A Black Theology of Liberation

by James H. Cone
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What is James Cone's theodicy regarding God, suffering, and evil in a Black Liberation theology?

James Cone believed that liberation of the Black people was a necessary component. He believed that only African Americans could be truly liberated from white oppression, because they would be aware of the truth and the lies of American history and life. Cone stated that white people are not capable of being totally truthful about their own history and culture. Therefore, he claimed, White Theology—which is typically based on European culture—is not capable of bringing about real liberation for African Americans. Cone emphasized that violence is sometimes necessary to attain total liberation; however, it should never be used as an expression of hate or anger.

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James Cone believed that God is the liberator of the oppressed. He believed that only the Judeo-Christian God can be considered the liberator, because he has proven to be a champion of the oppressed. For instance, Cone cites the trials and tribulations of the Hebrews throughout the Bible, noting how...

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James Cone believed that God is the liberator of the oppressed. He believed that only the Judeo-Christian God can be considered the liberator, because he has proven to be a champion of the oppressed. For instance, Cone cites the trials and tribulations of the Hebrews throughout the Bible, noting how God has always saved them or led them to freedom. Cone saw similarities between the struggles of the Israelites and the struggles of African Americans. Both had suffered slavery, exoduses, and oppression.

James Cone believed that suffering is part of the struggle toward liberation and truth. Cone's theological literary works, lectures, and sermons usually emphasize how the struggle of the African diaspora relates to the struggles of the Jews in the Bible. Cone believed that, for this reason, a Black Theology was necessary. He believed that the Christianity white people practiced was not in tune with the teachings and stories of the Bible. How could white people relate to the Bible's stories of slavery and oppression?, he wonders in A Black Theology of Liberation.

In regard to evil, Cone believed that "the God of the biblical faith and black religion is best known as the Liberator of the oppressed from bondage. . . . To resist evil is to participate in God’s redemption of the world."

Cone posited that evil causes suffering, and that only God—through an interpretation of Black Theology—could help African Americans reach total liberation.

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