I believe the Exodus story–with Moses and the Jewish people–is the root of all liberation theology, which Jesus clearly exemplifies in the synoptic Gospels (see Luke 4:18-19). Liberation theology focuses on freeing people from religious, political, social, and economic oppression (i.e., what Pope John Paul II called “structural sin” and “institutional evil”). It goes beyond just trying to free individuals from their own particular “naughty behaviors,” which is what sin has seemed to mean to most Christian people in our individualistic culture.
Liberation theology, instead of legitimating the status quo, tries to read reality, history, and the Bible not from the side of the powerful, but from the side of the pain. Its beginning point is not sin management, but “Where is the suffering?” This makes all the difference in how we read the Bible.
God sees all the many kinds of suffering in the world. The world tends to define poverty and riches simply in terms of economics. But poverty has many faces–weakness, dependence, or humiliation. Essentially, poverty is a lack of means to accomplish what one desires, be it lack of money, relationships, influence, power, intellectual ability, physical strength, freedom, or dignity. Scriptures promise that God will take care of such people, because they know they have to rely on God.
Scot McKnight Roger E Olson
In a recent post on Patheos, Scot McKnight summarises a recent text of Roger Olson (I think he refers to The Journey of Modern Theology: From Reconstruction to Deconstruction) in which, in the context of his synthesis of modern theology, he deals also with liberation theology. place.
Liberation theology, which also includes feminist theology, as a subdivision, does not have a very good image in Eastern Europe and much of conservative theology, be it Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant/Evangelical. The reason is the extensive use of Marxist social critique by liberationists, even if they do not usually share the atheistic presuppositions of Marxism or its violent methodology (the revolution) to bring about social change. Of course, there are different versions of liberation theology, from its milder evangelical versions, to the most extreme liberal ones. Of course, those who are critical of liberation theology are usually picking on the extremes, as a means of discrediting this way of doing theology.
I have to confess that I have shared, for many years, these prejudices against liberation theology, until I can personally in contact with some of its representatives in my World Vision work, and I have realised that, in fact, these people have a lot to offer for theological renewal, especially in the (quite stale, these days) evangelical theological scene.
Here are, according to McKnight, the eight themes of liberation theology, as summarised by Olson: Continue reading “Scot McKnight – The Eight Themes of Liberation Theology”
We see in the Gospels that it’s the lame, the poor, the blind, the prostitutes, the drunkards, the tax collectors, the sinners, the outsiders, and the foreigners who tend to follow Jesus. It is those on the inside and the top who crucify him (elders, chief priests, teachers of the Law, scribes, and Roman occupiers). Shouldn’t that tell us something really important about perspective? Every viewpoint is a view from a point, and we need to critique our own perspective if we are to see and do the full truth.
We fail to appreciate liberation theology because of 1,700 years of interpreting the Scriptures from the perspective of the empowered clergy class, rather than from the perspective of the marginalized who first received the message with such excitement. Once Christianity became the established religion of the Roman Empire (after 313 AD), we largely stopped reading the Bible from the side of the poor and the oppressed. We read it from the side of the political establishment and, I am sorry to say, from the priesthood side which was often eager to keep us codependent on their ministrations, instead of from the side of people hungry for justice and truth. No wonder Jesus said, “I did not come for the healthy but for the sick” (Mark 2:17). This priority has the power to constantly detach religion from its common marriage to power, money, and self-importance.
Adapted from CAC Foundation Set: Gospel Call to Compassionate Action
(Bias from the Bottom) and Contemplative Prayer (CD, DVD, MP3)