Liberation Theology, the Bible, and You
DO YOU believe that? Which is more important to you: Serving God the way he wants you to serve him or serving him the way you think best? ‘Of course,’ you say, ‘the only way is God’s way!’ Do you really feel that God’s way is best? If so, then you will agree with the above statement made by the apostle Paul.
Yes, God has spoken, and you can read his Word. We invite you to consider liberation theology from the Bible’s viewpoint. Is liberation theology Bible-based?
“You Do Not Belong to the World”
Jesus once told his disciples: “You do not belong to the world.” That same evening, the night before his death, he said in prayer to his Father: “I passed your word on to them, and the world hated them, because they belong to the world no more than I belong to the world.” Then, almost immediately, he repeated: “They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.”—John 15:19; 17:14, 16.
Most religions of Christendom make no effort to be separate from the world. Perhaps you have read about it in the news. Wherever you look—in the Americas, Asia, Europe, or Africa—the story is the same. The clergy of virtually every religious stripe are in the political arena. But their involvement in world politics is just one of the conflicts with God’s Word.
Is Violence Justified?
Liberation theologians say that violence is justified when it is employed to help the poor. Even the Vatican now officially says that violence is justified as “a last resort.” Pope John Paul II, in a letter to all the bishops in Brazil, has declared that “Liberation Theology is not only opportune but also useful and necessary for Latin America.” Is this what the Bible says?
While on earth, Jesus Christ did not get involved in the world’s social movements. On the contrary, when the apostle Peter resorted to “the sword” to defend God’s Son, Jesus rebuked him by saying: “Put your sword back, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”—Matthew 26:52.
But what about the wars that Israel fought? According to the Bible, Israel had not known warfare prior to their deliverance from Egypt. (Exodus 13:17, 18) When the time came, they were directed by God. However, Jehovah strictly commanded Israel that they were to conquer only the land he had promised to their forefathers.—Genesis 17:7, 8; Deuteronomy 2:5, 9, 19.
While Christians do not engage in a physical war against blood and flesh, they are engaged in warfare nonetheless, a spiritual fight. As the apostle Paul clearly stated: “It is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against . . . the spiritual army of evil in the heavens.”—Ephesians 6:12.
So how does Christendom’s clergy justify today’s violence?
God’s Word in Third Place!
Liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez told Awake! that a teaching, such as liberation theology, comes from ‘the Christian community’s discernment and acceptance of it.’ Yes, popular opinion and human wisdom are put ahead of God’s Word. Do you agree with this?
Carlos D—— was a staunch Catholic who had spent 11 years in a Catholic seminary. “I was dedicated to serving God with the . . . goal of becoming a good priest,” says Carlos. Yet, over the years, something began to bother him.
‘Among other things,’ he says, ‘I realized that the Bible was left in the background. The tradition of the fathers of the church came first. Then came the authority of the pope when he spoke ex cathedra, and finally—in third place—the Bible.’*
After leaving the Catholic Church, Carlos spent years looking for the truth in several other religions. Dissatisfied, he became an atheist until he was contacted by Jehovah’s Witnesses and accepted a home Bible study. Carlos is now a dedicated witness of Jehovah.
Maria V—— was also a practicing Catholic. “I would go to Mass almost every day,” she says. “I also belonged to a group called La Acción Católica de Señoritas [Catholic Action for Young Women].” Maria taught catechism for several years. What did her training consist of? ‘Each Saturday the priest would talk to us about philosophies of Plato and others. Most of us understood nothing. I knew there was something wrong. What I was learning didn’t fill my spiritual needs.’ What changed her life?
“My boyfriend regularly received the Awake!, and he would pass the magazines on to me.” Then Maria obtained the book From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained and began reading it on her own. “It was then that I truly began understanding the Bible—as if a blindfold had been removed.”
Maria and her boyfriend both became dedicated Witnesses of Jehovah and then were married. Instead of teaching catechism, Maria now conducts 12 home Bible studies with others who are interested in learning Bible truth.
Knowledge of God’s Word has also benefited many sincere people who come from a materially poor background.
