Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Liberation Theology

A large part of the American Christian church today subscribes to a gospel of social justice or what is called Liberation Theology.  Today I want to define what these are and show what the Bible says about them. 

First let us discuss what Liberation Theology (LT) is.  LT began in Central America as Marxists gained ground in those nations giving the poor a greater voice.  It began in the Catholic church and is really just a Christianization of Marxist ideology.  It spread to North America where today it is preached mostly in liberal minority churches.  In fact, in America it is often referred to as "Black Liberation Theology."   It is defined as such:
Black liberation theology is an offshoot of the South American Liberation Theology, which is largely a humanistic mindset, attempting to focus Christian theology on the plight of the poor. Essentially, black liberation theology focuses on Africans in general, and African Americans in particular, being liberated from all forms of bondage and injustice, whether real or perceived, whether social, political, economic, or religious.  - Gotquestions.org
Liberation theology is a focus on Christianity as a means to finding liberation from poverty, oppression, and racial discrimination.  It is the belief that Jesus came to teach deliverance from poverty and oppression and that keeping people in poverty and oppression are sins. It teaches Jesus as a liberator from all forms of oppression.  It is not Christian at all as I will show that their beliefs are counter to Biblical Christianity, the true Gospel, and the nature of Jesus.  I also will take some time to address what the Bible does say about racial relations.  I addressed the issue of poverty the other day so I will not rewrite all of that. 

First of all, the general original premise of LT is wrong.  Christian ministry should not be focused on curing poverty and reaching out to the poor, but should be focused on the Gospel and reaching out to the lost no matter what their economic status is.  As individual Christians, we should not be focused on the poor or any person for that matter, but we should be focused on God. 
And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste? "For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor." But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. "For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her."  Mathew 26:6-13 NKJV
We see here that worship of God takes precedence over ministry to the poor.  That is not to say that the poor are not an important ministry, but all of our ministry needs to start first with God.  The reason is that we are recognizing that ultimately it is God who supplies our needs and the needs of others through us.  If I give money to the poor, it is not I who provided it but God who provided me the money in order to share it with others.  The worship of God must always come first because if we seek God first, our needs will be provided. 

Our ministry should also be focused on the true Gospel, not about poverty or social justice.  We are to preach freedom from sin, not freedom from oppression or poverty.  At the time of the epistles, the Christians were among (and still remain today) one of the most oppressed people on earth.  Paul never wrote about a gospel of freedom from his literal bondage and oppression for his faith.  Paul never preached a gospel of freedom from oppression for slaves or the poor either.  He was called to help the poor and reach out to the oppressed as part of his ministry, but that was never his focus.  He preached Jesus.  In fact, here is Paul speaking about his own oppression:
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NKJV
Paul was whipped, imprisoned, run out of town, and a whole lot more.  All this was called by him to be "light affliction."  That is because his focus was not on the present circumstances, but on Heaven.  He was focused on the eternal, not the temporal.  And that is where LT fails most of all.  LT is a focus on the here and now and even if we direct all our resources to curing the here and now, that does nothing for anyone's eternal condition.  What would it profit anyone if we ended racism, made the poor rich, and freed everyone from all forms of bondage and oppression if they are still bound for Hell?  It profits nothing.  We need to remain focused on the eternal.  As Christians, here is God's direction regarding our focus:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  Romans 8:18 NKJV
A gospel of social justice focuses people on their present circumstances and away from their eternal condition.  That gospel works contrary to the work of God. 
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  Romans 8:5-8 NKJV
Poverty and oppression are articles of the flesh. Focusing on them primarily is not pleasing to God.  God commands all, rich or poor, to seek Him first and those other things will be taken care of.  Furthermore, if we seek God first, those other things will not even be as important to us.  No hardship on earth can overcome the hope that is in Christ Jesus. 
"Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Matthew 6:31-33 NKJV
LT teaches that the gospel is one of freedom from oppression and deliverance from poverty.  The true gospel is one that teaches freedom from sin and deliverance from the judgment due that sin. 
But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.  Romans 6:17-22 NKJV
That is the Gospel.  It is not about a material freedom, but a spiritual one. We are made free from sin, we are delivered from judgment to everlasting life. We are taught as Christians to minister to the poor, but never to end poverty.  We are told as Christians that we will be oppressed but to pray for those who oppress us.  We are never taught to end oppression, but we have the hope that God can reach into the heart of the oppressor to change him.  Again, we are to focus on the eternal not the temporal. 

LT is an angry gospel.  It teaches people to be angry about their poverty and oppression and teaches them to work actively against it. The poor are taught they are forced into poverty and takes away any aspect of self responsibility.  The oppressed are taught to be angry at the oppressor.  God says otherwise.  God says that we are to love our enemies, to pray for our enemies, to provide for and minister to our enemies. 
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." Matthew 5:43-48 NKJV
and again
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Romans 12:19-20 NKJV
And that brings me to my final point.  LT teaches that the rich are accountable to the poor and that the oppressors are accountable to the oppressed.  It's origins are drenched in blood because of this fact.  God tells us otherwise.  God tells us (as we just saw) to pray for our oppressors, to do good to them and for them, to bless them, and we are never told to wish bad on them or take revenge on them.  LT teaches political activism for governments for forcibly redistribute wealth to end poverty.  That is a form of revenge on those with more wealth.  It is a matter of envy and it is wrong.  The Bible tells us as individual Christians to reach out to the poor, it does not tell us to make others do the same.  Ultimately, the oppressors and the selfish are accountable to God.  And that is where LT goes wrong again.  Let's look at some Scripture:
Who executes justice for the oppressed, Who gives food to the hungry. The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners.

The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises those who are bowed down; The LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked He turns upside down.  Psalm 146:7-9 NKJV
and
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.  Romans 12:19 NKJV
Note that I referenced Romans 12:20 earlier.  Note that Romans 12:20 is about ministering to those who would be your enemies.  Note that we are called to love our enemies and leave the justice and vengeance to God. 

One thing I want to make clear about this post is that I am in no way justifying oppression or racism.  Those are sins and God will deal with the oppressor in this life, after this life, or both.  Make no mistake, racism is wrong and God will hold those Christians to account for any hatred they harbor in their hearts for anyone.  There is no superior race in the eyes of God.  Here is what the Word says:
and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. Colossians 3:10-11 NKJV
We are all in Christ equally.  We are all heirs to Christ.  We are all created in the image of God.  And if we are all equal in Christ, we are all equal to come to Christ.  God does not discern one race over another. Racism is a matter of arrogance and hatred and is not consistent with faith in God.  If you are a Christian and you are a racist, and you do not repent of that sin, you will be chastised by God. 

So we see that Liberation Theology is not the same Gospel that was taught by Paul and the other apostles.  It is a heresy borne out of an atheistic ideology in order to promote a revolution that would ultimately lead those very people who were promised deliverance into greater oppression.  It has now become a political ideology where the gospel is being used for political change that will have the same end now as it did then.  It is heresy. It is error.  It is doctrine accursed of God.  It manipulates people into focusing on their present condition for the sake of their eternal one and not it is not in the spirit of charity but one of envy and vengeance.  The lead purveyors of this poison are not poor or oppressed at all, but they inflame those feelings in other in order to enrich themselves.  They are the real oppressors and God will deal with them. 
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.  Galatians 1:6-9 NKJV

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