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Some Thoughts on Liberation Theology by Aaron Hecht

Everyone in the Hebrew Roots, Messianic Jewish, and Christian Zionist movements loves to hate Replacement Theology, and rightfully so. This false teaching that the Gentile followers of Christ have "replaced" the Jewish People in God's redemptive plans and purposes for the Human Race and that all the promises to the Jewish People that are found throughout both the Old and New Testament are now imputed to "the Church" is indeed flatly repudiated by Scripture. 

The best and perhaps most explicit example of this repudiation is found in Romans 9-11, and everyone involved in any of the movements mentioned above should be well acquainted with these passages so that they can show anyone who calls themself a Christian but who adheres to Replacement Theology their error. I have also found it helpful to open up the Book of Revelation, which is the last part of the Bible and tells the story about what will happen at the very END of this Age, with the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, specifically the city of Jerusalem, playing a starring role in it all. Asking people who adhere to Replacement Theology to explain that can be fun and also very fruitful, as well as sparking discussions about all kinds of other highly relevant topics.

But the commitment to Replacement Theology is often pretty shallow, having been absorbed over time rather than being accepted as a well-defined package at some point. So pointing to the Scripture passages that repudiate it is sometimes all one needs to do to help a fellow Believer understand the need to reject this false teaching.

As I've said before, there is another false teaching that is just as toxic as Replacement Theology and that's Dual Covenant Theology. This false teaching holds that Jewish people who are "Torah Observant" and live a lifestyle that's proscribed by the Orthodox Rabbis have their own path to God which makes accepting the Gospel message unnecessary. 

Once again, there are a number of passages in the New Testament (including the very words of Jesus Himself) that flatly repudiate this false teaching, my personal favorite being I John 2:22; Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.

There is much more I could say about this topic, but others have already said it all much better than I ever could.

In this blog, I want to talk about another false teaching that we don't hear as much about as we used to, and that's Liberation Theology.

What is Liberation Theology?

Liberation Theology, like many other false teachings, takes a handful of things Jesus said and ignores everything else He said. It has some things in common with Replacement Theology, but most of what it incorporates comes from secular sources including Marxist/Communist teachings and what has come to be known in recent times as the "Social Justice" and/or "Woke" movements.

The things Jesus said that adherents of Liberation Theology like the most can be found in Luke 4:18; “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;

I'm sure I don't have to explain why these words of Jesus are so precious to the "social justice" crowd. But like I said, this crowd completely ignores almost everything else Jesus said, especially the parts about how sin separates humans from a Holy God, how people need to repent and save themselves from being sent to Hell by a Holy God by accepting the free gift of His atoning sacrifice on the Cross, how this is the ONLY WAY to salvation and last but certainly not least, how He's coming back someday to judge the world for its sins. 

You've never seen incandescent rage until you bring up that part of the narrative with a Liberation Theologian.

Where are we likely to find Liberation Theology?

Nearly any individual, organization, church, denomination, etc. which describes itself as "liberal" or "ecumenical" or participating in "inter-faith dialogue" will almost always be on a spectrum of Liberation Theology. 

They really like those parts of the Gospel where Jesus shows compassion to the poor, minorities, and women, to those who are downtrodden in one way or another. They also really like those parts where He calls the religious authority figures out for their hypocrisy and for being judgmental and self-righteous. They also like the parts where He challenges the secular authority figures, especially those "oppressive" Romans.

If you want to confuse an adherent of Liberation Theology, just read those passages where He speaks kindly to Roman soldiers and/or rich people, or where He acknowledges that the religious and even secular authority figures DO actually have some legitimate authority that is imputed to them by none other than God Himself. You can also make a point by asking why they have such a low view of Scripture when Jesus is always quoting it.

But that's kind of the whole point isn't it?

The common thread that ties all this together is a rejection of the authority of Scripture in favor of secular humanistic philosophy, which takes God off His Throne and puts "mankind" on that Throne instead.

On a side note, Liberation Theology is very popular among African-American churches in the US and in many parts of Africa. The reason it's particularly appropriate to talk about this subject right now is because we're in the Passover season and the Passover story plays a central role in the African-American version of Liberation Theology.

Y'know, God sent Moses to set slaves free from their oppressive taskmasters, using supernatural power to humiliate those oppressors and force them to "Let my people go."

Of course, the rest of the story about God punishing the very people he'd brought out of slavery in Egypt and causing them to wander in the desert for 40 years until that generation died off because they disobeyed Him is much less popular with pretty much everyone. But I digress.

The point is that Liberation Theology is a false narrative that takes one feature of the God described in the Bible (and sometimes just one story about one thing that He did) and ignores pretty much everything else the Bible has to say.

Be that as it may, Liberation Theology is a phenomenon that all of us need to be familiar with for the very simple reason that there are hundreds of thousands of Arab Christians in Israel, the Palestinian Authority-administered areas, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt who are adherents to this idea.

How did this happen?

