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LIBERATION THEOLOGY AND MARXISM: A REFLECTION ABOUT THE

BACKGROUND OF LIBERATION THEOLOGY


Tyrone Isaac Ibez Robles
Abstract
It analyzes the importance of liberation theology (LT) in the current theological and ecclesiological
context. It set out a refutation to the approach that LT is Marxism since a systematic analysis. The
author point out, it is true that exist a dialog between Marxism and LT, but this one is not exclusive
and predominant to consider of Marxist to LT, because it has talked to another philosophies and
sciences that are focus in the social context. This could have a great benefit to the Christian church
(Catholical and Protestant) in order to optimize its work with the needy and poor people in any
social activity that it makes.

Introduction
Liberation theology is a religious manifestation that took place in the heart of the Latin-America
Catholic Church at the end of 1960, but finally organized in the decade of 1970. Liberation theology
born in the first place as a manifestation of the pastoral leadership from the poor regions of LatinAmerica who insisted in the social commitment to oppressed sectors of the society looking for
liberation praxis, because of that is why they called it liberation theology. The inspiration of this
movement begins in the II Vatican Council that took place between 1962 and 1965. In this Council
was set the social mission of the church up. The second Latin America Bishops Conference
(CELAM) celebrated in Medelln, Colombia, in 1968, finally crystallized this initiative showing a
commitment to integral liberation of the poorest sectors of the society.
The expression Liberation Theology was used for the first time at the end of 1960 by Gustavo
Gutirrez Merino to describe this theological manifestation that involves socials issues in order to
get a total liberation. Besides Gutirrez, others theologians, philosophers, scientists, litterateurs,
etc., add to this movement. In 1979, the Latin Americas bishops would gather in Puebla in order to
reaffirm this option for the poor and oppressed people. This implied that in somehow, LT was a
Theo praxis of liberation, because theorizing cant be conceived without the commitment action so
that there is an ontological supremacy of action over the contemplation. This insistence of praxis
which, among other things, motivated the denunciation of injustices, caused that this theology was
Considered Marxism by the Vatican, especially in the person of the cardinal in that time, Joseph
Ratzinger (1983), through the document Libertatis Nuntius, where he established the differentiation
between some liberation theologies that had the risk of been considered Marxists and a necessary
and authentic theology of liberation that was in accordance with the official doctrine of the church1;
given this, liberation theologians as Gustavo Gutirrez and Leonardo Boff responded through their
works Hablar de Dios desde el sufrimiento del inocente2 and El Dios de la vida3 (Gutirrez); Cmo
hacer teologa de la liberacin4 (Boff).
What I try to maintain in the current document in that the Marxism has influenced the proposals of
liberation theology in the social field, but this influence is not enough to consider liberation
theology as Marxist. Ill use many authors such as Gustavo Gutirrez and his work Theology of
1

Joseph Ratzinger, http://es.catholic.net/abogadoscatolicos/429/848/articulo.php?id=13023


Gustavo Gutirrez, Hablar de Dios desde el sufrimiento del inocente. Una reflexin sobre el libro de Job
(Salamanca: Sgueme, 1995 (3ra. Edicin)).
3
Gustavo Gutirrez, El Dios de la vida (Lima: Instituto Bartolom de Las Casas-Rimac, CEP, 1989).
4
Clodovis Boff y Leonardo Boff, Cmo hacer teologa de la liberacin (Madrid: Ediciones Paulinas, 1986).
2

Liberation 5, Leonardo Boff and his play Iglesia: Carisma y Poder 6, this two are going to be the
main authors of this document because, in my opinion, they are who have made many contributions
since the beginning of LT to our days with their many works and scientific articles dedicated to
defend liberation theology; Ill also mention Enrique Dussel and his work Teologa de la
liberacin y marxismo 7 published in Mysterium Liberations of Jon Sobrino, Miguel Nuez and
his work Relevancia y Pertinencia de la Teologa de la Liberacin 8; they maintain that LT has
dialoged to Marxism , and learned of this philosophy, but this dialog is not enough to consider LT
as Marxist. There are many others author of LT, but I have choose, in my opinion, the most
representative.
On the other hand, Malik Chaouch with his scientist article La teologa de la liberaci en Amrica
Latina 9 and John Kater with his work Whatever Happened to Liberation Theology 10 maintain
that LT is Marxist entirely. Its important to point out that my systematic analysis will be in Latin
America context, and not in other regions of the world where there also had manifestation of this
theology.
For the development of this document, Ill initiate making a practical revision of the theologicalphilosophical context of the 60s, and also the social-political context in which born LT; Ill
elaborate as a proposal, definitions of both, LT and Marxism from my perspective; besides, Ill
check to specific authors of LT and identify if were or were not some influence in them from the
social-political context.
In the second section, Ill make an analysis about the relation between LT, social sciences and
Marxism, where Ill specify their relation with the Marxism in order to find out if this ideology
(Marxism) serve as a main foundation to LT or as an social analysis instrument.
In the third section, Ill analyze others applications or new developments of LT in contexts where
exist less Marxist influence, and therefore, the characteristics of LT are not rule by the Marxism; in
order to get this, Ill consider the characteristics that in my personal opinion, are relevant to the
topic Im writing about. Because of the structure of this document, It wont be possible to mention
all the new applications and developments that actually exists for LT. Finally, Ill give the
respective conclusions.
I think, this work will be a great contribution to the present church in Latin America, because, exist
a social conscience in this continent, and the church became in one of the main character in the
social action, not only for its call to help the needy, but its prophetical role of denunciation the
injustice and corruption. In order to get this, Itll be necessary a dialog with the Marxists
postulates, which implies a breakdown of paradigms before this postulates, same paradigms that
been formed decades ago and which today, with the raise of the present debate, are coming out. The
church needs to recognize that is possible make a dialog with others philosophies, social sciences
and non-ecclesiastic postulates, in order to enrich the social work that is called to do. This document

