Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Theology according to Gustavo Gutierrez

Our understanding of Latin American brand of liberation theology will be elucidated more if we will know Gutierrez concept of theology. The excerpts below can be found in his work entitled Liberation Theology: A Documentary History. Here Gutierrez develops the main ideas for his theological vision in the years to come. This is the seed of his later theological development. Gutierrez believes that theological reflection is always the result of decisive action—the bestowal of the social justice among the poor. Here is the passage:

Let us examine what we mean by theology. Etymologically speaking, theology is the treatise or discourse about God—which really does not sell all very much. The classic meaning of theology is an intellectual understanding of the faith—that is, the effort of human intelligence to comprehend revelation and the vision of faith. But faith means not only truths to be affirmed, but also an existential stance, an attitude, a commitment to God and to human beings. Thus faith understands the whole of life theologically as faith, hope and charity.

If, then, we say that faith is a commitment to God and human beings, we affirm that theology is the intellectual understanding of this commitment. It is an understanding of this existential stance, which includes the affirmation of truths, but within a broader perspective.

Faith is not limited to affirming the existence of God. No, faith tells us that God loves us and demands a loving response. This response is given through love for human beings, and that is what we mean by a commitment to God and to our neighbor.

Consequently, when we speak about theology, we are not talking an abstract and timeless truth, but rather about an existential stance, which tries to understand and to see this commitment in the light of revelation.

But precisely because faith is above all existential stance, it admits a differentiation according to circumstances and the different approach to the commitment to God and human beings. To say that faith is a commitment is true for all ages, but the commitment is something much more precise. I commit myself here and now. The commitment to God and to human beings is not what it was three centuries ago. Today I commit myself in a distinctive manner.

When we speak of theology, we mean a theology that takes into account the variation according to time and circumstances. From this we can deduce three characteristics.

  1. Theology is a progressive and continuous understanding which is variable to a certain extent. If it were merely the understanding of abstract truth, this would not be true. If theology is the understanding of an existential stance, it is progressive; it is the understanding of a commitment in history concerning the Christian’s location in the development of humanity and the living of our faith.
  2. Theology is a reflection—that is, it is a second act, a turning back, a reflecting, that comes after action. Theology is not first, the commitment is first. Theology is an understanding of the commitment, and the commitment is action. The central element is charity, which involves commitment, which theology arrives later on.The pastoral consequences of this are immense. It is not the role of theology to tell us what to do or to provide solutions for pastoral action. Rather, theology follows in a distinctive manner the pastoral action of the church and is a reflection upon it.
  1. It is the intellectual understanding of a commitment; theology is an endeavor that must continuously accompany that commitment. The pastoral action of the church will be a commitment to God and the neighbor, while theology will accompany that activity to provide continual orientation and animate it. Every action of ours must be accompanied to orient it, to order, to make it coherent, so that it does not lapse into a sterile and superficial activism.

Theology, therefore, will accompany the pastoral activity of the church—that is, the present of the church in the world. It will accompany that activity continuously, to help it to be faithful to the Word of God, which is the light for theology.

1 comment:

JMY said...

Interesting how Gutierrez places theology and faith commitment on a chronological timeline. Commitment first, theology second. I wonder if these can be seperated so exclusively.

Nonetheless, I appreciate the thought.