Is There a Paradigm Shift in Liberation Theology?

Resources »Eapr »East Asian Pastoral Review 2005 »Volume 42 2005 Number 4 »Is There A Paradigm Shift In Liberation Theology

By Jose Maria Vigil, C.M.F.


Starting from the acknowledgment of the ‘crisis’ of the theology of liberation, the author focuses first in the mediations and elements of the theology of liberation (socio-analytical, type of reasoning, imaginario, subjects, praxical mediation) and points out what a change of paradigm could mean. The second part of the problem deals with the perspective of systematic theology, interpreting the concept of paradigm as reading of Christianity (doctrinal-theoretical, moralist, ontological-metaphysical readings...). The author asserts that the essential elements of the central paradigm of the theology of liberation are: a historical-eschatological reading of Christianity, the reign-focus and the option for justice; he says these are valid elements, and changes should only focus on smaller paradigms.

I will begin with a description of the external crisis affecting Liberation Theology, then examine it from within to see the changes that are shaking the ground of liberation theology, paying special attention to the theological dogma involved in it.

The External Crisis Facing Liberation Theology

In the first place, there is a fall in the production of materials on liberation theology (LT). Theologians are writing very little, meeting very little and with fewer people. When they do meet, they say nothing in public. All that is heard is their silence. Neoliberalism and globalization, which are enemies of the poor and are in full upswing, are not being discussed today by theologians the same way they discussed the enemies of the poor in the past (military dictatorship and capitalism at that time).

Together with the silence of theologians is the silence of the many courses, workshops, and formation seminars on current reality and theological renewal that were held only a few years ago and have now disappeared. There are also examples of theological content being toned down, with authors avoiding the issues that provoked the greatest amount of criticism.

Instead of concentrating on the theologians, other analysts have focused on the grassroots base of LT, the base Christian communities, saying that they are in recession, that maybe they are too elitist and have not managed to embed themselves in the social fabric.

Others say that LT’s language is no longer appropriate for today. It is no longer pertinent to talk about imperialism, revolution, or the poor as historic subjects. LT supported an imaginary social revolution that has been overcome.

Finally, there are others who say LT’s silence is not only understandable, but that it is the most coherent approach because it is not the time to denounce or make prophetic proclamations. It is time for a sapiential silence that speaks to daily life not with words but with actions. "It is not a time for prophecy but for wisdom," they say.

If we transcend the external symptoms mentioned above, we can enter into LT’s internal situation and undertake a detailed examination of the changes we are feeling in the world today.

Changes at the Level of Mediations

Socio–Analytical Mediation: Societal Utopia

LT never had its own model of society, an ideological socio–political recipe that was proposed as necessary for society. What it did and does have is a Christian utopia that serves as a guide to move history forward. Nevertheless, many of those people who felt inspired by LT or sympathized with it were politically involved in liberation strategies coming from the left wing and at the time interpreted this as a concrete practice within the spirit of LT without recognizing the sometimes blurred borders between ideological mediations (necessarily changing according to the socio–political context) and theological positions (permanent). This led some people to the conclusion that the crisis within certain ideologies also meant a crisis in the theological positions closest to them. In each case, the crisis in the societal model inspired by socialism is inevitably reflected in LT, but this is in its practical references not in its principles.1

As we move ahead and keep up with the pulse of today’s world, we will be creating, although not perceptibly, the references to the new mediations of the utopia that are on the horizon, and which will have to follow another globalization defined by the resistance and struggle against the principal sign of our time: neoliberalism.

Socio–Analytical Mediation: Analytic Appraisal of Today’s Society

For some time we have been hearing that the social sciences are in crisis. The dependence theory was abandoned, but it has not been easy to substitute it with another theory and the vacuum that this produced will continue in some way. In addition, the neoliberal analytic strategies have gained ground and hegemony.

Without any secure analytical instrument we have been forced to see reality from the perspective of contradictory analyses. It is easy for us to start doubting and to end up thinking, along with the neoliberal economists, that the poverty in poor nations is not due to exploitation. Our era is one in which people are somewhat sceptical about the possibility of eliminating poverty. From simple economic mechanisms we begin to believe that poverty is inevitable and because it is inevitable it cannot be morally perverse. There is no need for prophetic critiques, but for a silent form of welfare. All of this can be presented before us as evidence from social analysis, something that is simply scientific, above all forms of ideology.