Gustavo Gutirrez, Teologa de la Liberacin Perspectivas (Lima: CEP, 1971).


Leonardo Boff, Iglesia: Carisma y Poder (Bilbao: Editorial Sal Terrae, 2002 (7ma. Edicin)).
7
Jon Sobrino, Mysteriums Liberations (Madrid: Editorial Trotta, 1994 (2da. Edicin)).
8
Miguel Nuez, Relevancia y Pertinencia actual de la Teologa de la Liberacin en Revista bblicoteolgica, no. 4, (2005).
9
Malik Chaouch, La teologa de la liberacin en Amrica Latina en Revista Mexicana de Sociologa, no. 69,
(2007).
10
John L. Kater Jr., Whatever Happened to Liberation Theology? New Directions for Theological Reflection
in Latin America en Anglican Theological Review, no. 8, (2001).
6

opens a path for these paradigms could be broken, and the church could make a social work more
effective and integral.

Liberation Theology
Context
The 60s in Latin America was marked by the fight for the democracy, the education, the free
trade, the freedom of speech and expression, the ideological pluralism 11; the church was seen as a
backward organization that was too dogmatized and closed in its own ideas, Jos Luis GmezMartnez describes this situation by saying that for many people, catholic church had stayed
anchored to an harbor that was abandoned many years ago: The meaningless ceremony of rites
that demand a state of acceptation of the disgraces from around the world 12; the Cuban revolution
of Fidel Castro had been strengthened with an industrialized Latin America looking for a socialism
that grew up under the protection of Rusia and the millions of subsidized dollars that came from
the Soviet Union 13; however, this project came to collapse because of their actions that attempted
what they defend in the first place, the freedom of speech and expression, free economy, etc.,
falling in extreme consumerism causing political conflicts with the United States. 14
The II Vatican Council that took place between October 1962 and December 1965 offered a new
step in the history of the church, because it revealed the social role that the church should have.
The early years of the 60s were marked by the social situation of the subcontinent and by the
meeting in II Vatican, seen by the bishops and some Latin America theologians as an opportunity in
the middle of an environment of theological thinking and big curiosity, which made easier that some
theologians from our countries stared to meet and work theologically with the particularity of our
situation and culture"15
Until 1965, the main concern in Latin America was the progress, because of the distancing between
the developed countries and sub developed countries, most of it, Latin; however in Medellin at 1968
started to establish another approach, liberation. Dussel points out that the main topics in Medellin
were: Poor people and justice love to the neighbor and peace in the middle of institutionalized
violence situation, unity in the history and political dimension of faith. 16
The proposal is criticized and strengthened
After Medellin, the topic of liberation was taking form at the point that emerged a new theology,
LT, this theology, according to Juan Carlos Scannone was influenced by the dependence theory
which was extended in the Latin America social sciences 17, this theory, maintained that the natural
development of the north of the continent caused at the same time the sub development of the south.

11

12

Roberto Oliveros, Liberacin y Teologa, 12.

Jos Luis Gmez, Teologa y pensamiento de la liberacin en la literatura iberoamericana (Madrid:


Ediciones Milenio, 1996), 173.
13
Franco Gamboa Rocabado Cincuenta aos de la revolucin cubana: del mito al futuro incierto en Revista
Crtica de Ciencias Sociales y Jurdicas, no. 21, (2009), 21-40, 36.
14
Alejandro Maldonado y Sergio Guerra, Historia de la Revolucin Cubana (Navarra: Editorial Txalaparta,
2009), 94-96.
15
Roberto Oliveros, Liberacin y Teologa, 22
16
Jon Sobrino, Mysteriums Liberations, 31.
17
Juan Carlos Scannone, La filosofa de la liberacin: Historia, caractersticas, vigencia actual en Revista
Teologa y Vida, no. 50, (2009), 60.

