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The Centrality of the Cross in Liberation and Evangelical Theology: A Proposed Dialogue

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At first glance, evangelicals and liberation theologians seem rather different. On average, American evangelicals are middle-aged white Southerners, have conservative and republican ideologies, and historically originate from the tradition of fundamentalist Protestantism. Liberation theologians, on the other hand, come from a diverse array of backgrounds and historical contexts but in general are tied to the needs of a community and concerned with the transformation of social existence.
Yet, when one considers what evangelicalism and liberation theology are at their core, where they come from, and what is central to them, similarities subsist. In their broadest senses, liberation theology and evangelicalism are movements. They are not formal organizations, Christian denominations, or churches. No one attends 1st Evangelical of Chicago or Christ the Liberator of New York. There are no governing bodies that manage their affairs or central administrations to define what is and is not part of these movements. Evangelicalism and liberation theology are umbrella terms. They cover a wide span of Christian traditions, and it is the individuals within these movements who define them.
Historically, these streams were formed as reactions to circumstances. Liberation theology developed in response to social atrocities—Black liberation theology from within the context of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, and Latin liberation theology from theologians who witnessed extreme poverty, inequality, and violence in South America. Although not arising out of such dire circumstances, Evangelicalism was also a response. It is rooted in 20th century fundamentalism, which was a reaction to Protestant liberalism. These fundamentalists be...


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...onement: Biblical, Theological, and Practical Perspectives: Essays in Honor of Roger Nicole, edited by Charlies E. Hill and Frank A. James. Downer Grove: IVP, 2004.
Newport, Frank and Carroll, Joseph. “Another Look at Evangelicals in America Today,” Gallup,
December 2, 2005, accessed April 29, 2013.
Noll, Mark A. “What is ‘Evangelical?’” in The Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology,
edited by Gerald R. McDermott. New York: Oxford Press, 2010
Schreiner, Thomas R. “Penal Substitution View” in The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views,
edited by James Beilby and Paul R. Eddy. Downer Groves: IVP, 2006.
Sobrino, Jon. Jesus the Liberator: A Historical-Theological Reading of Jesus of Nazareth.
Translated by Paul Burns. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1993.
----------. Christ the Liberator: A View from the Victims. Translated by Paul Burns. Maryknoll,
NY: Orbis Books, 2001.


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