What is black liberation theology?Question: "What is black liberation theology?"
Answer: Black liberation theology is an offshoot of the South American liberation theology, which is largely humanistic, attempting to apply Christian theology to the plight of the poor. Black liberation theology focuses on Africans in general and African-Americans in particular being liberated from all forms of bondage and injustice, whether real or perceived, whether social, political, economic, or religious.
The goal of black liberation theology is to “make Christianity real for blacks.” The primary error in black liberation theology is its focus. Black liberation theology attempts to focus Christianity on liberation from social injustice in the here and now, rather than in the afterlife. Jesus taught the exact opposite: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Have blacks/Africans and especially African-Americans been treated unfairly, unjustly, and evilly in recent history? Absolutely! Should one of the results of the gospel be the end of racism, discrimination, prejudice, and inequality? Again, yes, absolutely (Galatians 3:28)! Is deliverance from social injustice a core principle of the gospel? No.
The message of the gospel is this: we are all infected with sin (Romans 3:23). We are all worthy of eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23). Jesus died on the cross, taking the punishment that we deserve (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2), providing for our salvation. Jesus was then resurrected, demonstrating that His death was indeed a sufficient payment for the sin penalty (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). If we place our trust in Jesus as Savior, all of our sins are forgiven, and we will be granted entrance into heaven after death (John 3:16). That is the gospel. That is to be our focus. That is the cure for what is truly plaguing humanity.
When a person receives Jesus as Savior, he/she is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), and the indwelling Holy Spirit begins the process of conforming him/her to the image of Christ (Romans 12:1-2). Only through this spiritual transformation can racism truly be conquered. Black liberation theology fails because it attacks the symptoms without truly addressing the disease. Sin/fallenness is the disease; racism is just one of the many symptoms. The message of the gospel is Jesus' atoning sacrifice for our sins and the salvation that is therefore available through faith. The end of racism would be a result of people truly receiving Jesus as Savior, but racism is not specifically addressed in the gospel itself.
Because of its extreme over-emphasis of racial issues, a negative result of black liberation theology is that it tends to separate the black and white Christian communities, and this is completely unbiblical. Christ came to earth to unite all who believe in Him in one universal Church, His body, of which He is the head (Ephesians 1:22-23). Members of the Body of Christ share a common bond with all other Christians, regardless of background, race, or nationality. “There should be no division in the body, but . . . its parts should have equal concern for each other” (1 Corinthians 12:25). We are to be of one mind, having the mind of Christ, and have one goal, glorifying God by fulfilling Christ’s command to “go into all the world,” telling others about Him, preaching the good news of the gospel, and teaching others to observe His commandments (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus reminds us that the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others as ourselves, regardless of race (Matthew 22:36-40).
Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns
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Questions about Theology
What is black liberation theology?