More on Liberation Theology and Methodology

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Here’s an earlier quote, ““[T]hey do not challenge the content of theology but rather its methodology and its relationship to politics.”

I suppose that my comment you highlighted is perhaps a tad hyperbolic. I do believe liberation theologians challenge the content of theology because they emphasize the importance the least of these should have on our understanding of theology. I think they do not add or subtract from the content of theology, but rather they emphasize specific strands already there in the prophets and the synoptic gospels. Liberal theology generally subtracts from the contents of the creeds (e.g. incarnation, physical resurrection) whereas conservative theology tends to add aspects to the creeds (e.g. beliefs in Bible and penal atonement theory). Liberation theology intends to re-imagine different creedal beliefs from within the specific context in which they are working. Hence, black liberation theology endeavors to connect the Christian gospel with the black experience. Bonhoeffer’s question of “Who is Jesus Christ for us today?” rings especially true for liberation theology. As Guiterrez so famously emphasized, theologians must first reflect on their praxis. Theologians must be engaged in emancipatory political practices before they can critically engage the gospel. While I understand we can never practice without first theological presuppositions, I think the important aspect is Gutierrez’s focus on how theologians must enact their theological beliefs in concrete practices.

With regards to the liberation theology and methodology, Petrella analyzed the theological method that Boff advocated: A) Participate in struggle → B) Analyze causes of oppression via social sciences → C) Final a parallel in Biblical text read through a liberation hermeneutical lens → D) Implement plan and act to fight oppression. Sung questioned why liberation theology’s methodology even bothers with step C. He argued that step A already assumes that the participant has a theological commitment. Sung argued that the step C is a mere formality that retrospectively justifies the praxis in which the participant is already engaged. Instead of re-reading the tradition within a liberation theological paradigm, Sung argued that the true task of liberation theology is to unmask the idols that lead to death. I prefer Sung’s model. What I think the most important aspect for the future of liberation theology is to get specific when they speak of liberation. It’s easy to rail against the evils of global capitalism, but the more difficult task is to come up with creative, plausible alternatives. Goodchild’s Theology of Money is such a book that offers a possible alternative. With no possible alternatives, it seems that money will continue to inhabit the space that God previously occupied before he died. Capitalism reigns sovereign as ‘the least worst economic system’ available.

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5 Responses to “More on Liberation Theology and Methodology”

  1. Blake Huggins Says:

    Thanks for expanding this a bit more. I agree, by and large, with your assessment that liberation theologians are interested in re-imagining the themes and tropes of theology. I guess in that respect liberation theology is Tillichian in its engagement with the current situation.

    As far as methodology goes, I am only indirectly familiar with Petrella and Sung, but I, like you, find myself drawn more to the latter’s model for engagement. And I agree that it is high time we get more specific when speaking of liberation and alternatives to capitalism. In fact, it seems to me that Bonhoeffer’s question demands it.

    I’ll add the Goodchild book to my list (that whole series looks good) along with some of the title in SCM Press’ “Reclaiming Liberation Theology Series.” I am preparing for a liberation theology independent study next semester so I am currently locating sources that deal explicitly with the points you’re raising — that is, what does liberation theology look like in belly of the Empire that Hardt and Negri explicate?

  2. Jeremy Says:

    I would agree that liberation theology is quasi-Tillichian, but their engagement with current situations is different. Tillich’s corrleational model tries to align theology with the current mode of thinking, in that sense theological appropriation of postmodernism are essentially heirs of Tillich’s method. Whereas liberation theology is less concerned about associating its theology with whatever is sexy in the academy, but rather fears that their theology would anesthetize them from the struggles of the oppressed.

    The Reclaiming Liberation Theology is pretty solid. Have you read Zizek’s latest? I plan on getting into Hardt and Negri’s work once I finish up my studies of Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition and Logic of Sense.

    • Blake Huggins Says:

      I have Zizek’s latest but have not read it yet. I hope to get to it before the holiday break is over. I’ve only really skimmed the surface of Hardt and Negri, to be honest. I hope to finish their stuff soon too.

  3. 4854derrida Says:

    Hello

    I’ve just uploaded two rare interviews with the Catholic activist Dorothy Day. One was made for the Christophers [1971]–i.e., Christopher Closeup– and the other for WCVB-TV Boston [1974].

    Day had begun her service to the poor in New York City during the Depression with Peter Maurin, and it continued until her death in 1980. Their dedication to administering to the homeless, elderly, and disenfranchised continues with Catholic Worker homes in many parts of the world.

    Please post or announce the availability of these videos for those who may be interested in hearing this remarkable lay minister.

    They may be located here:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/4854derrida

    Thank you

    Dean Taylor

  4. Jeremy Says:

    Funny thing is that I just watched those videos today based on a link over at flying.farther. Thanks for the uploading them, they were really good videos.

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