Thursday, October 29, 2009

Does Your Theology Liberate?

I am quite happy to say that I have something of a soft spot for Latin American Liberation Theology, in particular their focus on taking the foundational texts of Christianity and putting social justice at the very heart of their believes and action. I came across some notes in my stack of old college papers about the defining marks of Liberation Hermeneutics as practiced by the likes of Leonardo and Clodovis Boff. These notes were made as part of a lecture that my two best friends at college, Cristi and Phil gave in our 3rd year Hermeneutics class.

Marks of Liberation Hermeneutics

1. Favours application to explanation

Liberation hermeneutics seeks to find a more pragmatic approach to understanding Scripture. The primary concern for the liberation exegete is not "what does the text mean?" but rather "how does the text address my situation?". Whilst allowing a text to have a meaning in and of itself, the liberation exegete seeks to find a pragmatic application to that meaning.

"the important thing is not so much interpreting the text of the Scripture as interpreting life according to the scripture" - Leonardo and Clodovis Boff.

2. Seeks the Transforming Power of Texts

The liberation exegete is concerned with interpreting the text so that change is made inevitable. This interpretation will lead to change on an individual level through conversion and on a national level through revolution.

3. Stresses Social Context of the Message

The liberation exegete seeks to place his message within the framework of oppression in the Bible. For example Israel in Egypt, Babylon or Jesus living within the oppressive Roman Empire. This approach emphasises that God is the liberator of his people from oppressive regimes as much as from sin.

The notes then continue with a section on the use of the Hermeneutical Circle in the work of Juan Luis Segundo, which I will probably re-write so as not to be so overly academic.

Reflecting though on those notes, I am convinced that any exegesis which doesn't address the social situation in which we find ourselves is an exegesis of resignation and leads to a theology of complacency - or in other words the maintenance of the status quo.

If you believe that Jesus came to set humanity free, why limit him to the purely spiritual realm of liberation from sin? If God addresses every facet of human life, then the church is surely called on to continue this ministry of liberation in the societies that we find ourselves in?

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