What is Liberation Theology?

by Max Andrews

Liberation theology is the raising of the theological question in relation to Marxist thought. Liberation theologians point out that they use Marxist thought or concepts but not necessarily the whole ideology

  • They will point out much of Marx’s format was for analysis of existing social and economic structures in order to understand the economic conditions within a particular cultural context
  • Additionally, Marxist approaches had effective action or praxis to bring about liberation—action oriented
  • Marx is the philosophical grandson of Hegel
  • The ever-present problem of paralysis of analysis, or, all think and no do
  • Marxist conceptual understandings is to see how we can act to change and equalize the present social situation

What then is the relation between Marxist analysis and praxis and the NT gospel?

  • For real proclamation of the gospel we must so declare freedom that the very declaration effects real freedom
  • Marxist analysis -> <- Gospel  leads to (up arrow) Gospel proclamation, effect
  • As faith and action inevitably influence each other, then as faith influences action or actions produce faith, then our liberating actions produce stronger faith. It is faith that God is at work through us and through all of history to produce ever increasing justice

Humanity moving away from injustice and social oppression toward the kingdom of God (an anthropological utopianism)

  • This sin is seen in the refusal to sacrificially love my neighbor
  • It’s a tendency towards a bondage to our own values (taken from Freud)
  • Sin, estrangement from God, is not usually understood as theologically or a direct relation to the persons of God—it is human related (horizontally and not vertically)
  • As the church shifts its focus from faith and reason to faith and political action/sociology it is the human being or humanity not God who becomes increasingly central methodologically and otherwise

The result is the shift from the personal God toward a God not too dissimilar qualitatively from the God of process theology

  • The eschaton of God’s abundant glory and preeminent reign becomes humanity’s summum bonum (highest good). It becomes human glory at the utopian climax of human history.
  • God’s intervention for his people, for the liberation of his people, is not ever direct but at best it is in terms of a divine presence which could be described as a sacramental presence within humanity’s revolutionary hopes for freedom

Thus, to know God is to practice social justice.

  • Jesus is prominent for liberation theology because with Jesus God has identified himself with his people

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