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Future of Liberation Theology

May 25, 2013


Spread to Africa (where they talk of doing theology under the tree – instead of in libraries and offices)

To Asia – South Korea is largely protestant ands calls it minjung theology – min=people; jung=mass


AP Catholic theologian Aloysius Pieris points about that liberation theology in Latin America can mobilise lots of people as largely catholic continent whereas real challenge is in Asia where maybe only 2% are Christians so need to dialogue with hindus, buddhists &c. on wider concepts of ‘liberation’ which they might offer.

Exodus/Easter elements in other religions.  Jews and muslims share Exodus story.

Different interpretations of ‘liberation’:

– liberation from bondage

– from earthly needs

– from the desires of the flesh

– from the wheel of birth and rebirth

Christians talk of liberation from sin and death

sin can be interpreted as whatever chains people to the past

death as whatever terrifies them about the future

all the religions can bring their traditions into the service of human fulfilment here on earth instead of being escapist religions

world faiths moving towards ‘terrestrialization’ instead of secularization

Links with black theology

So liberation theology and inter-faith dialogue will link up and the ecumenical movement will take in all the Christian denominations, the other religions and the people working for justice and peace who profess no religion at all – thus uniting humanity in a common cause which transcends narrow religion


Third World theologies gaining strength by working together and more likely to pose challenge to European and American churches.

European and American churches already being challenged from within by feminist theology and radical evangelicals


Singhalese Catholic theologian Tissa Balasiuriya: ‘Personally, I think that TissaB(liberation theology) is the most important theological innovation since the Protestant Reformation of the Sixteenth Century’

Indian Protestant theologian Russell Chandran: ‘This global and ecumenical movement of concern for justice, commitment and solidarity can be interpreted as a “new reformation”.’

Carlos Abesamis from the Philippines sees 3 stages in the history of theology:

1) the semitic stage of the bible

2. the Greek stage where Christianity merged into the Roman Empire

3. Third World theology

It will no longer matter whether a present rite or teaching coheres with an orthodox past – if it locks people in a stupefied bondage it must be questioned, for it no longer carries the spirit of the Exodus and Easter but is heretical.

Room for innovation, new insights, without being fad-mongering modernism.

Breaks the power of technical jargon.

Forgotten spiritual disciplines unlock neglected recess of the psyche.

Focus of religion not what is written or taught.

Experience of ordinary lay people becomes just as important as the teachings of stated authorities.


Argues that liberation theology developed from experience of the poor, not from Marxism.

Marxism and the social sciences offered technical terms to put a name to the experiences the poor were having

but the base communities have not gone Marxist but more fully Christian

They have also rejected capitalism

The West has seen the decline of Marxism

It is also going through a crisis of capitalism

liberation theology  will teach the west a renewed Christianity which transcends both capitalism and Marxism – thus offering a third, transcending alternative

Ratzinger and the CDF have tried to silence liberation theologians but have also made concessions to liberation theology

This is natural defensiveness when a large organisation faces challenges

Vatican rejects Marxism because it is authoritarian and totalitarian

Many notice that the Vatican itself, now that USSR has folded, is the largest quasi-authoritarian and totalitarian institution in the world

Ostrich-like politics and games of Vatican mean increasing numbers of lay and clerical catholics ignoring Vatican

Must lead to reform


Argument that you cannot be a liberation theologian unless you live with the poor is not shown in practice – many churches mouth the right phrases but are middle class and the academic world has retailed its writings and made a lot of money

Insights set over against others – the rich are demonised as if the gospel has nothing for them

Take conflict for granted as a way of life but so much emphasis on justice that peace is not often a priority

With collapse of communism, Marxist interpretation might become old-fashioned and the communities regarded as irrelevant

rise of right-wing fundamentalist churches attracting a lot of peasants who are confronted with oppression every day and don’t want it on Sundays as well.  Fundamentalists traditionally saw catholics as idol-worshippers but now accuse them of being communists.

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