Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Gustavo Gutierrez and hope

I wonder why I haven’t read any of Gustavo Gutierrez writings before. As far as I can remember, we were never given any reading assignments from his works when I was still at the seminary. He rightly deserves to be named as the “father of liberation” theology. Other liberation theologians owe their thoughts from him. As a theology student from the third world, I couldn’t understand why most Asian theologians and theology students have overlooked the importance and implications of his ideas to the situation of a continuing struggle of the poor in many Asian countries which parallel the context from which Gutierrez’s theology springs. His theology about God's preference for the poor, I believe should be extensively studied by the theologians whose nation have been struggling against oppression and their people are living in extreme poverty. His theology gives hope to the believing poor and somehow would inspire them to put their faith in practice. Gutierrez understands that Christian community should understand and practice the message of Christ and their relationship with their God. James Nickoloff writes of him:

The potency of Gutierrez’s theological vision surely derives from the Pauline triad on which he takes his stand: faith, whose biblical opposite is fear; hope, which gives to all false “realism”; and love, which alone can overcome sin and allow God to reign “on earth as in heaven.” Genuine faith is nothing more (or less) than a courageous trust in “thing unseen”: Christian faith means placing one’s life in the care of the unseen God of Jesus Christ. Hope, which Gutierrez carefully distinguishes from optimism, is rooted not in human powers but in God’s promise and fidelity to that promise. Finally, deeds of love—and not words alone—give flesh to faith and hope. It should not surprise anyone at the close of the twentieth century that such faith, hope and love meet resistance in many quarters.

Those who know the life and thought of Gustavo Gutierrez best recognize the courage he shares with people he has chosen to stand alongside, namely the despised and unimportant of the world who struggle to recover the life given them unconditionally by the creator but stolen from them by others. Courage shapes Gutierrez’s practice and his theory; indeed, courage is required to link the two dialectically, as Gutierrez suggest they must be. While fear silences tongues and paralyzes hands, faith and hope, cultivated with courage, loosen tongues to protest the outrages of history and animate hands to reshape that history.
I’m reading in between (busy) times the book edited by James Nickoloff entitle Gustavo Gutierrez Essential Writings. The book is a compilation of important passages from Gutierrez’s books and Nickoloff enriches the books with his scholarly insights. I’ll be posting quotes and comments here as I make progress reading the book.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Ben for his generosity in giving and sending me the book through the post here, in the farthest end of Thailand where theology books like this are virtually non-existent. You have been a blessing, bro!


keropok lekor said...

Cool! Will be looking forward for your reflection on Gustavo's writings. Have heard and read a bit bout him, but never got the chance to read him :)

Ben Myers said...

I'm delighted that you're finding the books useful, Joey!

One of Freedom said...

That's a great book Joey. I discovered Gustavo with "We Drink From Our Own Wells", and one of my favourite profs here studied with Gustavo in Peru. Once you get into it you find the disconnects with what Segundo calls "Classic Theology", mainly the starting place for theological reflection. We've been doing some Liberation Theology social analysis as a small church and it is wonderful, even a middle class church can become conscientized to the world around us and begin to take that analysis to our lived faith. Looking forward to your insights!

haitianministries said...

Thoughtful and insightful reflections on Gutierrez. He's certainly one of the major thinkers that those of us ministering in non-western contexts should be familiar with. Also from Latin America, you should consider reading Juan Luis Segundo, in particular his writings on the hermeneutic circle which seems to be employed in some fashion or another by nearly all liberation theologies.

But keep in mind that liberation theology did not originate solely in Latin America, but rather it emerged in multiple locations simultaneously. For example, African Americans (e.g., James Cone) were developing their own distinctive theology of liberation concurrently with the Latin Americans and it wasn't until the mid-1970s that serious dialogue began between Black theologians and Latin American theologians began in earnest.

Given that you are working in an Asian context, you might be interested in exploring the works of James Cone and, in particular, his reflections on his trips to Korea and interaction with minjung theology.

I look forward to reading your future reflections on this topic.

Joey said...

Hi keropok,

thanks for the comments. I will surely post some excerpts and comments from the book.


I know you really instinctively give the book that you know will be very useful. Thanks again.

Hi Frank,

Yes, i guess even in the more affluent churches some forms of liberation theologies are emerging. It may not be the Latin American strand but as long as there are poor and oppressed around us that have been oppressed one way or another, there is theology of liberation.

Hi Haitian,

Thanks for the visit and the tip. I learn about minjung and James Cone's black liberation theology through reading Moltmann's Experiences in Theology. This really got me going.