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I know there are quite a few seminarians lurking around this blog and I need your help - and the help of anyone else who's interested (aka bored and ridiculously smart).

I'm needing to learn up on "Liberation Theology" - I've been accused of being an espouser of it and I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, if it's true or false. I've read what I can on-line about it and it's not clear what this is. (Newsflash! Wikipedia is useless often inaccurate drivel!) I mean, are you a liberation theology guy if you think the Church has a role to play in ending poverty, sickness, injustice etc? Is that all? Or do you have to see this as the ONLY or the MOST important aspect of Jesus message and Christian living?

I'm not one to care what my label is so that's not the issue. I'm not feeling a huge need to figure out what I am. (I'm a song writer/blogger with four chords, a hot wife, a svelt figure and good hair and that's enough for me thanks.) I just realized when the accusation came - and I think it was an accusation and not a compliment - that I'm clueless about what this term means.

So, anyone care to clear the muddy waters for me? Or point me to a book or source that can? Anyone? Bueller?



Anonymous Lane said...

I would imagine the reason that you were dealt liberation theology as an "accusation" is because of liberation theology's roots in Latin American Marxism. Basically, you were being called a communist.

As to Liberation Theology's merits, I personally am undecided. Like Marxism, the idea seems good but the practice has just never worked out.

Anonymous Scott Freeman said...

Shaun, without getting into all the nuances of liberation theology and at the risk of coming off somewhat simplistic and one-dimensional, LT in one form or another has been around since the first century church.
It seeks to view the Christian life as not just something that seeks its fulfillment "over yonder" but in the here and now. The Christian life is concerned with the forgotten and the oppressed, it bears good news to marginalized and forgotten. And it concentrates on understanding and alleviating the cultural and social burdens that weighs down the outcast to begin with.
I think the problem is in the conclusions people draw.
liberationtheology.org may be a good source to begin.

Blogger Seth Ward said...

btw, I love the droning teacher you associate with Theologians in that picture.

"Five proofs?... anyone? anyone? ...."

Blogger Sarah said...

The biggest problem with liberation theology (We talked about this in OT just the other day) is that God commanded the Israelites to surrender to the Babylonians. He told them that if they gave up and let to Babylonians rule them, they'd be ok. And of course they didn't so they got deported.

Same thing with 1 Peter--it talks about suffering and persecution.

Now of course all of us realize that ministry to the poor and outcast is important (this is what true religion is...), but to say that they have to be liberated from their current situation is to deny that God can work in all situations, and clearly he had a reason for giving Judah (even the faithful remnant) over to the Babylonians. If He is the same God, who is to say that He can't work in those who are oppressed today IN their oppressed conditions. I'm not saying we always need to leave suffering people in suffering, but not all revolutions or rebellions are a good thing.

I'm just a layman though, so my words are simply opinions, not really based in a ton of study;).

Anonymous Anonymous said...


This is a quote from a book called "Christianity Through the Centuries" by Earle E. Cairns. It's brief, but gives a little history, key beliefs and a short description of the error:

Liberation Theology, to which radical black theology and feminist theology are somewhat related, emerged in Latin America in A Theology of Liberation (1973) by the Roman Catholic Peruvian Gustavo Guitierrez...and in the writings of Rubem Alves and, in North America, Roger Shaull. According to them, theology must start as did Christ with a commitment to the liveration of the oppressed as practice rather than theory. Theology grows out of the human situation in history rather than out of thought. This is also true of James Cone's...black theology and the more recent feminist theology. Human history is the stage of theology and liberation, often conceived of in Marxist terms. This salvation is social, economic, and political liberation from all forms of oppression. As in the case of the Jewish Exodus, revelation is dealing with historical oppression and liberation by man led by the example of the liberator Christ rather than by the revealed Word of God. The eternal gospel is not simply contextualized by relating it to temporal culture but is divorced from revelation. Most of these attempts to end oppression and build the kingdom of God in a new liberated society flirt with Marxist methodology and politicize Christianity in situation history. Revolution is the means to achieve the ideal order.

Here's the book, quoted from page 466. Hope this helps.

craig b

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Craig's definition is right-on, as I've understood it.

BTW, a fundamental error we have to avoid: Seeing Jesus as a means to socially desirable ends.

Jesus is not means to an end, not a way to make our vision of a just and peaceful society happen.


Blogger Shaun Groves said...

He's not JUST a means to that end but is the ONLY means to that end. In other words, I guess how I'd word what I believe right now is, Jesus's good news was a kingdom that has arrived/is coming/and will come and that kingdom is a kingdom of peace (wholeness of all things). Jesus prayed His kingdom would come by God's will being done on earth as it is in heaven. Earthbound Christians bring the perfection of the kingdom here now to the degree that they imitate the perfection of Christ. This is ONE reason for our being "saved" - to join God in the salvation of all things. But, and I wonder if this is what you mean brant, obviously Jesus was not ONLY sacrificed and is not ONLY alive today to make the world here and now a perfect one. I've said before that we're not told to make the world a better place but to make men holy (make disciples). Disciples, however, do leave everything they touch more in line with God's will than they find it and so, by one definition, leave society better off.

