(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

A Theology of Liberation consists of four parts, which include thirteen chapters and cover more than three hundred pages. Part 1 includes one chapter that discusses the purpose of theology. According to Gutiérrez, the classic task of theology was to seek after wisdom and pursue rational knowledge. Throughout history, however, some have seen the task of theology as a meditation on proper human action. Gutiérrez sees his theological method as a reflection on circumstances and actions that should be taken. Chapter 2 considers the liberation as a theological concept. Gutiérrez argues that liberation must be connected to the proper development of individuals and social orders and that liberation is not merely concerned with otherworldly issues or the afterlife.

The second part, called “Posing the Problem,” contains three brief chapters about the social task confronting Christianity. Gutiérrez argues that Christians in Latin American are looking for support from the Catholic Church for the social problems faced by people in developing countries. Gutiérrez argues that the problem of the poor must be considered both on the pastoral level and on the level of theological reflection. On the pastoral level, lay movements must be given particular attention so that laypersons are supported in the struggle for social justice.

The third part, titled “The Option Before the Latin American Church,” examines the development of theological ideas in Latin America regarding social life. Gutiérrez asserts that for a very long time theologians in Latin America had no real awareness of economic problems faced by everyday residents. In the 1950’s, however, theologians began addressing the social plight of Latin Americans. He also includes a brief discussion of the theory of dependence as an explanation for the poverty in the Americas. This economic theory argues that Latin American nations never developed vibrant domestic economies because trading partners purchased raw materials at very low prices from Latin American nations and then sold finished goods to these countries at higher prices. Reformist movements were not enough to counter the economic colonialism practiced by northern nations. In...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Bokenkotter, Thomas. Church and Revolution: Catholics in the Struggle for Democracy and Social Justice. New York: Image Books, 1998. Examines Catholics who have promoted social reform. Includes two chapters that consider the humanist vision of the Jacques Maritain.

Novak, Michael. Will It Liberate? Questions About Liberation Theology. Mahway, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1986. Provides a largely critical perspective of liberation theology, questioning Gutiérrez’s use of Marxist ideology and his understanding of economic development as being ill-conceived and ill-considered. Gutiérrez is discussed throughout the work.

Rowland, Christopher, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Liberation Theology. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Eleven significant essays, including one by Gutiérrez, survey the basics of liberation theology and explain the development of its core ideas.