How do you proclaim the Gospel of Christ on a continent where for centuries the name of Jesus has been intoned by the ruling elite, together with their priestly functionaries, in support of their regimes of political repression and economic oppression? In Latin America at the present time some Christian theologians and activists are at work, enquiring after the meaning of faith and the mission of the Church in the light of a grievous social situation. What does it mean to believe in such a context, they ask, and what should faith lead us to do?

Latin America is the only continent in the world that is both poor and (at least nominally) Christian, and it is natural that the question would first come into sharp focus there. But it is an important question for the whole Church. The human problem, so dramatically portrayed in Latin American society, is increasingly characteristic of the world at large beyond the pockets of affluence.

Who are these theologians? They are Catholic thinkers such as Hugo Assmann, Gustavo Gutierrez, and Juan Luis Segundo, and Protestants like Rubem Alves, Emilio Castro, and José Miguez Bonino. Their theology, called the theology of liberation, is not at all abstract; it is grounded in the actual struggles for liberation now going on in the countries of Latin America. As Gutierrez puts it in his book A Theology of Liberation, “it is a theological reflection born of the experience of shared efforts to abolish the current unjust situation and to build a different society, freer and more human.”

The evangelical Christian is quick to see certain dangers in a theology that starts from the sinful human situation rather than the Word of God. The potential for syncretism and adulteration is ...

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