Liberation theology is a movement that attempts to interpret Scripture through the sufferings of the poor. According to liberation theology, true followers of Jesus must work to build a just society. They must bring about a social and political change that aligns with the betterment of the lives of the working class. The given argument is Jesus focused on the poor and the downtrodden and He himself was of a humble background. As per the theology, a Christ-centred church will be focused on the marginalized and those who have been historically deprived of their rights. Defending the rights of the poor is seen as the central aspect of the Gospel.
Promoters of liberation theology use these scriptures to justify their claims:
Luke 1:52-53 – He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty. (Mary’s prayer when she was with her cousin Elizabeth).
Malachi 3:5 – And I will come near you for judgement; I will be a swift witness against sorcerers, against adulterers, against perjurers, against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and against those who turn away an alien—because they do not fear Me,” says the Lord of hosts.
Isaiah 58:6-7 – “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Jeremiah 7:6 – Do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
Zechariah 7:10 – Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, The alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.’
Luke 4:18 – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.
Liberation theologians also use Matthew 10:34 to promote the idea that the church should be involved in social activism. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”
Liberation theology has risen out of Latin America of the 1960s. Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez is the person who first coined the term liberation theology through his book “A Theology of Liberation.”. It was developed to confront and resist the control of the Roman Catholic leadership over the masses in collusion with the colonialist of South America. The Roman Catholic church failed to resist the new main practices of the colonisers (the Portuguese and Spanish explorers). In fact, it is believed that the church authorities gave the go-ahead for the genocide of the native people of South America. The church was closely aligned with the colonisers, materially, politically, and even spiritually. Even after the colonisers were replaced by local rulers and governments, the relationship between the church and the rulers continued. When the people were oppressed by the colonisers and kept in poverty and exploited, the church taught that good life will come only in heaven, but not on earth.
Therefore the liberation theology was developed to challenge and change the situation.
Yes, the Bible teaches to care for the poor and to speak out against injustice. And yes, the Bible warns about the deceitfulness of riches. However liberation theology is wrong in 2 places:
- It equates social welfare with the gospel message. Taking care of the poor is not the same as the message of salvation through Christ our Savior.
- The primary need of mankind is spiritual and not social. The fall of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden from their position of authority over the earth was a spiritual fall.
Gospel is for all people, both rich and poor. If the poor shepherds came to worship Jesus, so did the Magi. Christ brings unity to His church and not division.
What is Liberation Theology? | GotQuestions.org
Angie Pears, Doing Contextual Theology (Routlege, 2010)