Study Guide

A Theology of Liberation

by Gustavo Gutierrez

A Theology of Liberation Themes

Christian Themes (Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

The first theme expressed in this work is the new mode that theology must undertake to address the social conditions of the poor. Theology is no longer about knowing; rather, it is about action, or praxis as Gutiérrez calls it. Scriptural passages from both the Old and New Testaments and other theological documents of the Catholic Church are interpreted in light of this viewpoint. Thus, passages on the poor in Scripture are given new attention. Christ is presented as a radical social reformer and liberator of the poor. Passages suggesting otherworldly realties are interpreted in the light of worldly conditions.

Another theme is the new meanings of “liberation” and “salvation.” These terms become interchangeable, because the work of bringing liberation to the poor will also bring salvation to the poor, salvation from the material poverty forced upon those in less developed countries. Liberation and salvation will occur in this world. Gutiérrez further argues that it is appropriate to have eschatological hope for this to occur.

Another theme developed by Gutiérrez is the theological justification for Christians, including laypersons and priests, to become social revolutionaries who seek to overturn existing social and economic arrangements. Gutiérrez recognizes the Marxist tone of this language but rejects the notion that his social vision must accept the Marxist atheism and materialism. He calls for all to overturn the unjust social structures in place in the world. Gutiérrez is certainly pleased that many have accepted this role in the years immediately preceding the publication of his work.

In the same vein, a significant theme of the work is the critique of capitalism and the argument that socialism is most compatible with Christianity. Gutiérrez asserts that dependency and capitalistic exploitation explain poverty. He embraces socialism as compatible with a Christian vision for society.