The Bible’s Alternative—God’s Kingdom
In one of the best-known prayers of all times, Jesus Christ highlighted mankind’s only hope for better world conditions. “Our Father in heaven,” he petitioned, “may your name be held holy, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.” (Italics ours.)—Matthew 6:9, 10.
Do you favor government by God, or do you prefer human rulership? This is an issue that all of us must face. In view of present world conditions, you too may feel that we need something other than what man has accomplished. But what can the Kingdom of God do for the poor today?
Rafael R—— comes from a poverty-stricken family of nine children. “I quit school after first grade in order to help my family make a living,” he recalls. “After the harvest in our village, I would go out into the fields and gather whatever was left over from the crop so that we could eat.”
However, at the age of 15, Rafael developed a costly and degrading habit. He began spending his money—what little he had earned—on alcoholic beverages. “On two occasions,” says Rafael, “I remember even committing assault in order to get enough money to buy more drinks.”
Eventually, Rafael was married and had ten children of his own to support. Still his drinking habit only grew worse. Says his wife, Carmen: “Materially, we had absolutely nothing. I tried to earn some money washing clothes in order to put food on the table. Our breakfast and dinner usually consisted of a cup of tea and a piece of bread. Lunch was nothing more than a little soup and perhaps some potatoes or squash. We were fortunate enough to eat meat once a week sometimes.” So Rafael’s drinking habit affected others as well. But was there hope for this family?
“Definitely,” says Carmen, “though it wasn’t until we began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses that my husband began to change. We learned of the Kingdom promise—that Jehovah will soon rid the world of poverty and oppression. My prayers to God were finally answered!” Rafael quit his drinking and began putting God’s Kingdom in first place. Bible knowledge helped him put on “the new personality.” (Ephesians 4:22-24) As a result, he and his family no longer struggle with extreme poverty. Says Rafael: “We may not be rich, and we do not own our own home, but we have the necessities of life, and we are happy.”
A Christian education also helps develop latent abilities. Because of discontinuing his schooling at an early age, Rafael could hardly read or write. However, by attending and participating in Christian meetings, he not only became fluent in these areas but also gives talks in his congregation and regularly conducts a home Bible study with his family. That is not all.
Rafael and his family have discovered another benefit in putting Kingdom interests first. “When my husband was sick from his drinking problem,” recalls Carmen, “we received the loving support of the congregation.” What kind of support was this? As Carmen explains: “The brothers and sisters came to our aid spiritually as well as financially.” Yes, there is loving congregational support within this worldwide brotherhood of Jehovah’s people.
So the Bible does provide a practical hope for the poor. Jesus once stated: “Set your hearts on [God’s] kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things [the necessities of life] will be given you as well.” (Matthew 6:33) And as seen in Rafael’s case, there are more advantages than just material benefits.
Can accurate Bible knowledge help you as well?
How You Are Involved
The apostle Paul once admonished true Christians of his day: “Examine yourselves to make sure you are in the faith; test yourselves.” (2 Corinthians 13:5) And Jesus, in speaking to his Father, said that “eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”—John 17:3.
Is your faith based on knowing “the only true God”? Are you like the people of Beroea, who the Bible says were “more open-minded”? They “welcomed the word very readily; every day they studied the scriptures to check whether it was true.”—Acts 17:11.
Are you “open-minded” as to God’s Word? Do you study the Bible regularly? This is the only way to “discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.” (Romans 12:2) In the Bible, you will find God’s promise to rid the earth not just of poverty, oppression, and international struggle but of ‘tears, death, mourning, and sadness.’ (Revelation 21:4) This will certainly be true liberation!
All scriptures quoted in this article are from the Catholic Jerusalem Bible.
Ex cathedra: When the pope speaks out officially on matters of “doctrine of Christian faith or rule of morals to be held by the Church.”
[Pictures on page 9]
“I was dedicated to serving God with the . . . goal of becoming a good priest”—Carlos
“It was then that I truly began understanding the Bible—as if a blindfold had been removed”—Maria
[Picture on page 10]
‘We may not be rich, but we have the necessities of life, and we are happy’—Rafael