But the main question in social analysis is neither strictly scientific nor theological. Today, it is ridiculous—and unnecessary, to maintain that there are neutral sciences. Any choice of a tool for social analysis depends on a fundamental ethical and political option, and in this sense leads to a theological option as well.

From the option for the poor (which also guides us when we choose the scientific instrument to be used in social analysis) we cannot accept that the terrible inequality that exists in the world today is not ethically perverse, regardless of the mutations that technology has introduced to the production process, the spectacular economic growth of the dragons of Southeast Asia, or the complexity of our reality. We recognize that there are substantial changes in some areas, but our perception is that basic structural problems continue to exist (qualitatively) and have even worsened (quantitatively) in their most troubling aspects.

We have greater reasons based on more important evidence that are of greater weight than the supposed scientific certainties. We cannot accept the idolatry of neoliberal economic scientific criteria, as in the past we have refused to accept the idolatry of the scientific certainties of Marxism. In the face of scientific reasons of this kind, we have utopian reasons that are more powerful (God, justice, compassion, the universal destiny of the earth’s goods, the centrality of the person, the non–absolute character of private property...).

We reject a theology of the inevitable, a culture of desperation, the idea that there is no way out and that we have arrived at the end of history.2

We are not against development, but want another development, another model, based on human ethical values. We do not want a development model designed with profit as the supreme value (as God). We prefer, for example, a development model which creates more jobs instead of offering higher profits. And we know that what we are told is impossible is not so in reality, but only in terms of the current environment that demands a level of confidence in order to attract investment capital.

When we end up thinking that this level of profit is natural, or that the high level of inequality in our world is not ethically repugnant, we have introduced into our analysis the neoliberal scientific reality created from the interest of capital that is not concerned for the affliction of my people (cf. Am 6:6) and has no feeling for the fate of the majority. Adopting this analysis is not only scientific or socio–analytic, but ethical and, by extension, moral and theological.3

It is true that some processes of economic transformation, specially as a result of technological advances, can result in an apparent independence of the productive processes in relation to the exploitation of raw materials and manual labor, which previously was the principal contribution of the Third World to world economies. But we should never forget the historic roots that allowed this transformation to happen, which are not eliminated by the simple acquisition of technology that will supposedly emancipate the productive process from socio–labor concerns.

An uneven distribution of wealth, which continues to grow, as acute as that which exists in the world today is unjust, even in the hypothetical case that there does not exist a causal relationship between the two. A rich man who is just cannot stand next to a poor man: This is what we are told in the parable of Lazarus and what Matthew insinuated (cf. Mt 25:31).

At the Level of the Logic Employed: A Symbolic Reason

People have been insisting for some time that we move from the dominance of the rational mediation (modern and critical) used by LT to a symbolic logic. Maybe because of its own idiosyncrasies, and the historical context with which it has been in constant dialogue, LT has given special relevance to socio-economic–political aspects (supported by its passion for justice4), which has reinforced the use of this kind of logic. And maybe because of all of this—without it having been historically avoidable—and maybe even because of a lack of time, it was not possible to establish a fruitful dialogue with grassroots culture, which has another rationality.

The modern sensitivity to cultural issues, which is taking on force in the Church and in theology, has made us discover that it is necessary to broaden our mediation and pay attention to the symbolic in theology, at the epistemological level, and even more so pastorally and pedagogically.

Although this intuition, small but growing, is presented at times as though it were a rupture, confusing theology with pastoral and pedagogic work, it is not really an alternative current, but an alternative that has been added, broadened, strengthened, and defined. The negative aspect has not been that logical mediation used by LT, but that it was used unilaterally. In relation to everything else, it would not only be absurd, but also impossible to attempt to create a blank slate of everything that has been created and start from zero with a supposed symbolic reasoning taken from a different cultural universe. In any case, this promising intuition is still a risk in that consciously or unconsciously it could reorient LT to be more cultural and less liberating. 

