Theology / Uncategorized

Theology, Disability, and Fragility – Theological Studies journal

Here is my scholarly response to the problem of pain, published recently in the international journal, Theological Studies. Some may find it difficult reading, but if you’re game (and up for the challenge) I’m happy to answer any questions.

cover theodicy, disability, and fragility


About Author

Shane is an ethicist and theologian, Honorary Associate for the Centre of Disability Research and Policy, the University of Sydney, and Assistant Director, Policy, at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation against People with Disability. Shane is proudly disabled, and an occasional blogger on


  • Craig Benno
    November 25, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    I like your thoughts that you drew out of liberation theology. It resonates with my own experience in 2007 when I was sitting up the back of Church in a wheel chair, feeling very sorry for myself, and having a real pity party about my lack of self worth… I asked the Lord, “What good am I now? What is my ministry purpose?”

    It’s easy to feel good about oneself when your active in ministry, serving others with energy and zeal…

    I felt the Lord speak to me, in a gentle manner; though a rebuke – “That, it was my time to allow others to minister to me!” And indeed I had to allow others into my life.. People to push the chair. To drive me around. Cut up my food. God knows the humiliation of my first assisted shower – but the humility, compassion, gentleness and professionalism of those involved contributed to my own understanding of dignity and worth during my stay in hospital.

    I can honestly say though, at the time, I wasn’t so philosophically reflective on it…its only 8 years later, that I can start to unpack some of that stuff.

  • gordon
    June 9, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    Well, Shane that was quite a read. And Craig too. Very revealing. I thank you both.

    Now as for myself, I am just now celebrating thirty seven years in the chair on sixty four years total.

    When I was in crisis mode in ICU. I would curse at God, but never blaspheme. I would affectionately address him as “my stupid, dumb, son of a bitch…” and I used to joke that it wasn’t his fault, he was doing his best, but that it was probably his first universe, after all, and it wouldn’t be fair to ask too much !

    Seriously. You want to forgive somebody ? Start by forgiving God.

    And here is just one final thought: Life is an absolute uncompromised good. (for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…). Enough with the death cults. Every day you open your eyes is a good day.

    Epictetus or perhaps Marcus Aurelius said this well: There is no reason to seek the end of suffering. There is nothing dishonorable about suffering, age or sickness. The only dishonorable faults, ie faults that are impossible to live with, are moral faults.

    Much if not most of our discomfort with regard to our disabled state really comes from shame before the gaze of others, as in, I don’t want them to see me piss myself. From the moment you allow yourself to simply live outside the ridiculous boundaries of “normal society”, most of the “suffering” just goes away.

    and so on, and so forth,

    Feel the love,

    Gordon from Montreal

  • Shane Clifton
    June 9, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    I like your observation that we should start with forgiving God. It’s a wonderfully insightful piece of near blasphemy.

  • gordon
    June 9, 2016 at 1:26 pm


    Irremediable blasphemy, as I understand it, only concerns the Holy Ghost, or in other words, casting doubt upon that breath of goodness in the “Whole Thing” which should remain inviolable (and in any case, is conceptually much farther off in the distance than speculation about the precise nature of God.)

    Practically speaking, you are, again as I understand it, allowed to curse yourself, your own existence, God or “the gods”, but you should stop just short of cursing the whole of existence in principle and absolutely. (as that would be going a tad too far, and might, according to some beliefs, result in permanent disqualification from any further participation).

    I take the expression “children of God” very seriously. I believe that God has restrained himself from interfering in this universe through respect for his children. We have real freedom here. but the flip side of that means that if you leave a hammer on the upper windowsill, it can fall on your head. Moreover, other peoples’ hammers can fall on YOUR head, and your hammers can fall on THEIR heads. And of course, tornadoes are just stupid, dumb, whirlwinds. That’s it. Any fiddling with that reality would be an unacceptable assault upon the dignity of conscious creatures (such as we) and any God worth his salt would feel just that way about it.

    Be proud. We live in a world originally provided without training wheels, where prophylactics, cough medicine, and other remedies, are the aftermarket products of third party developers.

    Feel the Love !

    Gordon from Montreal

  • Shane Clifton
    June 9, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    yes, I was using the label blasphemy with affection. I think the Scriptures are wonderfully blasphemous documents at times. A God incapable of taking our abuse is a very small God indeed.

  • gordon
    June 9, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    You have kids yourself, Shane.

    So you know the drill.


Leave a Reply