A Critical Analysis Of Some Hermeneutical Principles Found In Latin American Theologies Of Liberation -- By: Bruce G. Fawcett

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 37:4 (Dec 1994)
Article: A Critical Analysis Of Some Hermeneutical Principles Found In Latin American Theologies Of Liberation
Author: Bruce G. Fawcett


A Critical Analysis
Of Some Hermeneutical Principles
Found In Latin American Theologies Of Liberation

Bruce G. Fawcett*

The purpose of this article is to point out some negative elements in the hermeneutics of Latin American theologies of liberation.1 Although Latin American liberation theologies are far from unified in approach and emphases, they nevertheless share some general hermeneutical principles.2

It is not possible within the scope of one article to analyze the complete hermeneutical process at work in Latin American theologies of liberation. Therefore the areas I have chosen for examination are limited to the following: the prefacing of theological research with socio-economic analysis, the concept of a preferential option for the poor, liberation theologians’ claim of an epistemological privilege for the poor, universalism, the tendency toward exemplaristic handling of the Biblical text, and experience as the criterion for evaluating truth.

I. Theology’s Socio-Economic Lens

The point of departure in the theological enterprise for Latin American liberation theologians is not the Biblical text but the social context, thus prompting H. Assmann to declare that “the text is our situation.”3 This

* Bruce Fawcett is assistant pastor at Lewisville United Baptist Church, 109 Pleasant St., Moncton, NB, Canada E1A 2V3.

means that prior to approaching the Bible, Latin American liberation theologians preface their work by reflecting on conditions in their communities and their continent. This is done for at least two reasons: (1) to search for the Bible’s relevance to the contemporary situation; (2) to strengthen the thesis of liberation theologians that underdevelopment is not simply economic setback or primitivism.4 Liberation theologians believe that underdevelopment results from dependence on developed countries. Thus liberation theologians conclude that all Christians, whether in underdeveloped countries or in highly developed countries, should assume a new posture in their theological reflection by taking into account the poverty “imposed on Latin America by outside sources.”5 The importance to liberation theologians of examining one’s social context as the first step in doing theology can be noted from the fact that over twelve percent of the pages in J. Miranda’s major works (Marx and the Bible and Being and the Messiah) are devoted to a dis...

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