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Methods of Liberation Theology

May 25, 2013

Theology must be:


Not one theology for all.

Must be rooted in people’s real lives – they are different

Indigenization related theology to past beliefs; contextualization relates them to present needs and future hopes – creative tension between reading bible and looking at present world

Philippians 2;7 God did not take abstract human nature but became a slave


 Became common term in 1940s and 50s.

Meant recruiting local people to be priests and nuns.

Pius XII 1959: ‘The final goal towards which we must strive and which must ever remain before our eyes is the firm establishment of the Church among the peoples, each (local church) having its own hierarchy chosen from the ranks of the native clergy.’

Also translating books into native language


 DEFINITION: the dynamic relation between the Christian message and culture or cultures; an insertion of the Christian life into a culture; an ongoing process of reciprocal and critical interaction and assimilation between them

‘The word was made flesh and dwelt among us.’ (John 1;14)

‘A Gospel which has not permeated a culture is a Gospel not fully proclaimed.’ (Pope John Paul II)

‘In order to evangelise effectively, it is necessary to have resolutely an attitude of exchange and of comprehension.  The power of the gospel must penetrate to the very heart of different cultures.’ (Pope John Paul II)

Jesus caught people’s attention by telling stories about things they were familiar with – they were mainly agricultural so he told stories of sowing seeds &c.

He taught in synagogues, showed himself to be a good Jew by frequenting the temple and used traditional customs like the Passover to show new meanings, ie. the last supper.

C3 Tertullian used Roman law-court language of baptism – breaking a contract with world and entering new contract with God.

Pope Gregory the Great wrote to a missionary abbot Mellitus in C6 ‘Tell Augustine not to destroy the temples of the gods, but only the idols housed therein. Tell him…to set up altars and place relics of the saints (in those same temples).’

C17 Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith: ‘Do not for any sense of zeal attempt to…persuade these people to change their rites, customs and ways unless they are most obviously contrary to Faith and good morals.  For what could be more absurd that to carry France, Spain or Italy of any other part of Europe into China.  It is not this sort of thing you are to bring in but rather the Faith…..Admire and praise the customs that merit praise…Do not rashly and excessively condemn the unworthy.  Let customs that prove to be depraved be uprooted more by hints and by silence…gradually without jolting.”

C20 Pope Pius XII: ‘the rights to one’s culture and national character….are exigencies of the law of nations dictated by nature itself…the Catholic Church is supranational by her very nature…She cannot belong excusively to any particular people, nor can she belong more to one that to another.’

Vatican 2 said

– whole person – soul and body – is the object of evangelization

– while concerned with individual salvation, evangelization is essentially community-oriented

– the Church is not to be a  huge, uniform monolith of European cultural characteristics but a brotherhood of local churches, each of which seeks to give life to the universal church in accordance with the native genius and traditions of its own members.

– God has been and continues to be active in every culture, even before evangelization

– there must be a living exchange between the Church and the diverse cultures of people

– for a dialogue to occur people must feel free from all physical or moral coercion to accept the gospel

– involvement in social justice must not be used as an instrument to win converts to the Church; the concern for justice must rather come from the desire to present a sign of the perfect justice, to be realised in the fullness of the Kingdom to come


chosen to evaluate social reality from viewpoint of poor

It is political – theologian has chosen to stand alongside poor

Ethical – arises out of indignation at poverty


Bridge the gap between them.

Logos – word of God active in history – not locked up in story of 2,000 years ago but relevant now.

Theology is a second act which presupposes a first:

Anselm some of fides quaerens intellectum – theological understand presupposed faith.

Faith contextualized by commitment for the other is militant in struggle for liberation – is a praxis (more accurate than ‘practice’ = experience, action, life = totality Of practices)

begins from praxis and reflects on praxis


Theologian reads bible in one hand, newspaper in the other = ‘the hermeneutical circle’

Leads to the liberation OF theology – from cosy, academic, ivory tower abstractions

Danger of reading into the bible his own views.

Need to ask, ‘For whose benefit am I doing this?’

Close connection between what you belief and what you do:

John 3;21

I John 1;6 – doing the truth

II John 4

III John 3 – walking in the truth

Slave owner’s picture of God as great patriarch is made in his own image – strict but just rule over his children and slaves

If God on side of poor, choosing poor Israel, he is to be found on ‘the underside of history’ (Gutierrez).

Did the cross on the banners of the conquistadors represent the same Christ as the Christ whom Bartolome de Las Casas (see ‘Missions Abroad’ notes) recognised in the face of the Indian?

When the slave and his owner sang ‘Amazing grace’ were they singing the same hymn?

Before 313, diverse styles of Christianity.

When Constantine made it legal religion, imposed church-state view and other views went underground or accused of heresy.


1. basis of pastoral praxis in the church – pastoral and spiritual

2. basis of praxis of Latin American peoples – popular culture rather than socio- political aspects

3. basis of historical praxis =- stresses relevance of social and political aspects

4. basis of praxis of revolutionary groups

Western European reactions

Liberation theology challenged their privatised notion of salvation.

Maybe justified to revolt against personal piety but gone too far by allowing belief to be swallowed up in political action.

One-sided reading of bible

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