An Investigation of Black Liberation Theology -- By: H. Wayne House

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 139:554 (Apr 1982)
Article: An Investigation of Black Liberation Theology
Author: H. Wayne House

An Investigation of Black Liberation Theology

H. Wayne House

[H. Wayne House, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies and Greek, LeTourneau College, Longview, Texas]

Black theology has emerged in the last two decades with the wave of liberation movements as an expression of black consciousness. As an ideology, this peculiar theology concerns the liberation of oppressed people. On the surface it appears to be a reactionary effort against a “white” theology that has not spoken to needs of the Negro race. To be oppressed is to be black, and to be an oppressor is to be white. (“Black” and “white” relate not to skin pigmentation but to one’s attitude and action toward the liberation of the oppressed black people from white racism.1 )

Oppression relates to physical, economic, psychological, and political repression. In view of this oppression, black theology (and liberation theology in general) seeks to speak to “this-world” problems, rather than “other-world” issues; to concrete circumstances, rather than abstract thought; to the sinfulness of man’s plight in a ghetto rather than sin in man’s heart; and to a savior who delivers man from earthly slavery, rather than a Savior who saves man from spiritual bondage. This is black liberation theology in a word.

The purposes of this article are (1) to set forth the Mitte, or center, of black theology and examine this emphasis in relation to specific beliefs of black theology today; (2) to evaluate and interact with those beliefs in light of Scripture; and (3) to ascertain what evangelical Christians may learn and how they may benefit from an interaction with black theology.

What Is Black Theology?

A Form of Liberation Theology

Black theology is a form of liberation theology. The theology of liberation pertains to man’s efforts to establish a just and fraternal society in which all people may have dignity and determine their own destiny.2 The idea of liberation, in the words of Gutiérrez,

…emphasizes that man transforms himself by conquering his liberty throughout his existence and his history. The Bible presents liberation—salvation—in Christ as the total gift, which, by taking on the levels we indicate, gives the whole process of liberation its deepest meaning and its complete and unforseeable fulfillment. Liberation can thus be approached as a single salvific process. This viewpoint, therefore, permits us to consider the unity, without confusion, of man’s various dimensions, that is, his relationships with other men and with the Lord, wh...

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