Horacio Cerutti says that this theory emerge as an improvement of the developmentalism or policy
of economic development 18. Sadly there were a few theologians that understood the living faith
as a revolutionary option 19, for instance, Camilo Torres, his orientation of his live in pro of poor
people, took him to the guerrilla 20. In the biographies of Gustavo Gutirrez21, written by Steven
Casadon; Leonardo Boff22, written for Jos Vzquez Carballo; of Jon Sobrino23, written by Javier
Vitoria Cormenzana (the last two from the Cantabria University in Spain), are mentioned the
inclusion of philosophical works with the religion, including Marxs. In the same biographic
documents, are spoken about the contact that this three theologians had with poor people, besides
the social conscience that conflictive situations in Latin America caused on them.
LT was hardly criticized, specially, as I said before, by Cardinal in that time, Joseph Ratzinger,
because of the similarity between the proposals of Marxism and LT, which included the total
change of the society in order to set the oppressed free. Fiedrich Hengels says that the exploited
and oppressed classes, known as proletariat, cant emancipate themselves from the upper class
without emancipate all the society from the oppression, exploitation and class struggle 24, this
special idea comes from Marx. But In this and others senses, the Marxists conceptual basis is not
taken as a dogma, but as a method to apply in our own reality and context, which will help to
correct and rectify the method 25.
Gutirrez and Boff published works in the 80s to defend LT. Gutirrez responded fundamentally
with two works where he went in depth about his spirituality and biblical interpretation, these are
Hablar de Dios desde el sufrimiento del inocente 26 and El Dios de la vida 27. In the first one,
Gutirrez explains the purpose of LT, he says the innocents suffering and his questions are mains
topic of any Theology, that is, Language of God 28. To Gutirrez, LT is a vital issue to God; in this
sense, there is a strong distinction from the Marxism; however, there is a dialog with it when
Gutirrez says that we cant forget the responsibility of those who eventually, cause harm to the
innocent people. 29 In the second one, Gutirrez shows the injustice and death as the opposite of
Gods propose (which is life), and that the greatness of God will be shown when the justice to the
poor people, has finally arrived30; in this idea, Gutirrez dialog one more time with Marxism, but he
makes an effort to prove that this action of justice comes from God and not from a socialistic
philosophy.

18

Horacio Cerutti, Filosofa de la liberacin Latinoamericana (Ciudad de Mxico: Fondo de cultura


econmica, 2006, 3era. Edicin), 117.
19
Roberto Oliveros, Liberacin y Teologa, 43.
20
Roberto Oliveros, Liberacin y Teologa, 20.
21
Steven Casadon, Gustavo Gutirrez, http://www.ensayistas.org/critica/liberacion/casadont/gutierrez2.htm
22
Jos Vzquez, Leonardo Boff, http://www.unican.es/NR/rdonlyres/015EFEBC-4D12-4E79-BC069631B6A05A7D/79351/LBoff23defebrero.pdf.
23
Javier Vitoria, Jon Sobrino, http://www.unican.es/NR/rdonlyres/ACDEB185-9A1D-4ABC-8CC1340F6D867AD2/79330/13JonSobrinoFcoJavierVitoria.pdf
24
Karl Marx y Friedrich Engels 1848, http://www.anticapitalistas.org/IMG/pdf/MarxEngelsElManifiestoDelPartidoComunista.pdf
25
Jos Miguez Bonino, La Fe en busca de eficacia (Salamanca: Ediciones Sgueme, 1977), 60.
26
Gustavo Gutirrez, Hablar de Dios desde el sufrimiento del inocente. Una reflexin sobre el libro de Job
(Salamanca: Sgueme, 1995 (3ra. Edicin)).
27
Gustavo Gutirrez, El Dios de la vida (Lima: Instituto Bartolom de Las Casas-Rimac, CEP, 1989).
28
Gustavo Gutirrez, Hablar de Dios desde el sufrimiento del inocente. Una reflexin sobre el libro de Job,
20.
29
Gustavo Gutirrez, Hablar de Dios desde el sufrimiento del inocente. Una reflexin sobre el libro de Job,
20.
30
Gustavo Gutirrez, El Dios de la vida, cap. VII.

