we can know about God. Stimulating a much-needed discussion, this book explains why we need to respect individuals with profound intellectual disabilities as spiritual persons, and stop seeing them simply as care-receivers or uncomfortable reminders of human vulnerability. Calling for a more critical approach in practical theology, this book invites a deeper, genuinely inter-disciplinary dialogue between new and traditional theological fields, and asks why, after more than 30 years of intellectual disability theology, the impact on church life remains minimal so that debates around the right to basic inclusion continue to dominate. The questions raised in this book not only move the discussion forward, but will spark a change on how the Church approaches inclusiveness.


'God Without Words probes deeply into the methodological and theological obstacles to understanding the spiritual experience of people with profound intellectual disability to discover we have to ask even more primordial questions about how God reveals Godself at all. The result is a wide-ranging scriptural, philosophical, and theological inquiry into the God who would be perceived by human flesh despite the limitations of cognition. What was intended as an intervention in the arena of intellectual disability has ripple effects in Christian theology as a whole.'
- Amos Yong, professor of theology & mission, Fuller Theological Seminary, and author of Theology & Down Syndrome: Reimagining Disability in Late Modernity (2007)

'God Beyond Words has significance for and beyond studies in theology and various experiences of disability. Jill Harshaw provides new insights into the spiritual lives of people with intellectual disabilities and she challenges us more broadly to rethink how diverse spiritualities can be researched. This is a very important book that should be read as widely as possible.'
- Dr Wayne Morris, Associate Dean, Faculty of Humanities, Head of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Chester, author, Theology without Words, co-author, Making a World of Difference

'Jill Harshaw offers a stimulating book which will interest all people who accompany others in their experience of faith as growth in trust, as well as emergent belief. It will appeal beyond those already familiar with disability theology among Christians and others.'
- Anthony Kramers


By (author): Jill Harshaw