09.03.14

Biblical Theology & Liberation, pt. 4

On the End of the Age: The Eschatological Error of Liberation Theology

It is difficult to discern what liberation theology teaches about the end times. Just how God will bring this world to its appropriate end is of no immediate concern to liberation theologians. Moreover, the reality of an afterlife is barely discussed. What is important is the here and now, and how oppression, poverty, and injustice can be eradicated today. It argues that theology preoccupied with a better world-to-come stagnates oppressed communities and justifies the status quo. Therefore, liberation theology seeks to disillusion people of their future expectations, and to encourage them to seek those future hopes now.

Though dangerously misguided, there is something of worth that needs to be acknowledged here. Liberation theology offers a fair critique of some in the evangelical community by exposing what can only be regarded as indifference toward injustice, albeit couched in orthodox doctrine.

Nevertheless, the corrective that biblical theology offers is an immensely important one: it affirms the final resurrection and the new creation to come. The biblical witness is filled with a constant refrain of the eternal hope. The biblical covenants culminate in the new covenant in Christ, marked by the indwelling guarantor of the Spirit—the literal down payment of the promised inheritance to be received (). And contrary to what liberation theology suggests, the hope of this inheritance encourages both Christ-reflecting endurance () and Christ-exalting efforts ().

Biblical theology exposes the fact that liberation theology not only over-realizes its eschatology, it misunderstands the end times altogether. The ultimate goal of the Bible’s redemptive drama is not man dwelling amicably and equitably with man. The goal of the drama will be realized and expressed in the exclamation of a loud voice, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man” (). Sadly, the liberation that matters cannot be found in liberation theology.

This post (four of four) is part of a larger article originally found in the Summer 2014 9Marks Journal

14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (ESV)

17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (ESV)

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (ESV)

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (ESV)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (ESV)

Steven Harris
Steven Harris is a graduate student at Yale University, focusing on black religion in the African diaspora. A Vanderbilt graduate, he received his master of divinity degree at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has formerly served as assistant pastor for a Kentucky Baptist church.

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