Leonard Boff explains the existing dialog between LT and Marxism and the wrong perspective of
this dialog in his work Cmo hacer teologa de la liberacin 31, Boff says: the theologian make
questions to Marx: What can you says to us about the situation of misery and the ways to overcome
it?. At this point, the Marxist is subdued to poor judge and his cause, not the oppositeliberation
theology use from the Marxism some methodological indications in a free way, that has revealed
some tools that helps to the comprehension of the oppressed world 32; Boff demarcates the partial
relation between LT and Marxism emphasizing that this relation cant be used as an argument to
conclude that LT is Marxist. A second important work of Boff is Y la iglesia se hizo pueblo, in
here, Boff explains that it is important to go further than the capitalist and think that this
perspective (LT) is not Marxism, but Gospel read in the context of undeniable oppressions 33. Boff,
is not attacking the capitalistic system, but the individual amassing, the social irresponsibility and
insensitivity to the human being, which is treated as a simple force of work and an object of auction
in the market, and this kind of things are what the gospel must protest. These authors (Gutirrez,
Boff and others, got a Marxist influence (dialog); however, they defended that it is only an
influence, a dialog, in other words, the Marxism is not the foundation of LT.
But these works didnt have the expected effect because the critics and the problems with the
Vatican kept going. Pedro Morand, Chilean writer, makes a historical rereading in Latin America
and concludes: From geopolitical sight, these movements (LT), beyond being interested in the
contents of the social teachings of the church, are trying to separate it from their hierarchy (of the
church) for the purpose of popular mobilization, and in extreme cases, put it against the church,
like if the churchs social doctrine didnt have its origin in the regular faculty of pastors 34. From
this perspective, Morand set out that every analysis that was made about LTs proposals was
conditioned by the paradigm of revolution and rebellion, thats why the Vatican reject this theology.
About the Marxism, its necessary to mention the revolution that took place on octuber 1917 in
Russia, it was the first attempt of establishment of working state in order to apply Marxists ideas.
This revolution was leaded by the Bolsheviks which their main leaders were Vladimir Lenin and
Len Trotsky. When Stalin died, began a process of progressive economic liberation which allowed
the creation of Perestroika. When World War II ended, the Marxists ideology already had military
support of Soviet Union; this helped to the creation of communists parties around the world,
including Cuba with Fidel Castro and Ernesto Guevara as leaders of Cuban revolution.
The Cold War (1945-1991) had an influence on LTs proposals about the development of
emancipated generational culture 35which it was given specially in Latin America. Marx couldnt
conceive or suggest anything more but a realistic policy, because of this, he insisted in proving that
as the capitalistic economy has a full performance, it takes us to the socialism; but he understood
that was important the spiritual and intellectual training of the working class through the class
struggle, in order to got an order in this system 36. Liberation Theology is precisely placed in the
middle of these historical dynamics and those that belong to the transnational networks of catholic
backwardness. 37Therefore, this historic and sociopolitical context influenced, as I said before, to
31

Clodovis Boff y Leonardo Boff, Cmo hacer teologa de la liberacin (Madrid: Ediciones Paulinas, 1986).
Clodovis Boff y Leonardo Boff, Cmo hacer teologa de la liberacin, 40-41.
33
Leonardo Boff, Y la iglesia se hizo pueblo (Santander: Sal Terrae, 1986), 99.
34
Pedro Morand, Amrica Latina en los ltimos 50 aos en Revista Humanitas, no. 5, (1997), 4.
32

35

Malik Chaouch, La compaa de Jess y la teologa de la liberacin: Convergencias y divisiones


sociopolticas del catolicismo en Revista Historia y Grafa, no. 29, (2007), 115.
36
37

Jos Carlos Maritegui, Defensa del Marxismo(Lima: Biblioteca Amauta, 1930), 67.
Malik Chaouch, La teologa de la liberacin en Amrica Latina, 440.

the liberation theologians in order to elaborate a proposal that break up with the third way (social
doctrine) of the Catholic Church.
Given all this way about the theological-philosophical and sociopolitical context, it is necessary to
establish definitions about Marxism and LT. About the Marxism, I conclude that is a philosophical
and historical stance that presents a balance of social classes within the society before the
polarization that the capitalism has created which has the men in a kind of work that destroys their
individuality, became them in thing and a slave of things 38. Mark himself says that affirmation as
negation of the negation, and therefore, in the next historical evolution, the real factor, necessary
for emancipation and recovery of man. Communism is the necessary form and energetic start in the
near future... 39 What Marx proposes, among other things, is the elimination of private property
(this as a division element) in order to the men can win in a collective way, the control of their
work. Eliminating the element that divide the human being in its vital productive effort, gathering it
productively as specie, will allow the establishment of living conditions where the men can live as
human being for real. The abolition of private property will be the breaking point of everything that
separates the men together.
About LT, I could define it as a critical reflection of a specific reality in this case, Latin America
reality, in order to find an integral human liberation, not only economic, sociological or political,
but also emotional and spiritual. Gustavo Gutirrez explains it this way: the man today not only
aspires to break free from that which comes from outside, prevents it to perform as a member of
social class, country or a society but an inner liberation in an individual and intimate dimension,
liberation not only in the social area, but also in the physiological. But inner liberation understood
not as an ideological avoidance of social confrontation, as internalization of a position of servitude,
but in actual reference to the world of the human psyche 40. This discussion will aim to review the
liberation process of man in the history and practice of it to run a new practice but from the reality
in which reflection is born, Latin America context.

Liberation Theology and social sciences


LT makes use of the marxist instrument of social reality by focusing on the discourse of praxis,
hence, there are sociologists as Malik Chaouch that say "Marxism was a central mediation of the
LT, which required a certain break with the social structure"41; from this perspective "some
liberation theologians wonder why Marxism allowed to define not only their analytical tools but
even their understanding of the gospel and the Christian faith." 42 About this problem, it is
necessary to understand that the LT is studying a social situation; therefore, the use of the social
sciences is necessary to carry out its purpose. According to Tamayo, "the social sciences to
theology provide a diagnosis of reality, help to uncover the mechanisms and root causes of
oppression and show him the way of alternatives to the system."43.
The social sciences give the LT methods needed to discover the reality of the situation of the poor
and the reason for their oppression. In addition , according to the above passage , these sciences

38

Erich Fromm, Marx y su concepto del hombre (Ciudad de Mxico: Fondo de Cultura Econmica, 1970), 60.
OME 5, Obras de Marx y Engels (Barcelona: Grupo Editorial Grijalbo, 1978), 399.
40
Gustavo Gutirrez, Teologa de la liberacin, 48.
39

41

Malik Chaouch , La teologa de la liberacin en Amrica Latina, 435.


