Skip to content

The gospel and autism

From The Briefing:

Today is the United Nations World Autism Awareness Day. According to the Light It Up Blue awareness- and fund-raising campaign:

Proposed lighting from Autism Awareness Australia

Autism is a complex developmental disorder that inhibits a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are lifelong developmental disabilities which are characterised by difficulties in social interaction, communication, repetitive interests, behaviours and sensory sensitivities. The word ‘spectrum’ is used to describe the wide range and severity of difficulties people with ASD experience.

Many people are affected by ASD—current estimates are about 1 in 100. However, research is still in its infancy; the disorder is multifaceted, and as a result it is often hard to diagnose.

Our family has a personal interest in all of this. One of own our children has been diagnosed with ASD. She has particular difficulty in processing sensory inputs (touch, taste, hearing, smell, etc.); as a result, she finds the physical and social world more difficult to navigate than most, and sometimes gets frightened and distressed by it. She needs extra help dealing with day to day activities. Like any family who lives with a person with a disability, our family is subject to challenges and limitations which can at times be frustrating for us all.

But we believe in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. This gospel message gives us a powerful means to navigate and deal with the sadness, the limitations and challenges that arise from our little girl’s ASD. Here are some examples:

The Bible teaches us that a person is not defined by their abilities, but by their relationships—particularly their relationship to God. We don’t think of our daughter fundamentally as “autistic”; rather she is made in God’s image, and is a child of God through Christ—who also has an autistic disorder. We can love her and relate to her and delight in her as she is; accept her abilities and disabilities as part of that, and work to help her to overcome or manage the challenges she faces.

The Bible teaches us that wrong things in this world, including disability, are just part of living in a fallen world. We don’t have to hide from this disability, or pretend that these special challenges are merely “differences”. We live in a world subject to God’s general judgment against human sin. That’s bad. We acknowledge that together. That helps.

The Bible teaches us that Jesus loved us so much that he died to pay for our sins: We don’t deserve his love yet we are loved anyway. Remembering the depths of our own forgiveness also helps us to be loving, forbearing, when we need to sacrifice (yet again) our own comfort for the sake of helping our beloved daughter and sister.

The Bible teaches us that Jesus rose from the dead, giving us the sure hope of a new creation where there is no death, decay, suffering or weeping. We all look forward to immortal bodies and minds that aren’t subject to sickness or disability. When we do suffer and watch our loved ones suffer, we don’t despair: it makes us long for that new creation even more. Our suffering is, in this way, a gift from God, making us more like Christ, lifting our longings away from this world, and pointing us to God’s gift of new creation in Christ.


Comments at The Briefing.

Published inThe Briefing

Publications by Lionel Windsor:

  • The Named Jew and the Name of God: A new reading of Romans 2:17–29

All posts

Recent blog posts

  • Yes no“Paul within Judaism” and Romans 2:17–29
    My article on Romans 2:17–29 supports one key feature of the "Paul within Judaism" perspective, but undermines another common feature.
  • Photo by Engin Akyurt on UnsplashThe goals of Bible teaching (1 Timothy 1:1–11)
    In gospel ministry and Bible teaching, if you’re not committed to the right goal, or if you have the wrong goal, it’s not just a matter of being ineffective: you’ll be downright dangerous. So what is that goal? What are you seeking to achieve in your gospel ministry and Bible teaching - now and in the future? And how would you know if you’d done it right? This passage in 1 Timothy 1:1–11 speaks to this issue of the goals of ministry and teaching. It challenges us to think about our own aims in teaching, and to see how important it is to get it right. A sermon preached at Moore College Men's Chapel on 14 July, 2021.
  • Slow-burn crazy-making behaviours. Photo by Vadim Sadovski on UnsplashSlow-burn crazy-making behaviours: recognising and responding
    Do you know someone who seems to have drama and problems constantly appear around them? Whenever you relate to this person, perhaps you find yourself feeling vaguely guilty, or uncomfortable, or put down, or obligated to affirm them? Do you often feel like you’re questioning yourself and your actions because of what they say and do? You don’t feel the same way around other people; it’s just this individual who seems to attract these dramas and give rise to these feelings in you. If that’s the case, the chances are it’s not you who is the problem. It’s quite possible that the person you’re thinking of is exhibiting a pattern of behaviours that can be significantly detrimental to you and to others. This pattern of behaviours is hard to pin down; it doesn’t seem too serious in the short term, and indeed it might appear quite normal to a casual acquaintance. However, over the long term, it can cause serious problems for you and others. That’s especially true in close-knit communities, like families, churches and other Christian ministries.
  • Romans Crash CourseRomans Crash Course (video)
    A 75 minute video course in the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans designed for church members and leaders.
  • The Mistranslation "Call Yourself a Jew" in Romans 2:17: A Mythbusting StoryThe mistranslation “call yourself a Jew”: A myth-busting story (Romans 2:17)
    This is a story about a scholarly myth and how I had the chance to bust it. I’m talking here about a small but significant 20th century biblical translation: “call yourself” instead of “are called” in Romans 2:17.
  • Breaking news: Religious Scandal in RomeThe named Jew and the name of God: A new reading of Romans 2:17–29
    I've just had an article published in the journal Novum Testamentum. In it, I provide a detailed defense of my new reading of Romans 2:17–29. This passage is not primarily about Jewish salvation - rather it's primarily about Jewish teaching and God's glory.
  • Photo by Joseph d'Mello on UnsplashPreaching the Pastoral Epistles
    A one-hour audio seminar with principles and ideas for preaching the biblical books 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus ("Pastoral Epistles")
  • A Crash Course in Romans: Livestream
    Here's a <90 minute "Crash Course in Romans" I'm running on Monday evening 1 Feb 2021. It's aimed at leaders and any interested members of my church St Augustine's Neutral Bay and Church by the Bridge Kirribilli. Anyone is welcome to watch the livestream.
  • Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on UnsplashWhat’s wrong with the world? Is there hope? (Ephesians)
    Guilt, weakness, spiritual slavery, prejudice, arrogance, tribalism, conflict, war, victimhood, persecution, pain, suffering, futility, ignorance, lying, deceit, anger, theft, greed, pornography, sexual sin, darkness, fear, drunkenness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, workplace abuse, spiritual powers... In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he says many things about the problems we face in this world. He also gives us wonderful reasons to find life, hope and healing in Jesus Christ. Along the way, he provides practical teachings about how to respond and live together.
  • What does Ephesians say about reconciliation?
    We humans are not very good at living up close with others. This is especially true when we have a history of conflict with those others. Reconciliation isn't easy. No matter how much you might want healing, it’s hardly ever a matter of just everybody getting on and pretending the hurts didn’t happen. In Paul's letter to the Ephesians, he says some very important, fundamental things about peace and reconciliation, and gives many other very practical teachings about how to live together in light of these truths.

On this site

All content copyright Lionel Windsor