Dorothee Soelle’s Radical Theology of Sin and Liberation

Dorothee Soelle, 1981 (Image Source)

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15, NLT)

I very much enjoyed Dorothee Soelle’s short theological autobiography, Against the Wind (for a taste of it, see my previous post “A Radical Christian Creed“).   In that book she cited the early work of Johann Baptist Metz and Jürgen Moltmann along with her own Political Theology as core texts for political theology as a movement. This, of course, sent me on a bit of a rabbit trail with my reading… I shared some quotations from Metz’s contribution a while back (here, here and here), and I also recently read Soelle’s book on this topic and have been meaning to share a bit about it.

One of Soelle’s most famous statements is that “every theological statement must be a political statement as well.” This sentiment seems to be a driving force behind the social conception of sin that she articulates in her Political Theology. So we shouldn’t be surprised to find that for Soelle “the sinner is the collaborator (seemingly harmless from the point of view of the natural consciousness) of a structurally founded, usually anonymous injustice. Accordingly, for political theology sin would be collaboration and apathy.” (89) This is in striking contrast to the more popular individualistic conception of sin, which Soelle scathingly criticizes: Continue reading Dorothee Soelle’s Radical Theology of Sin and Liberation

Moltmann on Justified vs Unjustified Use of Force

Religion, Revolution and the Future by Jürgen Moltmann. Image Source: PostBarthian
Religion, Revolution and the Future by Jürgen Moltmann. Image Source: PostBarthian

On July 23, 1968, just a few short months after Martin Luther King’s death, Jürgen Moltmann gave the opening lecture at the World Student Christian Federation Conference in Turku, Finland. The title of his lecture was “God in Revolution”, in which Moltmann offers a series of theses (the text of this lecture can be found in Religion, Revolution and the Future).  A while back, The PostBarthian shared an excellent selection from this lecture: Thesis 5, on the dialectic of siding with the oppressed. In that section, Moltmann used Martin Luther King Jr. as a prime example of why Christians are to side with the downtrodden:

Martin Luther King, Jr., sided with the blacks and the poor. He organized protest movements and strikes. These actions were directed against the white racism and the capitalistic society in his country. But at the same time he was constantly concerned about the white people, unredeemed and enslaved by their pride and anxiety. He mobilized the marches of the blacks and the poor, not for revenge against the whites but for the redemption of the black and white alike from their mutual estrangement.

Religion, Revolution and the Future, 142

Below is Thesis 6 from this same speech, which I offer as a supplement to today’s post on James H. Cone’s critique of nonviolence. Moltmann, like Cone, is cautious about urging oppressed people to embrace total nonviolence. Instead, he encourages people to be mindful of justified vs unjustified violence. If the oppressed must take up arms against their oppressors (which has happened so many times in history) they must be very careful lest they become oppressors too!  Continue reading Moltmann on Justified vs Unjustified Use of Force

3 Reasons Why Martin Luther King Jr. May Be America’s Most Outstanding Theologian

Karl Barth and Martin Luther King Jr - 20th Century Theology's Most Important Theologians?
Karl Barth and Martin Luther King Jr – 20th Century Theology’s Two Most Important Theologians? Image Source: kbarth.org.

Martin Luther King Jr’s name doesn’t seem to come up much in scholarly theological conversation these days, and that’s too bad. He is frequently discussed as an important figure in history, an inspiring civil rights leader, even as an amazing Christian pastor and preacher…. but theologian?

Yes! In Risks of Faith, James Cone offers three reasons why MLK should be nominated as a candidate for “America’s Most Outstanding Theologian.” Stand back Jonathan Edwards!  Continue reading 3 Reasons Why Martin Luther King Jr. May Be America’s Most Outstanding Theologian

Remembering the Martyred Jesuit Priests 25 Years Later

On today’s date 25 years ago, six well-known Jesuit priests, along with their housekeeper and her daughter, were brutally murdered at the hands of the Salvadorian Army.   The priests had been teaching at Central American University and were known for their advocacy of Liberation Theology. This event came at the height of the Salvadorian Civil War and helped bring the ugliness of this conflict to the attention of the world. It may have also contributed to the spread of liberation theology that is still noticeable today.   Continue reading Remembering the Martyred Jesuit Priests 25 Years Later

James Cone on Moltmann and the “Hope Theologians”

James Cone (Image Source: Wikipedia)

It also became clear to me between 1975 and 1980 that I personally could not authentically frame a “theology in context” and a “theology in movement” (liberation theology, black theology, feminist theology), for I am not living in the Third World, am not oppressed, and am not a woman. In those years, I tried as best I could to let the voices of silenced men and women be heard in the world too – the world in which I myself live. I initiated translations and provided them with commendatory prefaces. I wrote essays supporting liberation theology and feminist theology, African theology and Korean Minjung theology. But all this did not blind me to the fact that my life and my context are not theirs.
Jürgen MoltmannThe Trinity and the Kingdom, p. vii.

Before reading Moltmann, I was almost completely unfamiliar with liberation theology, aside from an outside reference here or there (generally not in a favorable light!). I found that Moltmann would write frequently on themes of liberation, sometimes in direct conversation with liberation theologians (some of whom he calls “friends”). Though Moltmann himself could not be a liberation theologian (as he explains in the quote above), he has devoted a considerable amount of energy into making sure that the cry of the oppressed for God found in liberation theologies be heard by a broader audience.

So, based on Moltmann’s commendations, I decided to check out a book by a black liberation theologian – God of the Oppressed, by James Cone.

Continue reading James Cone on Moltmann and the “Hope Theologians”