Making any sense? School me, brant. I want to understand what you meant in your comment.

A friend of mine sent this great e-mail over this evening explaining his understanding of Liberation Theology. It was so helpful I have to share with anyone interested here:

" Have you read HR Niebuhr Christ and Culture? He outlines 5 way people over time have related Christ and Culture. (1) Christ against Culture (2) Christ of Culture (3)Christ above Culture (4) Christ in paradox with culture and (5) Christ Transforms Culture.

In the second typology (that relates to Liberation Theology) this type finds an agreement between Christ and Culture. Christ is found in the movements of history particularly in places where the poor and oppressed are given freedom and wholeness in the course of history and in which the oppressors (usually those in power, financially, politically, or by their education) are overturned and the poor become the empowered. Scripture such as “be in the world but not of it” are not found in this typology because in this the world is the realm where Christ is present and where Christ is found by those in need. Luke 4 when Jesus tells the world why he came to the people in his hometown is an example of a scripture that supports this view.

Matthew 25 (Least of these) seems to indicate that the poor are those which those who “have” are supposed to care for and help and in that do it to Christ does not argue that we are supposed to get the prisoner free and the hungry a job so they can feed themselves but instead we are to care for them out of our love for Christ.

Evil is found not so much in the hearts of people but in the evil structures of institutions that keep people in their place and do not allow them freedom. When there are levels of people with more and less influence/money/power then the evil is in that which separates the people. The Kingdom comes, not when all are equal, but when the oppressed have overcome the oppressors.

Evangelical theology would say that Christ can be known in the heart of the wealthy and the poor in equal measures, because Christ’s conversion is one of the heart, not of society and not of the world in which we live. While liberation theology looks to a time on earth when the Kingdom can arrive, evangelical theology says that the Kingdom of Christ is one of the heart. Institutions can be instruments of Christ for the betterment of the world and not everyone in power is necessarily evil."

Thanks for that.

Blogger Kathryn said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Blogger GrovesFan said...

Haven't had time to really digest all of this yet, but so far, it seems to make sense. I will have to say though that I don't agree with:

"Evil is found not so much in the hearts of people but in the evil structures of institutions that keep people in their place and do not allow them freedom. When there are levels of people with more and less influence/money/power then the evil is in that which separates the people. The Kingdom comes, not when all are equal, but when the oppressed have overcome the oppressors."

Evil is definitely found in the hearts of men because of our ties to original sin. Mankind will NEVER be free of the bond of original sin until Christ returns. While God establishes governments, they are made up of men therefore, contain the evil of original sin. The oppressed overcoming the oppressors sounds like a revolution (militarily speaking) is the only way to peace. The revolution the church needs to be fighting is one of complete submission to Christ through a life of continuous service to all people in His name and for His glory alone. This idea is still, and always will be revolutionary to man because of our evil hearts. Uphill battle? Yes. Doable, yes with sacrificial service. You've at least taught me that over the last three years and while I continue to struggle with it many times, I'm getting better thanks to God's grace, mercy and patience.


Anonymous Jacob Young said...

"Liberation Theology" by Robert McAfee Brown is a good intro to this stuff. It's written like a text book, so it's fairly informative of the possition. James Cone's "A Black Theology of Liberation" is an interesting read as well, but he's a very intense author to read. At points I wanted to say that he had good points but his sentiments are so extreme most times that he undercuts some of his points. This is a quote from Cone's "A Black Theology" that always scared me regarding Liberation theology in general: "Like black power, black theology is not new either. It came into being when the black clergy realized that killing slave masters was doing the work of God" (p. 26).

Anyhow, I hope that helps in some way, if anything giving a few resources to look into. The Marxist influence on their thinking is extremely problematic for them in being faithful to Scripture, as I think a discerning Christian will see when reading their material.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shaun, I agree entirely with regard to the real, and here-and-now, implications of seeking the Kingdom. That's the gospel -- Jesus's version -- that is really exciting to me. You put it well, I think.

But the error I see routinely (particularly in mainline churches, but increasingly across the board) is the one that believes in a particular vision for how society should be ordered, then fits Jesus into that context. That's what I'm talking about.

We've all been guilty of reading scripture with an agenda. Jim Wallis even manages to concoct an ideal U.S. federal government budget out of the Bible. But it ain't there, just like the Jesus that tells us we're all supposed to "take a stand for the family".

Marxists read Jesus as a means to their ends, as if Jesus's main theme was rich versus the poor. It's not. The message of the Kingdom is FAR better, much more interesting, and more TRULY freeing than that. If we confuse our vision for societal order with Jesus's message, we're selling our birthright for a pot of porridge or whatever it was that one guy had.


Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Thanks for that. Clear now.


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