The Body Keeps the Faith

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Theologian says spiritual life continues despite disorientation of dementia.

Testimony is important for many Christians. So what happens when you can’t remember how you came to know Jesus as your Savior or recall the things God has done in your life? Psalm 77:11 says, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” What happens to our faith when we can’t remember?

Theologian ‘Tricia Williams asked evangelical believers with dementia that question for her new book, What Happens to Faith When Christians Get Dementia? Their answer was that memories fade, but faith does not.

Williams, a longtime editor for Scripture Union, began focusing on pastoral care for people with dementia after prompting from a colleague who wanted to help his wife. First, she developed Bible reading and prayer resources. Then Williams went on to complete her PhD at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland under John Swinton, a leading scholar on the theology of dementia.

Her work is “always with a pastoral purpose,” she said. With this new book, she wants to help Christians provide better care for believers with dementia and see how the insights of those believers can apply to everyone’s faith journeys. While her current book is aimed at scholars, she’s working on a second book based on the research for a general audience.

Williams spoke to CT about her findings and how to walk with people with dementia.

First, what are some of the symptoms of dementia? How do these symptoms raise worries for evangelical Christians?

Dementia is an umbrella term. Within that, there are a group of illnesses which often have similar symptoms, particularly initially. In my research, my participants had a mixture of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. There …

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