John L. Kater Jr., Whatever Happened to Liberation Theology? New Directions for Theological Reflection
in Latin America, 745.
43
Juan Tamayo, Presente y futuro de la Teologa de la Liberacin (Madrid: Ediciones San Pablo, 1994), 56.
42

help him in his liberating praxis that show alternative to exit the impoverishing and oppressive
system , "the Fathers of the Church made use of Platonism , St. Thomas of Aristotelianism, theology
of Rahner , for example , the Heideggerianism ." 44
In LT, Gutirrez explains how these methods are used according to the gospel; says "The use of
social disciplines for a better understanding of social reality involves a great respect for the own
field of these human disciplines and the proper autonomy of the political. In this area the
description of a situation, analyze their causes, trends and search solution that we are proposing ,
in theology matter, to the extent they contain human problems and challenges to evangelization. But
the Gospel or a reflection on him cannot be deduced programs or political actions. Nor can or
should be ; it is another domain"45 For Gutirrez, Marxism is a tool that is also used by the social
sciences, but both Marxism and social sciences attending the gospel, not control it.
Marxism as a tool of social analysis
LT uses many of the tools of Marxist analysis as other philosophical, sociological, historical, and
economical, among other ones. But what effective relationship can be drawn between this particular
theology and Marxism? It can begin by noting that despite the notorious references about Marxists
literature that make the liberations theologians, must assert that LT is essentially theology and as
such, has a biblical foundation. Victor Codina argues that LT isnt based on social sciences, but in
the Word of God, because as all theology, its proper function is to reflect the light of faith 46. This
means that the basic framework of LT isnt Marxist but Christian, although this possibility is
between parenthesis after the scathing review made by Joseph Ratzinger. Still, liberation
theologians argue that they have used contributions of Marxism in order to get a better
understanding of the social reality, but the fact of using some tools of Marxism doesnt become this
theology into Marxist. The liberation theologians, at least in theory, refuse called Marxist.
It is necessary to consider the type of use that liberations theologians have made of Marxist theory.
I can argue about it that they made a sui generis adaption of Marxism without ever fully integrate
coherently. Phillip Berryman says that Leonardo Boff, for example, mentions Antonio Gramsci and
Louis Althusser in the same sentence, even though they are almost in polar opposites on the issue of
how ' humanist ' or ' anti-humanist ' Marx was himself. Actually, it can be concluded that Latin
American theologians, are far from having made a systematic and coherent adaptation of Marxism,
they have made an eclectic use of its components, with little attention to a coherent overall system.
47
Enrique Dussel says that "the potential Marxism, first, there is a unanimous denial of" dialectical
materialism." No liberation theologian accepts materialism of Engels' Dialectics of Nature or of
Lenin, Bukharin and Stalin. For Marx it is accepted and assumed for social critic." 48
Now, the task of philosophy to Marx was not to interpret the world but to change it. This was
expressed in the Theses on Feuerbach: The philosophers have only interpreted the world in
various ways; than it is to change it." 49 It is in this evaluative aspect of praxis over theory we find a
very important perspective on TL about socialism that Marxism entails. Indeed, the primacy of
action over contemplation was one of the key points that differentiated the TL of other theological
44

Enrique Dussel en Jon Sobrino, Mysteriums Liberations, 136.


Gustavo Gutirrez, Teologa y Ciencias Sociales en Revista Selecciones de Teologa, no. 25, (1986), 16.
46
Vctor Codina, http://www.ciberokupa.cl/teologiadelaLiberacion.Pdf
47
Phillip Berryman, Teologa de la Liberacin: Los hechos esenciales en torno al movimiento revolucionario
en Amrica Latina y otros lugares. Siglo XXI (Mxico: Versin digital, 1989), captulo V.
48
Enrique Dussel en Jon Sobrino, Mysteriums Liberations, 124.
49
Karl Marx. Tesis sobre Feuerbach, en Francisco Canals, Textos de los grandes filsofos: edad
contempornea (Barcelona: Herder, 1990), 19-22.
45

