What About LIBERATION THEOLOGY??


#1

Not sure this is the proper place for this topic, but here goes…

I’ve confessed elsewhere that I find it both interesting and possibly affirming that I’m headed the right direction when I discover that my liberal friends find me drifting way too close to conservatism – while at the same time my conservative friends wonder if I’ve been lost to liberalism. Neither side seems to know what to do with me!! (That has it’s advantages and disadvantages I guess)

But over the recent few years, reading Wink and Weaver (J Denny) Baker/Green and many others, I’ve really been drawn by the influence of so called “Liberation Theology”. For how could one deny the very strong themes of Liberation in Christ’s (and the bibles) teachings; to say nothing of the scathing rebukes by Christ of the power/domination structures of the day that oppressed the weak.

Except now however, I’m feeling a bit duped and naive; I’ve got friends who are very liberal and it dawns on me (no doubt they’d not agree with my new found self-insight) that in effect, they have placed their Christ, and His message of hope and transformation, in the service of their Marxist politics and convictions. And I’ll be blunt here: this really rattles me. To be sure, Marxism is not a dirty word at all for them, nor do they come close to explicitly embracing it’s historic violence and suppression of individual freedoms. They imagine they only use Marxist theory as tool of social criticism; yet it seems clear to me they enthusiastically practice active demonization of those who, by virtue of their whiteness, or their business success, or their leadership and authority positions, are now deemed as the “oppressor”. The descent into strictly political categories goes from here.

Lost – badly and sadly – in all this is the simple reality (well articulated by scripture it seems to me) that every human soul is capable of playing the role of “oppressor” and that the wisdom offered by Christ on the Mount (sermon on the…) was an explicit invitation to NOT fall into the trap of identifying ones-self as “victim” but to transcend those categories and to act in ways that refuse personal victimhood.

Thus, in the “new creation” of those “in Christ” there really is no longer slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, male nor female. (or maybe oppressed and oppressor?) In fact in Christ ALL are made new – and are to ACT in that new paradigm – even while retaining their earthly “place” in life. In THIS way culture and reality was to be transformed – NOT by violent (perhaps) overthrow of “oppressors” but by transformation of individual hearts and minds called forth by the newly visible Kingdom values of God. Liberation from earthly tyrannies (bad as they might be) is NOT what salvation is about; rather, liberation from the forces of selfishness, pride, that thin line of evil that runs through EACH human heart is Christ’s formula for salvation.

I realize few venture into political aspects of theology on this site but this dynamic is troubling me so here it is.
Thanks for listening,
and very curious how others see this dynamic/dilemma…

TotalVictory
Bobx3

PS Themes of Universal Reconciliation are easy to see in all this; but’s it’s very different to say our victory over oppressive systems saves us (personal conviction and individual need for repentance and transformation remain un-dealt with) than to say a personal confrontation with the Christ – who convicts us of OUR sin and transforms us – is what saves us.


#2

I’m interested in this topic. Its a shame that the name ‘Liberation Theology’ has been hijacked by a strand of political activism which sometimes sees violence as a justifiable means. That is the antithesis of the gospel Jesus preached and of the victory he won on the cross. The missing link may be that the liberation of Christ’s victory is intended to liberate both oppressors and oppressed from the vicious circle we are locked into. I am finding a paper at sharktacos.com/God/ on Christus Victor vs Penal Substitution (author Derek Flood) very helpful in thinking this through. See what you think. I have to go now but would like to discuss further.


#3

Bobx3-

I took have recently read Wink (Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millenium) & Weaver (The Nonviolent Atonement) within the past few months. I must confess to being unsettled after reading both. I think it helps to understand that a fair amount of Scripture was written from the perspective of the opressed, hence leading to some of the themes of Liberation Theology (LT). After all, with the tremendous persecution one faced as a “good soldier” (foreign to our western minds), the “payoff” needed to be worth it to stay the course. A few years of suffering = never ending of bliss. A good tradeoff, to be sure.

What troubles me is the current view of salvation is so impoverished. There was something in Wink’s and Weaver’s theology that was attractive. I appreciated your take on LT and think conservative Christians dismiss it as unChristian, which I think is a mistake.