At the Level of the New Imaginary

The world of the imaginary is not exclusive to theology but pertains to all human existence. Every culture, every society, every era, every hour in history has its own imagination. And the imaginary of one time fades and is replaced, by eras, societies, and the hours in history pass. It is evident that LT precisely because it is a theology that comes from life, society, and history, and is incarnated in the here and now—is generous with references to reality and social imagery. These references put a date on the texts, which are not written on the margins of history and for all eternity. The abstract theologies, the classics as well as the current writings, are those without any reference to the reality. They are on the margin of the signs of the times, based on a speculative laboratory that is distant from life and history and goes beyond reality.

When the imaginary evolves, grows, changes, is given other feelings, collapses, the LT texts are going to reflect this imbalance. Its references, out of context at the current time, will remain minutes of the commitment this theology had to reality and its time. When time goes by only a superficial glance will confuse the permanent theological context of a text with the references to the reality at the time it was written. Only the theologies that do not make reference to reality are free from this problem.

If today’s imagery has profoundly changed with the events of the past few years, it is logical that these changes will be reflected in the texts of the last decade. It is the price that LT has to pay—and willingly—for the privilege of being a theology incarnated and for life. Evidently, the new LT creations, faithful to the permanent charism of the incarnation of this theology, should frame its references in the new imagery that is evolving, and should contribute to its creation, but it cannot stop being a living theology full of practical and theoretical references.

At the Level of Widening Subjects, Perspectives, and New Fields

Years ago, even before the historic changes which we have just discussed, there was talk of emerging subjects: principally indigenous peoples, blacks, and women.

In LT’s first years (it is worth remembering that it is still a very young form of theology) all of these subjects fell under the perspective of socio–economic poverty. It certainly highlighted that women were "doubly oppressed"5 as women and poor, and that indigenous people and blacks were "the poorest of the poor."6This was true, but it was not the full truth. It is not only that indigenous peoples, blacks, and women are oppressed and even suffer multiple oppression, but that they are the other, they are different, and, as such, have something special to contribute.

There is a broadening of the perspective on two fronts. First, there is a broadening of the perspective of oppression, which is not only socio–economic but also ethnic, cultural, gender–based, etc. Second, theology is enriched by incorporating other perspectives: anthropological, cultural, gender (which cannot be done fully without the participation of these subjects). New fields make themselves present in LT with force: cultures, inculturation, women, feminism, theology of the body, indigenous theology, dialogue with pre–Colombian and African religions, ecology, etc. This broadening of the perspective inevitably redefines the future of LT in its different branches.

We also need to mention here what we discussed earlier in relation to symbolic reason: It is not about an alternative option but an additional option, not only in relation to the past but also what is new. It is a broadening of the concept of subjects and a strengthening of the oppression–liberation concept, which will not only be considered from the economic perspective and will produce new statements. There should be no confusion between this broadening and strengthening of LT with its dissolving into a feminist, indigenous, black, or ecological theology (although they are liberating). These new statements do not give us an excuse not to pay attention to the classical perspective (of economic poverty), which has not only lost ground, but poverty has increased both qualitatively and quantitatively.

At the Level of Praxis: The Liberation Strategy

The militants of the past decade said (at the level of praxis both within and outside LT) that the strategy for liberation was the individual emancipation of one country after another from the capitalist system by taking power. It was the domino theory: If Nicaragua won, El Salvador would win, Guatemala would follow. A few years ago, the domino theory worked but in the opposite way, contrary to what these militants had hoped. In today’s world, which is so different, that global strategy is no longer viable.

It is obvious that a liberation strategy cannot pursue the emancipation of a country or take power through arms, but must create a new power through civil society (Richard 1995:59-67), from within. Strategies and paths different from those of only a few years ago need to be followed to achieve the same goal of liberation. Some actions that were revolutionary are considered reformist today and vice versa. Objectives that were a priority in the last decades are today considered secondary or have disappeared. The paradigm (if we understand this word as the historic liberation strategy) has certainly changed. But if a liberation strategy has disappeared another needs to be found, and if it is not possible to find it then it has to be invented. What has broken down is the model for a liberation strategy, not liberation itself.