expressions. In this sense, we can say that the TL is Teopraxia Liberation since theorizing cannot be
conceived without the committed action. Even the same Marx quote above seems to converge with
that of Leonardo Boff who says that "Christ came not to propose philosophical criteria, but courses
of action"50, to Boff , the execution was extremely important reflection. At this point it is necessary
to quote Dussel , who from the Philosophy of Liberation states that "liberation is not a phenomenal
, intrasystemic action ; Liberation is praxis that subverts the phenomenological order and drilled to
a metaphysical transcendence which is the total critique of the established, fixed , standardized ,
crystallized , dead." 51 Praxis for Marx called for a social transformation by a revolutionary process
in opposition to unequal economic system, this revolutionary process involves struggle, protest,
rebellion, etc., at least that way it was understood; the LT , agrees the issue of praxis but diverges in
the method , as more emphasis was placed on assisting the needy before urging him an armed
revolution or some action that alters the order .
This kind of praxis was unthinkable from a religion and even less from within Christianity to Marx,
since he saw religion as abstracted and absorbed in pure contemplation and unable to commit and
daring to run a revolutionary practice. In this context, it is clear why Marx has said that "religion is
the sigh of the creature overwhelmed, the mood of a heartless world, it is the spirit of the states of
things lacking in spirit. Religion is the opium of the people. Overcoming religion as illusory
happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. Require overcome illusions about a
state of affairs are as good as requiring that a state of affairs which needs illusions, leave it. The
criticism of religion is therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of a religion
surrounding halo of holiness ... The criticism does not start chains imaginary flowers for man stand
gloomy and stark chains, but to have them shake and can sprout fresh flowers." 52
In the aspect of the poor and oppressed there is a dialogue not only with Marxism (as a tool of
analysis), but with other "philosophies and theoretical expressions at different times (the
dependency theory, Freudianism, existentialism, phenomenology) as well as ethnic movements and
cultural related"53;; however Boff says that "the poor to which we refer here is a collective, popular
classes that cover much more than the proletariat studied by Karl Marx"54; that is to say, the sub
employees, the alienated of the production system, the laborers , people in the field , is a collective
whole and not a part of it. Marxism posits an emancipation of the oppressed class that seeks to form
a partnership to be built free from various forms of domination; but LT seeks to liberate the
oppressed but never poses that there are no people who rule over others or using the word of Marx,
that "dominate" others, because it is based on the Bible LT presents recommendations for those are
on the urging power to help those in need , to be fair, not to abuse the less fortunate and those who
are being oppressed , they carried the proposal to be released holistically and not only sociological,
political or economic . On knowledge and analysis of history (materialist conception of history) the
LT uses Marxism as to analyze and investigate the human society from individuals and empirical
relationships established between them contrary to capitalism showing a static or as the product of
the natural evolution of human system; but this dialogue occurs only partially, as the materialist
conception of history attempts to perform an investigation without ideological assumptions which
displays when Marx defends the free exercise of critical thinking; instead the LT already has its
own ideological assumptions , they are not born of a particular organized religion, but of the Bible
and pastoral proposals.
50

La revolucin el Teologa Moral, http://rcadena.com/ensayos/teolib.htm


Enrique Dussel, Filosofa de la liberacin (Bogot: Nueva Amrica, 1996), 76.
52
Karl Marx, Crtica de la filosofa del derecho de Hegel (Santiago: Clinamen, 2009), 2-3.
53
Miguel Gonzlez, La Persistente Crtica al Capitalismo y la Actualidad de la Teologa de la Liberacin y
Marxismo, 79.
54
Clodovis Boff y Leonardo Boff, Cmo hacer teologa de la liberacin, 12.
51

Gutirrez say, "This is not in any case of an eventual acceptance of an atheistic ideology. In this
possibility we would be out of the Christian faith and not in a strictly theological question. Nor is it
an agreement with a totalitarian version of the history of denying freedom of the human person.
These two aspects, atheistic ideology and totalitarian vision, are as emphatically discarded,
rejected from our faith, from a humanist perspective and also from a healthy social analysis." 55 For
Gutirrez, the use of Marxism was focused on social issues and not on the whole of thereof;
considering that even within this ideology, there are some who think that Marxism is an indivisible
whole (in a line marked by Engels, Soviet Marxism for example), and others (Gramsci, JC
Maritegui, etc.) Marxist analysis is not linked to the metaphysical materialism.
Dussel explains the use of Marxism as a tool of analysis as follows: The liberation theology born
and disciplined learning from the practice of the Latin American people, of the Christian
communities, of the poor and oppressed. It first justifies the political commitment of militant
Christians, and then does the same with the practice of all the impoverished Latin American people.
That is a critical theological discourse, which places traditional issues (sin, salvation, church,
Christology, sacraments, etc.) in a particular relevance level. It does not deny the abstract (the sin
itself, for example), but places it in the concrete historical reality (the sin of dependence for
example). It is because a specific requirement of critical theological reflection of the poor and
oppressed by what instruments of human science, particularly Marxism, became necessary." 56
To conclude this section, I mention Leonardo Boff in an interview that was conducted in 2006,
says: Marx was no father or godfather of liberation theology. Yes they were the Biblical prophets,
Jesus' practice and commitment of Christians for justice and freedom. This does not mean that we
have not learned much from Marx, especially verifying that the poor are not just poor; are
oppressed, these people are poor because of the mechanisms of economic exploitation supported by
policies that create inequalities and therefore, injustice." 57 What Boff describes is the same as
mentioned Dussel and Gutierrez, the existence of dialogue with Marxism does not make the LT a
Marxist.

