Sharing the Mind of ChristNB - Peter Kevern prepublication version Sharing the mind of Christ preliminary thoughts on dementia and the Cross

Sharing the Mind of ChristNB - Peter Kevern...

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Peter Kevern prepublication version Sharing the mind of Christ: preliminary thoughts on dementia and the Cross ABSTRACT The increasing prevalence of forms of dementia poses some profound challenges, not least to our Christology and soteriology. In particular, it exposes the degree to which faith, grace and salvation are all still linked to the concept of the self-conscious individual, and how this approach limits the range of possible theological responses to dementia. In this paper, the author argues that a theological response in depth requires us to consider the possibility of saying that Christ ‘demented’ on the Cross. Some implications of making such an assertion are explored, both for Christology in general and for the ways Christ may be spoken of as ‘present to’ those with dementia. Keywords: Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Christology, kenosis, Moltmann Introduction The phenomenon of dementia among is one of the most pervasive pastoral and theological challenges facing the western church at the beginning of the 21 st century. According to the estimates of the Alzheimer's society, about 25% of the population of the UK can expect to suffer some significant degree of dementia during the course of their life; 1 and given the protracted, demanding care that must be offered to people with dementia, hardly anyone will be insulated from the practical and theological questions it raises. In this paper, I shall explore the thesis that, in order to develop a full theological response, we must consider what it might 1 See the report of the Alzheimer's Society, Dementia UK , available at (accessed March 2009) Page 1 of 23 6/1/2019
Peter Kevern prepublication version mean to say that Christ ‘demented’ on the cross. Dementia grows much more common with advancing age, and an increase in life expectancy largely accounts for the recent increase in its incidence in the western world. Inevitably, the presenting issues and the research most often revolve around dementia in old age, but I want to keep to a broader definition of the term, as referring to “an acquired and persistent impairment of intellectual faculties, affecting several cognitive domains, that is sufficiently severe to impair competence in daily living, occupation, or social interaction”. 2 From a medical point of view, the most common cause of dementia is progressive neurological impairment: parts of the brain of the patient begin to sicken or die off, and as particular functions become slower or cease altogether, so the patient loses mental capacity. Typical, identifiable symptoms are therefore impairment of memory; inability to understand what is happening around them; inability to perform certain simple tasks; and finally death. Since the loss of such capacity is usually irreversible, dementia is portrayed as a progressive disease from which there is no hope of anything more than the most partial and temporary improvement: it is generally a terminal, degenerative condition.

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