Only naive people toss out the baby with the bath water. And only through this naiveté can one confuse the breakdown of a strategy with the breakdown of the utopia of liberation, of the Kingdom! The strategy was only a simple method of achieving this utopia. There are people who, when they do not see a way out (or do not want to see it), do not see the need for a way out. There are people who cannot see a clear strategy for liberation today, so they do not see the need for a historic praxis of transformation, despite the fact that there is more need for this today than before.

Are There Changes at the Level of Systematic Theology?

For the past few years people have been talking about a paradigm shift, even in LT. By talking about a paradigm shift they are adopting an image from the world of science. It is said that there are two moments in science (mainly from Kuhn 1962 and Popper 1959). The first is a time of stability, of homogenous growth: people research, discover, create new aspects and issues, and the results are added to the body of accumulated science without questioning the general concept, the global framework to which everything subscribes. But there are other times when the scientists perceive that something is wrong at the foundation, that they cannot continue a simple linear development, but that the global ordering of things needs to be changed. These are times of paradigm shift.

Apart from the concrete epistemological terminology, the use of the concept paradigm is not precise, but is very flexible, metaphoric or analogical. People talk about a paradigm shift for almost everything, referring as much to a change in the model of society as to changes in the imaginary, logic and the liberation strategy.

Paradigms go beyond the diversity of spiritual currents, go deeper than the peculiarities of each school of theology, are above mere changes in context to which one or another theology may feel affinity. Different schools can move within the same paradigm. A theological paradigm, in the strong sense of the word, is found for us at the level of the important interpretations of Christianity, what are called the interpretation of Christianity. We want to refer concretely to the most profound level of systematic theology, although we do not deny that paradigms can be discussed at more superficial levels.

The Interpretations of Christianity as Theological Paradigms

We are going to limit the discussion to the best-known interpretations.

● There is a doctrinal–theoretic interpretation, or reading, of Christianity. In this interpretation God is perceived as the truth who has come to reveal Godself to us and our answer in faith to God implies, above everything else, an intellectual acceptance of the truths revealed by God and given to the Church. This means living in the faith of the Church, from which we are separated by heresy or heterodoxies. This interpretation has been prevalent in the Church not only during the time of the Inquisition but in many other times when being or not being Christian has been consistent with accepting certain truths considered to be the depository of the faith (orthodoxy).

● There is a moralist reading, which conceives the history of salvation as a moral test that God has given to humanity, which is between grace and sin, and leads us to a final prize or punishment in relation to the merits or sins we have accumulated. More than anything else Christian life is a moral test, which does not stem from a real mission in history or an essential task. This world is simply a chance to see what we deserve, and once it is over the final destiny will either be fire or we will pass on to eternal life, the only truth that matters, which has little continuity to what we have lived in our personal identity (hetero-salvation).

● There is a ontological–metaphysical interpretation that places salvation on a separate higher plane, which is measured sacramentally. Salvation is supernatural and is played out in a life of grace. We participate in this through the Mass and a spiritual life (sacraments, prayer), which is central to Christian living. Real truth is found in the supernatural and salvation is achieved by participating in this other true world, compared to which our world is a shadow and transitory. In this other world, which is outside of history, the Christian mission finds its reference point in this interpretation of Christianity.

● There is a historic reading: Reality is conceived as the history of salvation and, simultaneously, as the salvation of history. It is a history that moves linearly, although with ups and downs, toward a goal. God has a dream, and has proposed a utopia to human beings, making this their task in history. The Christian mission does not separate us from history, but places us in it. Eschatology and the incarnation are not opposites, but come together: We will get to the future world by turning the present into the future. The person who escapes from this world is not more eschatological than the person who moves it forward (towards the eschaton). The ground of this history is the only path we have to reach the heaven of the future. Salvation is made in history.

● These interpretations are not only found in Christianity but in religions in general. Furthermore, within each religion, including Christianity, we need to recognize the different interpretations. It should be stated that while no interpretation is completely false they cannot be arbitrarily interchanged. Today, it is clear that of all the readings, the historical is that which is least an interpretation and the closest to the life lived by Jesus.

