Abstract

In 1971 Gustavo Gutierrez was the first theologian to pronounce the advent of the theology of liberation. This book received both praise and criticism for its ‘radical new’ approach to theological endeavour. This paper will attempt to provide a broad overview of the complex processes or possibilities which led to the publishing of this book. In doing so, I will focus my discussion upon what has made liberation theology possible; the cultural environment, the intellectual inspiration, and the events that have played an important role in its development. Of course, I cannot hope to give depth to the breadth of the issues. Therefore, the discussion will be at times incomplete and brief in the interests of analysing the ‘big picture’.

The first general assumption of this paper is that the work of Gutierrez is a product of a cultural history or multiple cultural histories. His work is one moment in a movement of humanity and human expression in the process of history. By this, I mean to say that A Theology of Liberation is an expression and response to a reality which cannot be disengaged from that historical and cultural reality. In this paper I hope to give a general picture of what this reality may have been and what informed that reality.

A full account of the formation of this reality would necessarily begin with an account of pre-Christian Latin America, the religion and culture of its inhabitants and how this culture and religion moved into the Catholic faith. Although I cannot give any account of pre-Catholic Latin America I presume that the pre-Christian culture was not destroyed; but rather subsumed, pushed underground, or similarly to other conversions to Christianity; incorporated into Catholicism. This paper will begin with a discussion of the Spanish Catholic impetus, again in a broad and brief sense, acknowledging the historical formation and drawing out those points which are arguably of central importance to the formation of liberation theology. Following this, it will discuss the influence of Hegel and Marx on the thought of Gutierrez. I will assert that Hegel influenced Gutierrez’s theological framework heavily, both directly and indirectly, while Marxist theory was used as a tool for socio-economic critique by Gutierrez. Finally, I will discuss two works or Gustavo Gutierrez, Towards a Theology of Liberation and A Theology of Liberation.

Angus Brook, 'Towards a Theology of Liberation', 2008.

'Towards a Theology of Liberation' is due for publication in 2009.

Keywords

Theological framework, Hegel and Marx, Christianity, Catholicism

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