Via a pingback from Todd Walatka — which highlights a concern Brad once raised about the need for low-church ecclesiology to be taken seriously — I find this interesting insight on Nate Kerr et al.’s “theses”: namely, the liberation theology language feels tacked on. They quote Sobrino to the effect that the church’s mission to the poor preceeds the church itself, but as Todd says:
Saying that the preferential option is at the center and heart of the church’s mission (and is the mission) seems overstated within the general flow of the theses. It seems that the most basic mission of the church in the theses is to witness to the apocalyptic transformation accomplished by God in Christ, which may include the preferential option, but is not identical with it.
He then goes on to point out the specific lack of continuity in terms of liturgy:
Thesis 4 is indicative of the differences here. In this thesis, the danger of liturgy is to see a direct correspondence between our work and divine work, to see it as our (successful) seeking after God. The danger is an idolatrous misconstrual of our place in the event of God’s grace. Liberation theologians also offer very strong critiques of ritual and liturgy (see, for example, Segundo’s The Sacraments Today) but in a different key, and one that flows directly from the preferential option as the mission of the Church. Their central critique is not that liturgy raises our action too high but rather that it devalues human action by ideologically focusing our attention on the reconciling action of God in liturgy and away from the demand to build the Kingdom beyond the liturgy.
Thinking in more specifically theological terms, I wonder if what is at stake is a different concept of God’s freedom in Barth and in liberation theology. Where Barth’s concept of divine freedom is always thought in terms of divine transcendence, it seems to me that the liberation theologians — as represented by Gutierrez’s brilliant On Job — see God’s freedom as a kind of contagious freedom, one that drives us to take responsibility for our actions.
The freedom of transcendence is perhaps always a hierarchical mode of freedom, where God is free to be God and we’re free to acknowledge how unworthy we are of God (which then is supposed to have good effects, though the logic here seems reminiscent of the South Park “underwear gnomes”) — by contrast, the liberating freedom is a “flattening” freedom that empowers human action instead of just inexplicably forgiving it.