● In each of these readings God is experienced in a different way and the reality of salvation and the mission given human beings is conceived differently. In each of these interpretations there are also linear, homogeneous, and additional developments. Moving from one interpretation to another implies a rupture, a global restructuring, a paradigm shift. The different readings of Christianity are paradigms in the strongest sense of the word. When we talk about the crisis in LT we should refer to its underlying paradigm. What is its interpretation, its paradigm?

● Evidently, LT corresponds to the historic interpretation of Christianity. The strongest opposition it has faced and faces comes from readings that are profoundly a-historic. The paradigm crisis or conflict is not new: the conflict that LT provoked from the beginning has to do with its paradigm coming into contact with the paradigms of other theologies. It is not about minor differences or different schools of thought, but a global diversity, a different paradigm.7 It is quite possible that some of the people who say we need to move ahead and change the paradigm are doing nothing more than trying to return to an old paradigm.

Toward LT’s Central Paradigm

Leaving this point here, we can move a little further into LT’s paradigm to see if there really is a need for a paradigm shift within this theology.

In the 1950s, there was a famous debate in the pages of the Dieu Vivantmagazine. Those were the critical years after World War II, and the debate was about the attitude of Christians in the modern world. The debate divided participants into two categories: the eschatologists and the incarnationists. The first group, among whom were found Jean Daniélou and Hans Urs von Balthasar, were in favor of a Church that gave witness to the transcendentalness of the spirit and the need to abandon the things of this world. The second group, which included Marie-Dominique Chenu, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and the movement of worker–priests, insisted on the need for a Church incarnated in reality that could give witness to an historic commitment. The two poles, perceived as opposites in the debate, were eschatology and incarnation.

The eschatologists highlighted the exclusive primacy of the spiritual, abandoning all historic commitments that could take away from the spiritual and the transcendental. In their opinion, human action is nothing more than an occasion that deserves to be rewarded in eternal life, but does not have a saving value in itself. Eternal life is strictly a gift from God, and our world and our actions are destined for the fire when the parusia arrives. Salvation will be a pure gift from God in a complete rupture (heterosalvation) from what we lived in this world.

The incarnationists, on the contrary, placed their emphasis on historic commitment, in the incarnation, in being present in this world. In their opinion, human action itself has a saving value, our historic actions are already salvific (homosalvation).

The debate was not entirely new. The terms had been proposed theologically at other times in history, but in our century they were proposed within the framework of the relations between eschatology and history. A solution to the debate would not arrive until the Second Vatican Council. The Council brought the debate to a close with probably the most ingenious solution to the problem: the synthesis solution.

If eschatology and history had also been seen as opposite dimensions, Vatican II not only found them compatible but submerged within each other. The debate had been seen as a dilemma: move toward the transcendental that is not part of this world or opt for the immanence that forgets trans-historic transcendentalism (eschatology or incarnation). The Council discovered synthesis. This was possible given the transformations that had recently taken place in the insights into eschatology.8 If being eschatological before meant having to be separate from the world and paying no attention to history, in the reformulation of eschatology it was discovered that incarnation in history was the best path to arrive at eschatology: the more eschatological, the more historical. The people who have the least interest in history are not the most eschatological, the most eschatological are the people who fervently try to reach their eschaton, the Kingdom. The greatest eschatological sign became the strongest historical commitment. The new proposals between eschatology and history reflected in the Council opened the door to the recuperation of the historical interpretation of Christianity.

How Did LT Arise in this Context? With What Paradigm?

At the foundation was a rediscovery of the historic eschatological character of Jesus’ message that had started at the beginning of the century and had remained within the walls of the European universities. The return of the historic Jesus brought the reformulation of the direct relationship between eschatology and history to the forefront. In this context, the rediscovery of the Kingdom as theipsissima verba lesu and as the absolute center of Jesus’ preaching (ipsissima intentio lesu) allowed for the rediscovery of the centrality of the Kingdom as a Christological basis for the historical interpretation of Christianity. The inevitable perception of a preference—even theological—for the poor led to the rest. As such, LT rose with a paradigm whose essential elements are:

● The historic-eschatological interpretation of Christianity, which includes the primacy of a praxis for historical transformation, integration (not dualism), the oneness of history, transcendency in the immanence.

 The centrality of the Kingdom: the theological and practical recuperation of the absolute character Jesus gave to the Kingdom. Following Jesus in his own faith.

