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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What I’m Reading: Another Gospel – A Confrontation with Liberation Theology

I’ve just finished reading the short little book Another Gospel: A Confrontation with Liberation Theology by Paul C. McGlasson.  It’s a scant 94 pages – which includes the preface and the select bibliography and index.  But I didn’t need to read very much of it before I realized how very flawed it is. McGlason makes it very clear that the argument of his book is that “liberation theology is a lie” (Another Gospel 17). He argues this point with passion and ferocity. But as I said, the argument is very flawed – in several ways.

1)McGlasson is arguing against an unnuanced caricature of Liberation Theology.  He deals only in generalizations and unproven assertions about liberation theology and its adherents.   Very early on in the book he acknowledges that there are varieties and differences among the those who stand under the umbrella term “liberation theology” but he refuses to distinguish among them. They’re all to be condemned.  “Can one cast one’s net so broadly?  Must one not distinguish the various movements, and voices, and assess each case by case?  Perhaps for a time; but now is not that time” (Another Gospel 16).

McGlasson also fails to cite or quote any actual liberation theologian’s writings.  He makes assertions about what “they say” but never – not a once – quotes their words.  As such, anything McGlasson declares that “they say” is an allegation without evidence.He won’t even engage with liberationists’ defense against his claims.  “Liberation theologians will of course deny this [allegation that I’ve just made]; but the rule of faith to determine the truth of their claim is clear and dependable in Holy Scripture” (Another Gospel 26).

2) And he says something like this quite often.  Several times throughout the short little book, McGlasson asserts that “…here Scripture speaks with clarity” (Another Gospel 28). And it’s always –scripture clearly endorses my point of view… But if this argument were actually true, there would be no arguments, there would be no need for this book.  McGlasson fails (or refuses) to accept that the bible is not clear on most issues.  There are disagreements on just about everything. 

3) He has no use for the Wesleyan (or Methodist) Quadrilateral (that is – interpreting through the lens of a) scripture, b) reason, c) tradition and d) experience).   He insists that his interpretation (though I doubt he would recognize it as an interpretation) of scripture is based solely on scripture itself.  Coming from the Reformed tradition, he insists on Sola Scriptura.

Which leads to 4) he accuses liberationists of creating their own version of Jesus (who he asserts is not at all the Jesus of the gospels (Another Gospel25)) but cannot seem to recognize that he does this as well.  We all do it.  It’s impossible to not do it. 

5) His tone is belligerent. He variously describes liberationists as heretical, blasphemous (64), profaners (64), idolaters (63), fascists (80), false prophets and ravenous wolves (80). He even invokes the inevitable Hitler comparison (45). I realize that “tone” is a difficult metric. But McGlasson has no interest in reasoned, polite discourse or dialogue (Another Gospel 17).  He wants a decision and he wants it now! When you’ve already written your opponent off as a diabolical and unredeemable heretic, I guess there’s no reason to be polite or to engage in dialogue.

6) He, without anything in the way of proof or evidence, describes Martin Luther King jr. as a “self-attested Messiah (Another Gospel 46).” In fact, he frequently sneers at MLKjr and the civil rights movement as whole.

7) He blames Barth.  If not on every page, then at least in every chapter, McGlasson lays the blame for the rise and spread of Liberation Theology at the feet of Karl Barth.  I don’t know enough about Barth to evaluate his claim, but the ire he directs toward Barth is unmistakable.

This “Confrontation with Liberation Theology” is just that: Confrontational.  The argument is loud and petulant. It is not civil.  Neither is it particularly well argued. He sets up straw-man generalizations about evil Liberation Theologians and then proceeds to beat them down with a whirlwind of angry rhetoric – but never actually engages with any liberation writings.  

McGlasson, Paul C. Another Gospel: A Confrontation with Liberation Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994.

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