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LIBERATION THEOLOGY: THE BIBLICAL · PDF file 2012. 1. 17. · Chapter 2 LIBERATION THEOLOGY: THE BIBLICAL ANCHORAGE Introduction 1 ibemtion theology bases its claims mainly on four

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Text of LIBERATION THEOLOGY: THE BIBLICAL · PDF file 2012. 1. 17. · Chapter 2 LIBERATION...

  • Chapter 2

    LIBERATION THEOLOGY: THE BIBLICAL ANCHORAGE

    Introduction

    1 ibemtion theology bases its claims mainly on four themes of the

    Bible - the Kingdom of God as the ultimate plan of God's creation, the

    exodus as the new paradigm for liberation, the notion of poverty and the image

    of God as a God of justice - which together with other themes constitute the

    central message of Jesus' teachings. Liberation theology makes use of these

    ideas as central reference points in its advancement. The image of God to be

    found in the Bible is that of a God who liberates, who is compassionate and

    concerned with justice. Each of these themes, needs to be looked into in some

    detail.

    The Kingdom of God is one of the central themes in Jesus' teachings.

    How thii Kingdom of God can be made meaningful to the contemporary world

    has proved to be a contentious issue. To grasp its full import, the term 'Kingdom

    of God' has to be studied in the context of attempts made to translate it into

    modem idiom. One has to find out what it meant for Jesus and what it can

    mean for the world today; that is to say, it has to be analysed as it is employed in

  • the Bible, and as interpreted by the liberation theologians as a dynamic world

    transforming reality.

    The Kingdom of God in the Old Testament

    Although the phrase "the Kingdom of God" does not occur in the Old

    Testament, the kingship of God is frequently stressed, especially in the psalms.

    Most exegetes agree that the term "malkut" translated as 'Kingdom' is associated

    with Yahweh. Now, the God of Israel- Yahweh - manifests Himself in terms

    of an active power operating through history: not in terms of a kingdom, literal

    or figurative, constituted by that power. When the kingship of Yahweh is

    described "the emphasis is on kingly rule and domination rather than on a 2

    territory or a place." There are various dimensions to this kingship as He is the

    great king over all the earth (PS 47:2), He rules over all (Ps 103:19), and His

    kingly control encompasses past, present and future (Ps 145: 13). Along with

    thii general notion, God is also king of the covenant people and, exclusively,

    Jacob's king (Is 41:21). The covenental kingship gives hope during national 3

    decline and even in exile. The reign of God will be realised through the

    "Messiah" who will bring salvation and blessing to aU people (Is 2: 1-4; 49: 7;

    Mic 4: 1-5). Israel's experience of Yahweh, as the personal God and as the Lord

    of history who cares, protects, forgives and makes a covenant with his people,

    was unique to them. As a king, "Yahweh", creates a people, directs and

    organises their ranks, redeems them, imparts justice to them all. This religious

    experience might be said to prefigure the idea of the Kingdom of God as it is

    fully and finally evolved under the new covenant.

  • The Kingdom of God in the New Testament

    4 The phrase "the kingdom of God" occurs frequently in the NT,

    especially, in the synoptic Gospels where it is the central theme in the

    proclamation of Jesus. The fourth Gospel (St. John's) rarely uses the term and

    when it does, the term is synonymous with "eternal life" (Jn 3:15). The "Acts of

    the Apostles" preaches the kingdom (Acts 8:12; 1923) and Paul speaks of

    inheriting the kingdom (1 Cor 6 9 ; Gal 521) ; for Paul, the kingdom of God is

    also a "present" reality (Rom 14:17; 1 Cor 420) . The expectation of God's 5

    coming rule pervades and dominates the whok New Testament.

    Jesus never defined the kingdom of God or the reign of God in the

    concrete but presented hi message in "kingdomn parables which, it must be 6

    admitted, were the most effective means of putting over the idea to the

    unlettered and the uninitiated among hi audience.

    In the Bible the jubilee tradition is interpreted as a "great year of favour,"

    the ultimate visitation of God, a time of great solace and salvation to His people.

