Three Book Reviews of Liberation Theology

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Last week I continued my project of reading works of liberation and feminist theology. I began by reading Mercy Amba Oduyoye’s Introducing African Women’s Theology. It is a short work of African feminist theology that goes through major doctrines: Christology, anthropology, ecclesiology, hospitality/spirituality, and eschatology. I was especially interested in the chapters on Christology and hospitality. Oduoyoye discusses the preferred Christology of African feminist theology: the Victorious Christ. She argues that African feminist theologians prefer to focus on a Christology from below as opposed to the high metaphysical Christological debates on the nature of Christ. She insists, much like St. Clair (whose book I will be reviewing later), that African women can endorse a Christ who suffers, but only a Christ who suffers voluntarily (55). Another interesting aspect of this book was her discussion of hospitality. She discusses the importance of the ethics of hospitality in African culture and the perils that lie within. Oduyoye notes that hospitality makes one vulnerable. Also welcoming the other is a theological responsibility since “all guests are sacred” (98). Moreover she writes, “the great hospitality that moves from charity to justice and solidarity and results in a just development and a world inhabitable by all” (98).

I also read Ogbonnaya’s On Communiatrian Divinity: An African Interpretation of the Trinity. In my opinion, this book was a bit disjointed. Also, it suffered from an inordinate amount of grammatical and spelling errors. The basic argument is that African religion offers us a different view of God as community. In fact he suggests that African theology is best captured by the idea of communotheism, where the different God all shares in the same divine substance. In the final two chapters he discusses Tertullian’s doctrine of God, which Ogbonnaya believes needs to be grounded in his African context. He argues that Tertullian’s subordinationsim is not ontological, but rather temporal and functional. I did not really buy this argument, as he seemed to go to great lengths to clear Tertullian’s name of any hint of subordinationsim. I found the beginning part of the book more interesting, especially his rejection of African religion being described by monotheistic or polytheistic.

My favorite work was Racquel A. St. Clair’s Call and Consequence: A Womanist Reading of Mark. St. Clair’s work includes an excellent and detailed exegesis of the gospel of Mark. She is attempting to bridge the gap between womanist theology and womanist biblical studies. Although she in agreement with other womanist theologians that African American women have too many crosses to bear, she rejects the view of Jesus as a co-sufferer. However, she does not want to abandon the cross like Delores Williams who believes that the cross has been used to a symbol of abuse that encourages African American women to accept “shame, suffering, and surrogacy”. She spends the majority of the book exegeting Mark 8:31-38. Specifically, she wants to argue against any notion that God willed Jesus’ suffering must be rejected. She argues that we ought to read Mark 8:31: “the Son of Man must suffer many things” not as divinely willed, but rather as an inevitability given his ministry is one that conflicts with political and religious leaders of the time. The scholarship can be dense, but ultimately I believe her interpretation is correct and well argued. Disciples of Jesus will experience pain because of the difficulties that arises when one opposes oppression. I’ll let St. Clair have the last word: “domestic violence and domestic jobs; dropouts and drive-bys; the corporate glass ceiling and election vote stealing; high incarceration but low graduation rates; inadequate healthcare and inferior housing; stereotypes that depict us as caricatures rather than complete persons. These are not crosses for us to bear. They are challenges that we must overcome. And the call, the challenge, is not suffering with Jesus; it is ministering like Jesus” (167).

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One Response to “Three Book Reviews of Liberation Theology”

  1. Alex Says:

    Thanks, this was helpful as I put together a bibliography for a project on domestic violence and liberation theology. Looking forward to reading St. Clair’s book!

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