Latin america is finding a place on the theological map of the world. In the sixties it became known as a land of some of the greatest contemporary novelists. García Márquez, Vargas Llosa, Leopoldo Marechal, Ernesto Sábato, and others were translated into various European languages; Miguel Angel Asturias won the Nobel Prize in literature. In the seventies it is coming to be known as the land where a new theology—the “theology of liberation”—is taking shape.

When Protestant theologian Rubem A. Alves of Brazil published A Theology of Human Hope (Corpus Books, 1969), José Míguez Bonino claimed that at last the church in Latin America was beginning to pay a long-standing debt to the world. “Neither Roman Catholicism nor Protestantism, as churches,” said Míguez, “has been rooted deeply in Latin American human reality as to produce creative thinking. In other words, both churches have remained on the fringe of the history of our nations.” In Alves’s work the Argentinian theologian saw a sign that the tide was beginning to turn.

A Theology of Human Hope, however, was written in a rather esoteric language that made it inaccessible to the common reader. Furthermore, being a doctoral thesis originally written in English in the United States, it reflected problems peculiar to a technocratic society and had a ring foreign to Latin American ears. Consequently, at least in this part of the world, that first attempt of Latin American theology to pay its debt was soon forgotten.

Quite different will be the fate, apparently, of A Theology of Liberation (Orbis, 1973), by Roman Catholic theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez of Peru. Originally published ...

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