News of liberation theology


One of the most frequently criticisms make for liberation theology is to be a distortion
secularization of theology. In this sense, some criticize the theology of liberation for turning
theology into a simple secular philosophy with Christian garb, in other words, have lost sight of the
transcendent dimension of personal salvation and have become a simple social and philosophical
theory under the aspect of theology.
Even Codina, who is in favor of Liberation Theology, warns that all theology has its risks: "The
main risk of Liberation Theology is the socioeconomic reductionism This socioeconomic
reductionism consist in to limit the liberation to the sphere socioeconomic and political, to reduce
God to a single dimension of our history, the criterion of truth to the revolutionary political
efficacy, the church to a merely platform for interhuman justice, Jesus to a sociopolitical leader,
biblical poor to organized proletariat, the new man to change structures, the kingdom to human
effort and struggle, forgetting all dimensions of personal sin, transcendence of God, of free
salvation, divinity of Jesus, his cross and resurrection, the sacramental nature of the church, the
kingdom of God as a gift that will be consummated in the eschatology of the end times." 58

55

Gustavo Gutirrez, Teologa y Ciencias Sociales en Revista Selecciones de Teologa, 7.


Enrique Dussel en Jon Sobrino, Mysteriums Liberations, 143.
57
El Pas, http://elpais.com/diario/2006/04/30/domingo/1146369155_850215.html
58
Vctor Codina, http://www.ciberokupa.cl/teologiadelaLiberacion.Pdf
56

However, today we find other applications where LT is much less Marxist influence, "the approach
of liberation theology has been enhanced in new ways to address theological studies"59. Some
liberation theologians like Gustavo Guitirrez, Hugo Assman, Leonardo Boff, among others, argue
for new ways to raise LT today, based on the contextual reality of itself. Over time, the realities are
changing, therefore, demand new answers; in this sense the LT can grow to try to give these
answers. However, Gutirrez argues that "the historical starting point of liberation theology was
and remains inhuman poverty of Latin America"60 which indicates that there new ways to raise the
LT, its original principles remain intact as the poverty and misery continues and there are many
sources of oppression that need to be discovered and removed from root . It makes the LT continues
to have relevance because it "is a series of still knowledge, it is a perspective that grows, and is
bolstered by new search: in every aspect of the Truth and the ecological, esthetic, interfaith, gender
field etc. We must continue to pursue the option for the poor in new global and local contexts, and
challenging reflection on the journey of the communities." 61
Liberation theology and its applications
Over time, "changes that have transformed the theological landscape of LT have happened." 62 As
these changes were given, the reflection of the liberation theologians was branching and, at the
same extent, trends have been diversified"63; however, the main lines of thought of the LT
themselves remain.
To understand these applications, consider that the LT is not a school but a "theological
movement"64, which accompanies the Christian praxis oriented differently according to different
historical, regional and ideological experiences. Currently, the liberation theologians refuse to talk
about the "poor" as a purely economic category, so says Gutirrez to say you cannot "limit the
notion of poor to a particular social class. Any interpretation that reduces the poor and the option
for him to a purely economic and political level is by wrong result, and without support in our
outlook." 65
As stated earlier, today we talk about topics such as ecology and its effects on the earth whose
greatest exponent of this view is Leonardo Boff; the new global economy and how this needs to be
released, in this field Hugo Assman , Hinkelhamment Franz , Jorge Pixley, Richard Paul and Jon
Sobrino are efforts to rethink the LT from this perspective; also speaks of not only poor but
excluded from economic systems , etc. , all within the framework of the LT. In this context we note
some applications of the TL:

59

Miguel Nuez, Relevancia y Pertinencia actual de la Teologa de la Liberacin en Revista bblicoteolgica, no. 4, (2005), 49-63, 51.
60

Gustavo Gutirrez, Situacin y tareas de la teologa de la liberacin en Revista Theologica Xaveriana, no.
143, (2002), 503-524, 505.
61
Diego Irarrzabal A dnde va la teologa latinoamericana? en Revista pasos, no. 102, (2002),1-4, 3.
62
John L. Kater Jr., Whatever Happened to Liberation Theology? New Directions for Theological Reflection
in Latin America, 735
63
Saturnino Rodrguez, Pasado y futuro de la teologa de la liberacin: De Medelln a Santo Domingo
(Navarra: Verbo Divino, 1992), 13.
64
Leonardo Boff y Clodovis Boff, Cmo hacer teologa de la liberacin? (Madrid: Ediciones Paulinas,
1986), 104.
65

Gustavo Gutirrez, La verdad os har libres (Lima: CEP, 1986), 20-21.

Black Liberation Theology66, born around the black church in the United States and in
many ways is a reaction to discrimination and contempt and suffering experienced by
people by race
Feminist Theology67, that emerged as a reaction to the androcentrism and in the context of
women's groups claim. Gutierrez mentioned that concern for women will be increasingly
present in the TL and will be "one of the richest veins of this theological line for years to
come. 68
Indigenous theology69 that arises as a reaction to colonialism and had an impact in the
context of 500 years of the Spanish conquest.
Eco-Theology, born in groups of liberation theologians who turn to a defense of the land;
among them, we find, as mentioned earlier, Leonardo Boff. 70

All these currents arose based on the same prospects of LT and following their own prejudices. In
other words, the LT remains in place but is being rethought or as John Kater would say, Anglican
theologian, is being forced to "reassess and redirect." 71
Besides all this, it is essential to incorporate a spirituality of liberation, which means returning to the
original proposal, since it Gutirrez argued that "urges the development of a spirituality of
liberation"72, a situation which was distorted by the emphasis on political aspects, leaving
spirituality apart. This spirituality must "reaffirm the importance of the Bible in the liturgy, study
and devotional life; to leave the purely intellectual boundaries and avoid arrogance of LT that was
considered at some point itself as the only dominant voice." 73 What we must recognize is that at
present the LT has matured especially in the understanding of its principles and its origin, and the
most notable change is to move from obsession to a social revolution in which the poor will not be
released by cataclysmic political, but personal activities organized at the Basic communities." 74 Jon
Sobrino says "what is and must be the liberation theology is primarily intuition and pathos (human
suffering) which is in its origin"75. Seeing this picture, we can say that today the LT has become a
"tool, a means, a hermeneutic device"76 rather than a particular theology.

