James Crossley's blog Contact: jgcrossley10 - AT - yahoo - DOT - co - DOT - uk

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Greatest achievements of modern theology: liberation theology

Over at Faith and Theology, Benjamin Myers is providing the definitive top 5 theological achievements of modern theology (no. 5 Barth's doctrine of election). Jim West has now given us his top five.

One achievement that I think should be mentioned is the remarkable development of Liberation Theology in Latin America where social gospel was really put in to practice in a radically new way and gained a great deal of popular support. You could be its strongest opponent but surely it is undeniable that here we have one theological movement effectively driven 'from below' that has made people from popes to presidents to academics at the very least take note of its impact. I think it would also be fair to say that it has also influenced the developments of feminist and black theologies.

6 Comments:

Blogger Ben Myers said...

Yes, it was only with the greatest difficulty that I decided to leave this one out of my list. More broadly than just liberation theology, I think you could speak of the "political turn" in modern theology (especially in theology since Moltmann), which has developed (and is still developing) in so many important and interesting ways. Alas, though, I fear this won't make it into my Top Five. As I said, even I feel scandalised by omissions like this....

August 03, 2005

 
Blogger James Crossley said...

Yes, I'm sure you're right on the 'political turn'.

Oh well I tried...

Look forward to the rest of the countdown

August 03, 2005

 
Blogger J. B. Hood said...

I have to say that some method for determining 'top five' (influence?) needs to be described. For example, liberation theology has been influential, but has not played a huge role in the average life of the average Christian (or non-Xian) in the Developing and Under-developed world. In light of Ben's original post on the top-5 idea, here's some rambling thoughts of my own, confined to one theological phenomenon.

I note in an article I'm writing that the single most influential Western theological export these days is "prosperity theology" ("health and wealth gospel"), which is massively influential in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, and among the poor and minorities in the United States. This stuff is really, really nasty, but it's also really important. Benny Hinn and his ilk won't make the cover of Time like Barth, but they are very, very influential all told. They got to the TV/mass market/crusade wave in a powerful way, with an easy, fun, positive message about wealth and healing. And they're reaping the dividends.

Philip Jenkins suggests that Pentecostalism (from which this springs) was the most successful sociological--not just theological--movement of the 1900s; I don't agree (modernism of some sort takes the cake), but I think he's close.

Sorry for the length--just a reminder that as academis, we've got to take popular religion like this seriously; which was of course after all a small fraction of what Barth was trying to do.

August 03, 2005

 
Blogger J. B. Hood said...

Mind you, maybe liberation theology will out-last prosperity theology (I certainly wouldn't mind if it did!); but at the moment there's no question which is more influential (in my mind).

See 77-8 of Jenkins book (The Next Christendom, VERY important read); his description of prosperity theology confirms my thesis that prosperity theology is like a popular, supernaturalized version of liberation theology.

August 03, 2005

 
Blogger James Crossley said...

That's an interesting point,the one of influence. I've always had the opinion that influential music and film can be very good and very bad and that some of the best music can even drop without a trace. I suppose that would apply to lots of things not least theology. A lot depends on dominant tastes of a given social sub-group as well. No matter how good Liberation Theology may or may not be, it isn't the sort of thing that will become dominant among Christians in positions of financial power for example.

August 03, 2005

 
Blogger Ben Myers said...

Good point about the prosperity gospel. Perhaps next week I should run a series on "the most abysmal mistakes of modern Christendom", so that the prosperity gospel can receive due attention. :)

And I think it's true too that Pentecostalism (in spite of its sometimes drastic theological failings) has to be appreciated for its sociological impact. Even more than liberation theology, Pentecostalism was genuinely a movement "from below", and I think in many ways it was (particularly back in the early 1900s) a genuinely liberating and empowering movement among the disadvantaged classes. On the whole I would probably even agree with P. Jenkins on this one.

August 05, 2005

 

Post a Comment

<< Home