● The option for justice, for those who suffer injustice, with an emphasis on placing ourselves in the social place of the victims of injustice.

This is the major paradigm of LT, its theological-systematic skeleton. Within this framework there can be diverse schools of thought, currents, and ways of acting, but if they fit within this model they are part of LT. There can be positions that are more committed and those that are contemplative; some can carry out the historic transformation through socio-political action and others through more symbolic actions: some may adopt a language or imagery that is more militant-utopian and others may adopt the disenchanted realism of our times. But if they have the essential elements of this paradigm, they are essential LT. And if they lack any of these essential elements they are not LT, although they might call themselves that.

If we wanted to express the paradigm in one word it would be Kingdom. This would be LT’s paradigm because, in reality, it is the paradigm of Jesus. While we have an historical reading of reality, with the Kingdom of God as the omnicentric utopia and we are on the side of the poor, we are within LT.

A Paradigm Shift in LT?

At the level of systematic theology, we need to ask ourselves if there is a paradigm shift in LT.

While still respecting the vision others have of Christianity, LT has developed in its still short history such a conviction that it could be said that it has imposed upon itself from within an internal force that is tenacious enough to see what is invisible (cf. Heb 11:27). LT has not focused on something lateral: a particular devotion, concrete sacrament, dimension, facet, or element. It is a theology of universal Christianity, and what is profoundly human, we would say. It has not developed by taking steps outside, but within, moving towards the Christian mystery. It is a theology centered on the central, of the mission of Jesus, his message, cause, passion, and utopia—the Kingdom!

When a theology has achieved an experience this profound, which has been sealed with martyrs, it has passed the point of no return. The question is: What does it carry with it, something optional or something inadmissible? Is it possible to stop believing in something that has carried away the soul? Can someone move to the periphery after having touched the center?

There are many interpretations of Christianity. We cannot say that the historic interpretation is one among others, interchangeable, but that for us it is the closest to Jesus. The historic reading has revealed itself as the least interpretable and is the closest to what is revealed in Jesus. Is the adoption of this interpretation optional or no? Can we change this element of the paradigm?

LT places the centrality of the Kingdom at the peak of theological principles. Although in practice it has not been adopted by too many people, it has become irresistible even to LT’s enemies. Everyone accepts the language of the Kingdom and the option for the poor, although this does not mean that they change their old concepts. Is it possible to abandon the centrality of the Kingdom for other paradigms?

The option for the poor has been the most important event in the Christian churches since the Protestant Reform. It marks a separation of the waters. For those who took the step out of a profound faith conviction, having experienced the theological foundation of the option for the poor, how can we improve this paradigm without betraying the blood of the martyrs and the suffering face of Christ9 who made them think about the poor?

From the perspective of systematic theology, it is easy to note that these profound levels do not move in the modern world’s winds of change, no matter how strong they appear to be. Is it possible that the so–called end of history will lead us to abandon the historic interpretation of our faith, which is closest to the vision of the Son of God? Will financial globalization and the supposed triumph of neoliberalism make obsolete our efforts to put the passion of our lives in the utopia of the Kingdom preached by Jesus? Will the collapse of socialism in the East make the option for the poor no longer valuable? What others have said about the option for the poor we also say about the LT global paradigm: "it is a firm and irrevocable option"10 and there is no turning back. We can (and must) update whatever is necessary in the field of theological mediations, but the paradigm is something that gives us the feeling of permanence.

For all the rest, affirmantis est probare: he who affirms the need for a paradigm shift has to prove it. They would have to show a new kind of relationship between eschatology and history, but for theological reasons not because of socio–economic or cultural arguments. They would have to propose something that can overcome the centrality of the Kingdom and with proof in hand not just vague discussions about cultural post modernity. They would have to show that the option for the poor does not have a theological foundation, but not watering it down so that this preferential option becomes a preferential love for the poor. While this does not happen, the strength of LT’s essential elements will remain intact. Maintaining the pertinence of each discourse within its plane and its limits, without mixing or confusing them, is a sane measure of theological cleanliness. We cannot ignore that, in the difficult and tense psycho–social context that has worn us down in the past few years, there is a temptation to cover up psychological issues with theological reasoning: tiredness, social and ecclesiastic pressures, what is fashionable, fleeing from conflict, social depression.11

