This is your final assignment for the course. It is an integrative paper that seeks to bring together the various threads of this course into a final expression of your learning across the past several weeks. Its aim is to answer the questions: What does the Bible say about suffering and/or disability and what does this mean to me? As you have learned in this class, the answer to this question is complex. You should formulate your own particular answer to this question that genuinely reflects your learning and interrelates it with your own life and future goals.
This paper will address the following topics:
1. The language and paradigms (medical, social, cultural) that we rely on when speaking about disability and/or suffering.
2. The nature of the Bible and basic practices of biblical interpretation.
3. The contributions of the seven biblical perspectives that we have covered in class (Genesis & Creation, Old Testament Narrative & Law, Lament in the Bible, The Old Testament Prophets, Jesus & the Gospels, The Letters of Paul, and Revelation & The End). Plan to emphasize these in the paper and to support your points with biblical citations and explanatory comments.
4. How our theological perspectives shape our understanding of scripture and the experience of suffering and/or disability. In this class, we have given special treatment to the issue of theodicy (or, why does God allow suffering) and the development of character modeled after Christ.
5. Respectful attentiveness to the experience of those facing suffering and/or disability as a real dialogue partner in our process of understanding and applying Scripture.
Upon successful completion of this assignment, you will be able to:
- Integrate various biblical passages and other course materials into a coherent statement on the relationship of disability, suffering, Scripture, and character.
- Any course materials or resources as needed for the paper
This assignment will ask you to do two important tasks: integrate and reflect. Sometimes we throw those words around like we all know what they mean and entail. That often leads to misunderstandings and shallow thinking, so let us look at each task in a bit of depth.
When we “integrate,” we mean to bring various parts together in a coherent whole. That sounds easy enough, but there are a number of ways to go about this task. Let’s talk through a few.
- The weakest from of integration is just listing things under a category or topic. This paper should do more than say “Genesis says this about disability and suffering . . . and then the Gospels say this about it.”
- Sometimes integration can show how various pieces complement or balance one another, the way differing colors (like blue and orange) create a rich viewing experience because of the ways they capture complementary components of the color wheel.
- Sometimes integration can show how various parts, while different, work together. Shoulders are not much like wrists, but they work together in seamless ways so that we can pick up a cup.
- Sometimes integration can highlight differences. The prophets’ view of suffering and the portrayal of disability in Paul’s letters might be rather different. They might have a small thread of connection, but we can show how they are using the same work in different ways to address very different things in their contexts.
- Finally, integration can sometimes show that the differences are merely superficial. Just below the surface is very deep continuity. Perhaps the Old Testament Law and Revelation are saying very similar things but using language, forms, and images that are distinctive to that time and writing.
Think of these as various strategies that you can draw on in your integration. You will do well to use a variety of them as they fit the various things that you find in Scripture.
Reflection is can also seem deceptively familiar and simple, but profound reflection has four elements:
- It takes seriously the source or prompt for the reflection. In this case, we are dealing with the various perspectives on disability and/or suffering across the Bible. Good reflection considers this for what it is in its context. In the case of Scripture, you need to read it well in context as you have been doing throughout the course.
- It takes seriously personal experience as well. That is, do not flatten, or simplify, or gloss over either the Scriptural passages or real personal experiences and understanding. You have a perspective and opinions and things that have shaped you. You should also respect the experiences of others. Bring these to the table as well.
- It builds a bridge between the objective input (the Bible) and the subjective reception. You can discuss points of agreement or tension or confusion or conflict. Again, this can take many forms, but display and describe what is going on as clearly as possible.
- It highlights points of growth and transformation. The goal of reflection (indeed, what God is moving us toward) is a mental recognition of the changes that have occurred in us as we have encountered some external input. Good reflection should point out were our minds, emotions, and actions have changed as a result of our experience.
Thus, reflection is a way of taking stock of how God has been at work in your life through the Bible with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We pray that you have sensed some of those moments of movement and even transformation in this course, so this is an opportunity to recognize them and unpack what has happened in your life
- Review the rubric to make sure you understand the criteria for earning your grade.
- Review the various materials across this course: the materials in each activity, the videos, the readings, and any assignments. Consider what you would like to include in your final paper and collect all of your sources in preparation for the paper.
- Compose a 1100-1200 word paper that contains the following:
- An opening section of 100-200 words that provides an overview of the paper and your main points.
- The body of the paper (approximately 600-700 words) that does the following:
- Integrate at least four of the biblical perspectives on disability and/or suffering that we have studied in this class. Please refer to the pointers above on how to do this well. You should plan to include key biblical references and quotations (but keep the quotes short).
- Reflect on the significance of these integrated perspectives for your own life and career. This is the place to bring in material on the social model of disability, theodicy, and character formation that we have examined in the course. You should plan to include key references and quotations from these other materials (but keep the quotes short).
- A conclusion of 200-300 words that summarizes your paper and describes how your own understanding of suffering and/or disability has changed over the course of this class.