This might surprise you, but Arab Nationalism in general and Palestinian Nationalism in particular were largely products of Arab Christians. Long before this movement was taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic fundamentalist organizations, its foundations were built by Arab Christian journalists, academics, and intellectuals. 

In the Ottoman Period just before the First World War, there were large numbers of Arab Christians in several cities all over the Middle East, including Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut (they were a majority in the region that would later become the country of Lebanon) and of course, they also made up a large portion of the population of cities here in the Holy Land, including Nazareth, Jerusalem, Jaffa and Bethlehem.

Since there had been Catholic and Orthodox Christian schools and universities operating in the region for many centuries, these communities tended to be better educated than their Muslim neighbors. This meant that they were better prepared for the modern professions of law, medicine, education, engineering, etc. Since these professions were more lucrative than agriculture and most forms of commerce, these Christian families also had more money, which often meant they had smaller numbers of children, and the best and brightest of these children were sent to study at universities in Istanbul, Paris, London, etc. It was in those places that they discovered Nationalism and the idea of organized Nation-States that would be above clan, tribe, and family. They brought those ideas back to the Middle East with them, and thus Arab Nationalism was born.

That was a long time ago, of course, and kind of a lot has happened since then. 

Arab Christians have become a tiny minority in the Middle East, including all those cities where they were once a majority. This happened for several different reasons, starting with the simple fact that, as previously stated, Arab Christians tended to be members of families that had a higher level of education and wealth than their Muslim neighbors. They were (and still are) also more likely to have friends, relatives, and business contacts in Europe (mostly France) and North America. So when war came to the Middle East in 1917 and the Ottoman Empire fell apart, the resulting chaos pushed many of these people to use these advantages they had to move to other countries. Subsequent wars, economic hardships and social/political upheavals in the region would see more and more Arab Christians leaving.

Another factor in the depopulation of Arab Christians from this region is the fact that, again as previously stated, these families tended to have fewer children than Muslim families, for all kinds of reasons. So, over the decades, the demographic arithmetic did what it always does and brought us to the point we're at now.

Last but certainly not least, with the rise in popularity of Islamic Fundamentalism, Arab Christians found themselves on the receiving end of abuse by their Muslim neighbors. I've heard stories of Arab Christians and Arab Muslims getting along perfectly well before the Zionists showed up in this country around the turn of the 20th century. But whatever fragments of truth there might be to those stories, this communal amity has long disappeared, and harassment/persecution of Arab Christians by Arab Muslims is a very widespread and well-documented phenomenon.

But that's not the narrative that Liberation Theology likes to peddle.

According to the Liberation Theology narrative, "the Jews" or "the Zionists" are examples of "white colonialism" and are thus solely responsible for all the problems and hardships that Arab Christians in Bethlehem, Nazareth, and throughout the Middle East, are suffering from. In this narrative, the 8 million or so Jews living in Israel are "white colonists" who have no business living in a region that has been populated by "people of color" for hundreds of years.

In addition to that, this narrative casts "the Jews" as agents of Western colonial powers (primarily Britain and France) who were forced out of the Middle East themselves after the Second World War and so they hired "the Jews" to stay here and armed them to the teeth so they would keep the Arabs in line, keep the oil flowing, etc.

According to this narrative, the existence of this "colonial entity" has caused Arab regimes in the region to go down the road of tyranny and oppression despite themselves. They had no moral agency themselves, being the victims of brutalizing influences from Western colonists which forced them onto these trajectories. That part of the narrative dispenses with any animosity that Arab Christians might be expected to have for the actions these regimes, not to mention non-state actors such as the Muslim Brotherhood, are taking against them.

There is more to the story of how Liberation Theology came to be so popular among Arab Christians, particularly in the Holy Land, but these are some of the main points. Nearly every prominent leader of the traditional churches in the Holy Land, and even some of the prominent voices in the Evangelical Protestant churches here, are vigorous and often outspoken adherents of Liberation Theology, as well as Replacement Theology.

In Conclusion...

I hope reading this blog has given you a greater awareness of Liberation Theology and the relevance it has in regard to the modern Middle East in general and Israel in particular. If you are (as I assume most readers of this blog are) a member of the Hebrew Roots, Messianic Jewish, and/or Christian Zionist movements, it is especially important for you to be at least as familiar with it as you are with Replacement Theology, because it's just as big of a problem.

In fact, I'd say it's an even bigger (and certainly more complicated) problem.

That's because much of the time, those who adhere to Replacement Theology can be convinced of the error they've made simply by pointing out the relevant passages of Scripture that refute it. Very often, they've never read those passages or if they did, they didn't think about them very much.

But those who adhere to Liberation Theology often have this idea as part of their cultural/tribal DNA. So when you tell them that Liberation Theology is an error you're not just challenging a bad idea they have, you're telling them there's a flaw in their very identity.

That's a MUCH more difficult problem to solve, and I don't have any really good advice about how we can solve it. I certainly can't say I've ever convinced someone that it's an error, although I have engaged in conversations with some who adhere to Liberation Theology. If anyone who read this far has any advice, please feel free to tell us in the comments section below.

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