Evangelicals and Liberation Theology

I recommend a great new book by a budding young Brazilian theologian (one of my former students) Joao Chaves: Evangelicals and Liberation Revisted.

https://wipfandstock.com/store/Evangelicals_and_Liberation_Revisited_An_Inquiry_into_the_Possibility_of_an_EvangelicalLiberationist_Theology

This is the only book I know of its kind–a thorough, up-to-date treatment of Latin American Liberation Theology (LALT) and its relation to evangelical theology (and vice versa).

LALT has allegedly fallen on hard times since the fall of the Soviet Union and Eastern European communism. Not as many major volumes of LALT have been published as before. LALT has been embattled during the two recent papacies. JP2 appointed very conservative bishops and cardinals–many hostile to LALT. Evangelicalism and especially Pentecostalism have been growing in Latin America, often presenting alternatives to Catholicism and LALT. Many poor Latin Americans have turned to the so-called “Prosperity Gospel” for hope (and away from LALT’s base communities and calls for social reform).

Chaves treats the situation sensitively and with current information–including insights from Latin American theologians not yet translated into English or published in America.

One of his messages is that LALT is pressed down but not crushed; it is alive and well even if it is undergoing transformations. Another message is that it has seen some significant successes in terms of social change in some Latin American countries. Yet another message is that evangelicalism and LALT are not necessarily antithetical; to a very large extent North American evangelicals have misunderstood the messages of LALT.

This book brings the “story” of LALT up to the present with special focus on the last couple of decades. How many North Americans have ever heard of Jung Mo Sung–the aforementioned Korean-born Brazilian liberation theologian? And yet he is a significant voice in contemporary Liberation Theology. Chaves lets him be heard by North Americans. This book also surveys evangelical responses to LALT and points out where they have been distorted by false images of LALT and where they have been spot on.

Chaves is not a liberation theologian per se; he is a scholar of LALT with first hand knowledge of the culture in which it is embedded and out of which it arises.

All students of LALT must read this book. Everyone interested in LALT should read it. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.


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