Finally, we need to prevent suspicion. All paradigms, like understanding in general, have an interest. This stems from the hermeneutic structure of understanding and it is impossible to avoid. All paradigms are functional for a social interest. This is true for LT’s paradigm as it is for the most substantial in the Bible itself. Those who have other interests prefer other paradigms that are functional for them. A paradigm shift? What new paradigm? A paradigm that functions for what interests? Has God changed God’s interests? What theological reasons does God have for a paradigm shift? Are we the ones who are changing our interests (that is, are we shifting paradigms for theological reasons)?

In conclusion: We are going to abide by Jesus’ paradigm, the Kingdom. Within this paradigm we can find all the minor changes and accommodations we find necessary to make.





* This article was originally published in Spanish as "¿Cambio de Paradigma en la teología de la liberación?" The English translation was published in LADOC 28/5 (Sept.-Oct. 1997), 1-13.

1. "Some believed that the fall of socialism would bring about the disintegration of LT. But socialism was never an essential element of LT. All its arguments remain valid and are independent of the destiny of socialist societies" (Comblin 1996:352).

2. Before the reasons of Fukuyama and companions, we have greater reasons not to accept an ‘end of history’ which would mean the failure of human society and of the utopia proposed by God, and, hence, would mean the failure itself of God. Is it not clear that the thesis of the ‘end of history’ is not only ideological or sociological, but at the same time, and by implication, also religious and theological?

3. Elsewhere we have expounded the theological character of mediations that traditionally were presented as purely socio-analytical, scientific, or autonomous with respect to faith (Cf. Casaldáliga and Vigil 1994).

4. The concern for justice, however, is neither a product of enlightened reason (neither of the first nor of the second enlightenment), nor of western culture, as some would seem to think. It comes to us from the Bible and from the very origins of the people of Israel. It could perhaps be the other way around: whatever concern for justice western culture, in general, and enlightened reason, in particular, have, definitely comes from the influence of their Christian roots.

5. Puebla # 1134

6. Puebla # 34

7. Even if LT did not recognize itself in the description the Vatican InstructionLibertatis Nuntius gave it (precisely because LT was perceived from another paradigm), the Instruction was correct in affirming that LT brings with it a different kind of hermeneutics that is global and totalizing in character (cf X, 2ff). Hermeneutics means interpretation, rereading, and a new reading. The Paradigm of LT implies, indeed, a profoundly different hermeneutics.

8. There has been a shift from a static, dualistic, and a-historical eschatology towards a dynamic, integrated, and historical eschatology. Cf. Vigil 1994; 1995:106-17.

9. Puebla # 31-39; Santo Domingo # 178-79.

10. John Paul II, Discourse to the Curia, December 21, 1984; Discourse at the 4th CELAM Meeting in Santo Domingo, 1979, # 16.

11. José María Vigil, Aunque es de noche. Hipótesis psicosociológicas sobre la hora espiritual de América Latina en los 90 (Though it’s night: Psycho-sociological hypotheses about the spiritual hour of Latin America in the Nineties), Managua: Editorial Envío, 2nd edition, 1996. Also published in Mexico: CRT, Bogotá: Verbo Divino, and São Paulo: Paulus.





Casaldáliga, Pedo and José María Vigil

1994 Liberating Spirituality: A Spirituality of Liberation (Tunbridge Wells: Burns & Oates); in the USA, Political Holiness (Maryknoll: Orbis Books).

Comblin, José

1996 Cristãos rumo ao ano 2000 (Christians towards the year 2000), São Paulo: Paulus.

Kuhn, Thomas

1962 The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2nd rev. ed. 1970).

Popper, Karl

1959 The Logic of Scientific Discovery (London: Hutchinson).

Richard, Pablo

1995 "Caos o esperanza. Fundamentos y alternativas para el siglo XXI,"Diakonia (Managua) 74 (June).

Vigil, José María

1995 Vida Religiosa (Madrid) 79 (15 Marzo).

1994 "¿Parábola o Hipérbole? Para una reinterpretación teológica e histórica de la vida religiosa," Claretianum (Rome) 34.

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