Role of the Holy Spirit in Liberation Theology Research Paper

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Strategies For Informed Decisions

Liberation Theology

Role of the Holy Spirit in Liberation Theology

Shenk ( 2001) states that there are two features of central significance in the development of Christianity during the last century. These were firstly, "...the shift in the center of gravity from the West to Africa, Latin America, and Asia" and secondly, "...the rise and spread of the Pentecostal movement."

Both these factors have had a bearing on the rise of liberation theology and the focus on the Holy Spirit; and both are linked in terms of the postmodern Christian movement.

This can also be related to other issues that have a bearing on the rise of liberation theology and to the changing emphasis on Spirit. Shenck (2001 ), referring to a study by Cox, states that fundamentalism and experientialism are two poles in the emerging Christian perspectives in the world. Experientialism is particularly relevant to the present discussion as it refers to as an emerging mode of spirituality that "... finds its cohesion not in the system but in the person, not in the institution itself but in the people who draw on its resources to illuminate their daily lives."

This places emphasis on immediate and personal experience of the Holy Spirit rather than abstract or academic discourse. As Shenk states;

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The starting point is not rational discourse about the person and work of the Spirit but direct personal encounter with the Holy Spirit and the release of the charismata of the Spirit in the life of the believer. This emphasis on experience and a desire to see the experiences of the first Christians reproduced today has resulted in vigorous missionary activism among Pentecostals.

TOPIC: Research Paper on Role of the Holy Spirit in Liberation Theology Assignment

It is within the ambit of these views that we can begin to understand the relationship between liberation theology and the Holy Spirit. The following discussion will attempt to elucidate the role of the Holy Spirit in liberation theology and to show that the shifting focus on the Holy Spirit is a necessary part of this theology and that both are shaped by religious needs and conditions in the contemporary world. This will require a brief outline of liberation theology, leading to a second section on the relationship between this form of theology and the Holy Spirit.

Overview of Liberations Theology

Theology is described by Hall (2003) as follows:

Theology is what occurs when the Christian community knows itself to be living between text and context, between the revelatory answer and the human question ... Theology is that ongoing activity of the whole church that aims at clarifying what "gospel" must mean here and now.

In this sense theological the "gospel" is intimately tied to the everyday world in which we exist and is not seen as being divorced from this context. Therefore, in a social context it follows that where people are subject to poverty and oppression, theology is involved in economic, political and other forms of liberation.

As Hall notes: "That is why various theologies of liberation have developed throughout the world -- and precisely in places where economic, racial, gender and other types of injustice are prominent."

This clearly states a fundamental aspect of liberation theology; namely, the connection with social realities such as oppression and poverty.

In this light, liberation theology has been described as "…less as a theology, and more as a spirituality."

This has a significant import for the understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in this form of Theology. Simply stated, the central intention of liberation theology is to be more existential in meaning and to view religion as a lived experience and not an academic exercise. As one study notes, the position of liberation theology is that "…. we must live the gospel in a rather literal and radical way with and for the poorest and the most marginalized in society. The emphasis is on orthopraxis rather than orthodoxy."

The emphasis on orthopraxis rather than on more orthodox perceptions of religion is therefore at the centre of liberation theology. This refers in turn to the idea of the Spirit. However, these views will necessitate a certain amount of unpacking and explanation.

Another way in which liberation theology is described is in the concept of spiritual immersion. This refers to the immersion in the lives, problems and concerns of the ordinary and often oppressed people of the world. This position or stance, which lies at the heart of liberation theology, can be summed up as follows: "The liberation theologian immerses himself or herself in the condition of the poorest of the poor in order to understand how and why the condition exists and to begin to work with and for the poor to change the condition."

This has led to claims by some theologians for revolutionary social change.

Liberation theology is therefore partly a response or a reaction to the social conditions of mankind. It is a response to the poverty and suffering of millions of people, especially in the underdeveloped regions of the world and is therefore borne out of a refusal to ignore their plight. Consequently, it rejects any abstract notions of theology that would ignore suffering and oppression.

In terms of Christian ethics the origins of this form of theology lie with the ideal of compassion for the suffering of others. It is a protest and a demand for compassion for those who are oppressed and marginalized. On the social level this can be interpreted as injustice and denial of human rights; while on the religious level this can be interpreted as " sinfulness, ....contrary to the plan of the Creator and to the honor that is due to him."

In essence this means that the underlying principle of liberation theology is a "….prophetic and comradely commitment to the life, cause, and struggle of these millions of debased and marginalized human beings, a commitment to ending this historicalsocial iniquity."

As mentioned in the introduction, the rise of Pentecostalism is an important facet of the development of liberation theology. Pentecostalism emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century with its emphasis on inclusiveness. Today the Pentecostal and charismatic movement "... comprises a global community of some 534 million adherents" and has become a central force in which has deeply influenced trends in theology.

Importantly, a central aspect of this movement is the emphasis on personal experience of the Holy Spirit. It is less concerned with rational or philosophical discourse but rather with a personal and direct personal encounter with the Holy Spirit and "…the release of the charismata of the Spirit in the life of the believer."

These forces and preferences has led to what some commentators refer to a radical shift in theological sensitivities to the poor, underprivileged and oppressed in society. Rieger ( 2003) states that this has "... provided major new impulses for biblical studies, systematic theology, and church history; for the official documents of the church; and for ecclesial practice."

However, in understanding liberation theology one must take into account the meaning of this concept in its spiritual sense as well as the social context and in the intersection between these two aspects. Liberation refers as well to the liberation of humanity in a much wider context and can be equated to the message that Christ brought to the people (Luke 12:49) in terms of fanning the fires of liberation; which includes the spiritual, social and historical dimensions.

In this sense liberation means opening mankind to divine transcendence and to earthly immanence. Therefore, the aims of liberation theology are not aimed only at social liberation and balance. Rather it is directed towards a 'new earth' and a liberated humanity. In essence, historical liberation is seen as a stage in the great process of overall liberation. "The stress on social liberation is not immediately related to integral liberation, but to other stages of integral liberation: the individual and eschatological dimensions."

While the emergence of liberation theology and its view of the significance the Holy Spirit is seen as a modern phenomenon. It in fact has a long history. The liberation theology movement is associated in a contemporary sense with Latin America and the emphasis on Christ's original teachings. However Eden (1998) states that it may "…be viewed as a reversion to primitive Christianity and to the role of religion in & #8230; as a force for the protection and survival of the community against the major threats of hunger and imperialist exploitation."

There are of course many critiques of liberation theology. One of these is that, while many aspects of this theology ring true, the focus on the here and now should not obscure the traditions of the mystical life and the interior search for God.

Another often quoted critique is that liberation theology is biased towards the poor. This is expressed as follows:

The issue of God taking sides is clearly Biblical, but many Catholics are uncomfortable with pushing this point so far that we deny that the rich are able to know the Biblical… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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