#4

Not too keen on the way it’s been deployed politically sometimes by ‘the left’; but I’m not too keen on how other important Biblical themes have been deployed politically sometimes by ‘the right’ either. The huge 20th century ironic extensions either way (totally outside of and overtly oppositional to Christianity, while trying to make appeals to largely Christian constituents) being Leninistic communism and Hitler’s fascism, of course. Though there are abuses actually within Christianity, too, either way, even if not to the same extent. (On the balance, I think I’d have to say that liberal Christians abuse it less socially while still remaining recognizably ‘Christian’, though. On the other hand, much of the strength of what liberals would today identify as their causes of social justice, have )

I agree there’s a huge amount of liberation-based theology of various kinds (not in the overall sense of ‘theology’ but as important elements of religious belief and practice) in the OT and NT scriptures both (some of it more latent than others); but only a relatively small fraction of it has to do with universalism per se, I think. An important element (“the release of prisoners” from the famous Isaiah Day of the Lord prophecy is about prisoners who have been being punished by God in what amounts to hell, for example); but not as prevalent as the notion of liberating people from their own sins in this life, much less the notion of the oppressed being liberated from evil oppressors sooner or later (now or in the age to come).

Granted, if I thought universalistic appeal to Jubilee traditions held more water, I’d extend that connection out quite a bit farther. I’m not entirely sure how far to appeal to that tradition yet, though. Seems to be something there, but I want to evaluate it more. (Jeremiah White, whose text I finally got restored, was a huuuuuuuuuuuge proponent of Jubilee appeal; I can tell that from random thumbing through his book. But I haven’t gotten much into his book directly yet.)


#5

Interesting comments all…

Some random points to continue:

Jason: I guess when I see themes of UR in all this it’s not because of any specific or special insight UR has into Liberation Theology, but rather it’s that now, as a confirmed believer in Universalism (btw; is there an official organization wherein one can BE confirmed into Universalism?? :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: ) everything I’ve ever thought about God and culture and salvation and so on is, reflexively, filtered through my understandings of UR.

Perhaps what I like best about UR is that it forbids me to completely toss anyones idea and convictions – even though I am still free to reject them as incorrect. In short, it forces me to respect “where” the other person is despite the fact they hold ideas/convictions I just don’t get or don’t agree with. ie God has this really awkward habit of embracing folks whose ideas/convictions He clearly doesn’t agree with which all too often gets interpreted as an endorsement from God. God simply loves – and that love gets distorted into approval of the doctrines held by those He loves. Really an interesting problem from God’s perspective.

So as I see it, Universalism stands uniquely poised to view the vast drama of history and is able to see God working everywhere – even in notions and paradigms which puzzle and trouble and perplex. Any idea that pits one group against another, in the eyes of Universalism, must be scrutinized; for Universalism is able to see both sides and blend them under the overarching banner of God’s love and will to save all. That’s an enormous advantage we have it seems.

Next: it can really be jarring – and should be a huge red flag for any follower of Christ – to see the name and cause of Christ used to support agenda X or movement Y. Of course Christ championed the cause of the poor and the oppressed: but this need not mean that therefore any cause which comes along that also champions the poor and oppressed (ie Marxism) is necessarily in the same mode as the Christ. So watch out for those who use the Christ as PR icon for their own cause and interests.

Further, I greatly fear that the embrace of Liberation Theologies categories of oppressed and oppressor are too easily internalized and enable one to ignore the possibility that anyone, at any time, can play either role with equal vigor. History shows that when the “oppressed” win the day, they too can be transformed effortlessly into the very oppressor they once so sanctimoniously demonized. Incredibly easy to focus blame and flaw and evil into another; far far harder to embrace the reality that sin resides within us, deep in our very souls. Funny thing about this Christ we worship and adore; He’s just as interested in “saving” the oppressor as He is in saving the oppressed. The “way” of Christ calls us not to identify as either oppressor, or oppressed; our new identity is child of the Father. Lots and lots emerges from that new identity.

Last, it should be observed that ANY attempted union of God/Christ with some human endeavor at achieving utopia, or social justice, or political nirvana is pretty doomed it seems to me. For in the process, God is invariably diminished, and we are elevated to where we do not belong. We don’t add God to our cause; He adds us to His.

(So called Black Liberation Theologies and Feminist Theologies seem to me to have many of the same problems…)

TotalVictory
Bobx3


#6

^^^^^^^^

I appear to be starting my own round of the seasonal flu today; so I won’t have much to add, other than I loved that comment. :sunglasses:


#7

As someone who encountered Universalism largely through the OT type of the Jubilee I will start a new topic here (unless people think it more appropriate in typologies) and lay out an introduction to it as I have encountered it. It will probably take me a few days (as my weekends are currently taken up building stone walls in my garden, putting up a tongue and groove wall in our new extension and tiling the utility room floor :smiley: ).