This book deals with the biblical, theological and sociological issues concerning liberation theology (p. 12). Liberation theology is a new way of doing theology (pp. 8, 17, 35, 74, 81, 122-124, 131-171), born out of the Latin American social context. It discards capitalism (pp. 29-31, 56-57, 95, 119, 156-157, 215), is a theology of action (praxis) rather than doctrine (pp. 136-138, 147-148, 188), rejects the reliability of Scripture (pp. 143-146, 216, 233-235) and when interpreting Scripture uses a hermeneutic of the kingdom of God as its guide (pp. 145, 155, 167, 189, 198-202, 226, 264). Liberation theology is concerned with social salvation, or the transformation of society, rather than spiritual salvation (pp. 176-206). Utopia is the goal (pp. 195-197, 200-201, 254) and it is achieved often through revolution and violence (p. 267). Even the person of Christ is changed: since the liberation theologians do not believe we can rely upon the words of Scripture we cannot know who the real Jesus is (pp. 216-235). Yet they believe Christianity and Marxism have a common goal – the kingdom of God (pp. 102-103). The fact is that both the World Council of Churches (pp. 62-63) and the Catholic Church, especially since Vatican II (pp. 86-93, 97, 111-112, 243), have supported many of liberation theology’s ideas and goals. It is a new kind of ecumenism in which the world changes the church instead of the church changing the world (pp. 245-249).
Liberation theology is a new way of doing theology. Its point of departure and hermeneutical norm is not the written revelation of God, but the social context of Latin American and the revolutionary praxis striving to create there a “new man” and a “new society” within a socialist system as a supposed manifestation of the kingdom of God.
While this volume is 30 years old and therefore not up-to-date on more recent developments, it nevertheless is an excellent book detailing the history, philosophy and teachings of liberation theology. Núñez clearly exposes the unbiblical views within the movement and offers evangelical responses throughout. He makes a few questionable statements along the way (pp. 236-237, 279, 282, 286-288), but these are few and do not take away from the overall excellent treatment of liberation theology. Additional importance of the work lies in the fact that many of the concepts of liberation theology have now been adopted in the new wave of the social gospel found in much of 21st century evangelicalism.
Liberation Theology by Emilio A. Núñez C. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985) 304 pp., Hard – out of print but available used at Amazon.com
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel