Monday, October 11, 2010

Theology and the Autistic Mind

Much has been written about how the brilliance and logic of the autistic mind often finds a home in engineering, computing, accounting, and music.  But there is little published about the autistic mind when applied to the special interest of theology.

It does seem that many Christians with Asperger's Syndrome and High Functioning Autism are drawn to Reformed theology.  Reformed theology is logical, rational, and seeks to interpret the Bible with an intellectual approach, explaining what the Bible teaches within an accurate historical context.  So it makes sense that when an aspie's interest is theology and religion, he could become obsessed with a branch of theology that has a very logical, rational (and often literal within the context of each text) interpretation of the Scriptures.

But within Reformed theology there is an extreme branch to which many of the most philosophical, logical, and intellectual men are particularly drawn, called Biblical Theology.  It is also referred to as the Redemptive-Historical method of interpretation.  This group is highly criticized for not applying the Word to the people, or "for not drawing the text into a person's world."  Its opponents say it is "too theological and too intellectual for Sunday morning."  For the typical man or woman in the pew, a diet of such sermons is a starvation diet as practical application of the Bible to everyday life is ignored. 

People with traits of Asperger's Syndrome often have a very different way of understanding human relationships.  And in theology, there could be a distinct difference in how the aspie understands both a relationship to God and the Bible's application to one's life.  An aspie may thrive under Redemptive Historical teaching as it reaches his intellect like no other theology can.  Aspies generally have a gift for being intrinsically motivated when they comprehend a rule or truth, so a person with strong Asperger's traits may be able to make his own sort of application from such teaching.  But the typical believer is unhappy when he is unable to clearly understand how what he sees and hears applies to his personal relationship with God, the text, and others.  He wants and needs to be taught how the Bible applies to him.

All this to say . . . Neuro-typical women (particularly those who are married to men with autistic traits) should be aware of the potential dangers in Redemptive Historical teaching. You may already be struggling emotionally and feeling very lonely due to autism in your home.  It is probable that such preaching, and likely the leadership in such a church, won't help you.  Being a member of a church which strongly adheres to "Biblical Theology" may cause a woman in an Asperger's relationship to suffer even more.  Find a church with solid doctrine that also includes practical application from the Bible.  You need such teaching and guidance in order to grow spiritually.  Take care.  Make sure you are in a church that can truly nourish your soul!