    Jesus announced this final visitation of God not as a future event but as having

    occurred with his advent, once and for all. And so he said: "the kingdom of God

    is at hand" (Mk 1:14). In Lk 1721, it is a present reality, one that is within our

    reach (Lk 17:21). Thii effective presence is manifested through exorcisms

    (Mt 12:28), healings and forgiving of sins. However, not all Gospel passages

    support the idea that the kingdom of God has, indeed, been actualised. Though

    it is made manifest in Jesus' m i n w , its fulfilment is still to come and much of

    Jesus' teaching points to thii (Mk 9:l ; Mt 6:lO; Lk 11:2). "This creates the 7

    tension of the "already" and the "not yet". Traditional theology stressed the 8

    "not yet" to the detriment of the "already".

  • Thii kingdom of God is a gracious gift from Above. It is God who gives

    the kingdom (Lk 12:31). It is a good offered to men and at the same time a 9

    challenge to the people (Mt 25: 1430) as the parable of the talents and of the

    treasure in the field (Mt 1344) make clear. The kingdom of God is "a purely 10

    religious kingdom" and Jesus rejects outright all suggestions of a splendid

    earthly kingdom (Lk 19:ll; 23:42; 24:21).

    The "kingdom of God" or the "reign of Godn is a "saving event for the 11

    sinners" and not a judgement of vengeance for them. Jesus' invitation to the

    people for repentance invokes God's mercy and not Hi anger as John, the

    Baptist, did. The revelation of God's love for sinners is a sign of Hi reign. The

    reign of God "demands rather a radical decision for God. The choice is clear; 12

    either God and hi reign or the world and its reign." Nothing should prevent

    one from making thii choice.

    Albrecht Ritsehl (1822-89) was the first scholar to examine Jesus' own

    understanding of the kingdom and interpret it in ethical terms, according to 13

    which all must strive to achieve the goal set by the kingdom. In reaction to this,

    Johannes Weiss (1863-1914) argued that the background of Jesus' kingdom

    preaching is the Jewish expectation of the manifestation of God's activity in the

    future. Albert ~chweitzerl~ dewloped the ideas of Weiss and traced the Jewish

    understanding to the apocalyptic literature. According to Schweitzer's

    "consistent eschatology," the kingdom of God was for Jesus a universal

    catastrophe along the lines of Jewish apocalyptic thinking and so no longer 15

    meaningful to the present day world. Charles Ilodd5 speaks of a "realised

    eschatologyn according to which the kingdom of God was a present reality for

    Jesus and so for the believers, too.

  • It is clear that the "kingdom of God" is open to a variety of 16

    interpretations. AU agree that Jesus preached the "kingdom of God" and

    demanded a response from the hearers so that the ultimate goal of the kingdom 17

    is to transform the whole creation.

    The Theology of Liberation and "the Kingdom of God"

    The theology of liberation tries to see the "kingdom of God" in the

    context of "hiirical liberation." In order to understand the kingdom of God in

    terms of the new theology, one has to have a certain knowledge of "doingn that

    theology and the preconceptions on which it is based. It is important to look at

    the changes that have been taking place in the past two hundred years in man's 18

    self- understanding and hi rok in hiitoy.

    19 A new hiirical situation wanants a new human self-understanding and

    a re-thinking and a re-reading of the Bible. Thii new historical situation has

    emerged from the industrial revolution which revealed man's ability to transform

    nature, and the French Revolution which proved man's potential to change the

    social and political order. The new human self-understanding is, thus, backed by

    the awareness of man's capacity to transform both nature and the socio-political 20

    order. Thii means that man has an active role in the transforrnation of hiitoy.

    It implies a new manner of being a human person whereby individuals

    have greater command over themselves and over their lot in h i r y . It implies,

    also, a new way of b e i i a Christian in thii world. In thii context, the theology

    of liberation occupies itself with the question posed by the poor and the

    oppressed as they struggle to free themselves from the shackles of injustice and

    try to create a just and equitable society. It is not to the "non-believern but to the

  • "non-person" to which liberation theology addresses itself. In the light of this

    new historical situation, liberation theology attempts to rethink the concept of the

    kingdom of God in its h i r ica l , social, political dimension and in its

    transforming power.

    Gutierrez on the "Kingdom of God"

    To Gustavo Gutierrez, the idea of the kingdom of God is bound up with

    the notion of "salvation" which embraces all of human history, transforming it

    and leading it to its fullness in Christ. The opposite of the "kingdom" is "sinn

    which is seen as a radically inb-hiirical reality - the kind of evil that Je

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