66

Edward Antonio, Teologa negra, en La teologa de la liberacin (ed. Christopher Rowland; trad.
Francisco Pea y Fernn Gonzlez-Alemn; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 94-123.
67
Mary Grey, Teologa feminist: una teologa de la liberacin crtica, en La teologa de la liberacin (ed.
Christopher Rowland; trad. Francisco Pea y Fernn Gonzlez-Alemn; Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2000), 124-144.
68
Gustavo Gutirrez en Jon Sobrino, Mysteriums Liberations, 305.
69
Eleazar Lpez, Teologas indias de hoy en la sociedad y en la iglesia (Mxico: CENAMI, 1996); idem. Las
teologas indias en la iglesia (Mxico: CENAMI, 1996).
70
Leonardo Boff, La dignidad de la tierra: Ecologa, mundializacin, espiritualidad (Madrid: Editorial
Trotta, 2000); idem. La opcin Tierra: la solucin para la tierra no cae del cielo (Santander: Sal Terrae,
2008).
71
John L. Kater Jr., Whatever Happened to Liberation Theology? 735-773.
72

Gustavo Gutirrez, Teologa de la Liberacin, 169.


Miguel Nuez, Relevancia y Pertinencia actual de la Teologa de la Liberacin, 58.
74
Paul E. Sigmund, Liberation Theology at the Crossroads: Democracy or Revolution? (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1990), 177.
75
Jon Sobrino, Qu queda de la teologa de liberacin? en xodo, no. 38, (1997), 48-53, 52.
73

76

Carmelo lvarez, Is Liberation Theology Finished?, Encounter, no. 59, (1998), 197.

Conclusion
It is clear that Marxism has influenced LT; and learned a lot from it by the dialogues that remained
in its infancy; it was established that because of theological- philosophical and socio- political
development of the time, some theologians context were encouraged to initiate and develop the LT,
getting a clear Marxist influence; but none of these arguments are not enough to conclude or argue
that Marxism has dominated proposals LT. The LT is theology and as such is based on the Bible, its
reflection comes from reality and leads to praxis, remembering that historical practice, supporting
the mission of the Messiah who also comes to the church, the captives, feed the hungry, free the
oppressed, this is a biblical mission. Marx rejected the established religion during his time;
however, his principles have much Christianity but that's not enough to say that Karl Marx was a
Christian or was based on the Bible to formulate his position; He just reflected about a reality and
questioned what in his conception had to be changed. Jos Miguez Bonino even mentions that the
class conflict that mentions Marx, was not discovered by him, and that "even Calvin , with his sharp
realism, describes the political and social spheres under conditions of sin in the world as a
battlefield in which greed and selfishness have destroyed the original community of justice and
introduced the exploitation, injustice and disorder ." 77
There is the possibility that LT remains for much longer, which has to force to rethink theological
studies to observe carefully the linkages and concepts that this theology is contributing to
contemporary theological discussion. Today, the LT is also invaluable in theological reflection to
find new postulates to answer questions that are important in the current context, for example,
social, ethical and theological impact of phenomena such as globalization, the tension between
neoliberalism and socialism, wars, migration, poverty, death of innocents, etc. The Marxist
influence is clearly marked on some of these issues, but not in others, and the approach that the LT
has made to this ideology was in its infancy in the purely social field, but because of other
applications of this theology, approaches have transcended Marxist, so to label LT as Marxist just
for the social aspect, it is somewhat risky.
The Christian Church (Catholic and Protestant) need to understand that can and needs to talk to
philosophies, with social sciences in order to optimize the integral work which is called to perform;
it is important that the church can professionalize social work and provide better service in their
practice. I think this article will clear and somehow break some paradigms down, and mindsets that
have led to the rejection by the church to philosophies considered contrary to the doctrine of it.

Autobiography
My name is Tyrone Isaac Ibanez Robles, I am Bachelor of Theology from Vision University in the
United States doing my studies in Seminario Sudamericano in Quito; currently working as a pastor
in the Baptist Israel Church in the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador where I live. My specific area of work
is the youth from 12 to 35 years. I am married to Keren Alexandra Bermdez Alvarado for 9 years,
we currently do not have children, she is with me in the ministry, focusing on the pastoral
accompaniment to the ladies of youth ministry.

77

Jos Miguez Bonino, La Fe en busca de eficacia (Salamanca: Ediciones Sgueme, 1977), 146.