Is Liberation theology the same as Liberal theology? by Lennart Johansson

Posted: February 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

Is Liberation theology the same as Liberal theology?
To me this is a very important question to ask, both to myself and to others.
It is also one of the questions i feel is separating many Christians from the gospel of liberation.

Let’s first take a look at what liberal theology is thought to be.

Among evangelicals, Roman Catholics and other more conservative Christian groups liberal theology is thought to represent the indifference to the word of the bible (or dogma). Liberal theologians are accused of ”cherry-picking” that is to take from the bible (or dogma) what best suits oneself and to ignore or do away with mostly everything else. This leaves a form of Christianity that is hollow and shaped by humans, rather than a Christianity that shapes humans.

I myself share this thought to some extent and am not overly fond of liberal theology.

What about liberation theology then?

To some that might seem to be ”cherry-picking” as well and accusations are often heard that it is nothing more than a way of using the gospel to promote a political idea.
Granted, this tendency is evident within liberation theology since its founders relies in no small way on the analysis of society made by Karl Marx.
But this is not a tendency that is in any way unique to liberation theology. Just look at the conservative, right wing fundamentalists using their biblical interpretations to justify their opression of the poor, the sick and the unemployed.

So what about liberation theology then? Is it liberal?
To me liberation theology cannot be a liberal interpretation of Gods word, the bible.

Liberation theology to me means to take the gospel presented to us seriously, to try not to interprete and twist it to suit ones own gains, but to let the raw force of the gospel come to life in ones own life and shape us as humans and Christians.

Liberation theology is to me more of a fundamentalist view of the bible than any other view.
Because it cuts through my own comfort and forces me to obey the word given to me rather than to try to find a way of letting that word reinforce my already set beliefs.

To dare to take the gospels message about liberation literary is to take the whole gospel as literary as possible. If not, then we cannot be expected, and do not deserve, to be taken seriously.

What does this mean to me then?

Well, taking the message of liberation literary will also mean that I have to take the message of pacifism literary, as well as the message of mercy and good deeds.

The moment I start to close my eyes to parts of the gospel’s message because it doesn’t suit me, my culture or my tradition, that is the moment I can no longer be taken seriously as a liberation theologian. That is the moment I let humans judge God and not the other way around.

Liberation theology is to have faith in the reality of God and his word.



  1. Anna Skagersten says:

    Thank you for open another issue, however i will refuse to go deeper into the content, just let me give a brief respons on the rethorics.

    Liberal and liberation are two diferent words,
    Liberal theology, is an umbrella term covering diverse, philosophically and non-mystic biblical text belief within general Christianity that became more popular in the 20th century

    Liberation theologyis a Christian movement in political theology which interprets the teachings of Jesus Christ in terms of a liberation from unjust economic, political, or social conditions.

    From my perspective we can not compare those rather compare the consequens of the two theologies if followers bring theology into practicum.

    /Anna Skagersten

  2. Micael Terstedt says:

    To compare Liberal Theology with Liberation Theology can be like to compare all the equipment in a car with the road.
    That means that there is a lot more in a term like Liberal Theology that some groups think there are. When the Liberal Theology started it the late 18th century as a philosofy and uses the (idealistic?) modern view of sciense to look at the bible and refuses to see the old dogma as the only way they also put the ground to look at the bible from many other perspectives. It become more and more influence during the 19 and 20th century and of course the reactions from some groups, who wanted to stay in the old dogma or in a “biblicistic way” in its reading of the bible, became more hard and maybe also not so well-informed what the Liberal Theology is about.
    The Liberal theology nowadays have had influense to all the major congregations. In the Roman Catholic it started in the name of Nouvelle Theologie.
    In my opinion all the people who reads the bible in a historical-critical view have a lot of Liberal Theology in them. The liberal Theology not exclude the mystic view that goes beoyond the reason. The term Liberal Theology is not so common in these days because most of its ideeas are in use in most of Theology todays.
    In my opinion the people who uses the term Liberal Theology today is most of the times people who wants to bark to other peoples interpretation of the bible. :)…..

    The Liberation Theology is about something else. It is a road, it is a way of reading the biblical texts from a perspective of the opressed and with the people who suffering. To understand and take action for all of the humanity against the materialist view and the “homoeconomist”.
    In my view it is to really understand Jesus word in Luk 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,”

  3. I understand now that the title and the question posed might be confusing. I do not intend to change the definition of liberal theology, nor of liberation theology and i am well aware that the two are different.

    However, on our last meeting the issue of evengelicals came up and they were thougt of as not being oriented towards liberation theology.

    My experience in discussing liberation theology with evangelicals and other conservative and/or “bible-believing” christians, is that they often dismiss liberation theology as being either synonymous with liberal theology or a result of the same.

    Liberal theology is indeed sprung from a critical/scientific way of looking at the bible, and the result of this is that much or most of the bible is thougt of as irrelevant and/or bound to a specific time or context.

    Liberation theology however cannot be part of this tradition (i.e. Liberal theology) and do not have its roots in the historical-critical research, but rather believes in the message of Jesus, the message of liberty for all.

    Hit approach, to believe in the words of the bible, the words of Jesus, must be applied througoout our bible understanding if it is to be taken seriously. If liberation theology is to have any credibility we cannot just say that “everythiong that has to do with the liberation of mankind is to be understood litteraly, but everything else is to be subject to historical-critical viewpoints”.

    Either the whole bible has to be subject to this scrutiny, or none of it and as liberation theology rests on the acceptance of the validity of the words of God in the bible, the decision has already been made.

    As a related note one of the critisicms from the roman catholic church in their condemnation of liberation theology was that it had a tendency to rely to much on the bible and ignore the catholic tradition and the philosopical and scientific views.

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