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Liberation Theology

RELG 135
Tuesday/Thursday [Time]

Instructor: Adam Kotsko

Office: [room]
Office Hours: [time]
E-mail: [address]

Course Description
This course explores several of the various forms of liberation theology that emerged across the
globe starting in the second half of the 20th century. Coming out of very different political,
economic, and cultural contexts and coming to very different conclusions, all the theologians
studied are united in their conviction that the gospel is best understood as a radical message of
liberation and that the gospel must be claimed by the poor and oppressed over against those who
use Christianity as a tool of domination and imperialism. In the spirit of this second point, the
course is focused almost exclusively on the close study of the writings of representative
theologians from a handful of the many tendencies within this worldwide theological movement.

We begin with two movements that began nearly simultaneously and are regarded as the most
important roots of liberation theology: Latin American liberation theology and black theology in
the United States. We then turn to a variety of texts that build on that legacy from different social
and geographical locations, encompassing feminist, womanist, African, and Korean perspectives.

Course Goals
Upon completing this course, students should:
• understand the theological and political origins of liberation theology;
• identify and distinguish among the views of figures who contributed to the development
and spread of liberation theology;
• be able to identify the central themes and arguments of texts from a variety of
perspectives and state them in a clear and sympathetic way in class discussion;
• be able to bring those texts into productive dialogue with one another; and
• be able to formulate criticisms in a way that is attentive to the original author’s intent and

Course Texts
Required textbooks:
• Boff & Boff, Introducing Liberation Theology
• Sobrino, No Salvation Outside the Poor
• Gutierrez, On Job
• Cone, God of the Oppressed
• West, Prophesy Deliverance!
• Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk
• Terrell, Power in the Blood?
• Ela, African Cry

The following texts will be made available in PDF format on the Moodle site for this course:
• Ratzinger, “Instructions on Certain Aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation’”
• Selections from Minjung Theology: People as Subjects of History

Course Requirements
1. Reading summaries: Students should complete the readings and submit a reading
summary of 2-3 single-spaced pages for each class session. Bring two copies, one to turn
in and one to refer to during class. Late assignments and e-mail submissions will not be
accepted. Summaries should include the following elements:
a. A list of several key quotations from each reading, appropriately cited.
b. A brief response to the readings as a whole—what did you think? How would you
challenge the author? How did the author challenge you?
c. Two or three questions that you’d like to discuss in class. These should not be
simple factual questions—make sure they are the kind of question that could
actually generate significant discussion.
2. Class Participation: Class periods will include some lecture for background purposes
but will be strongly focused on in-class discussion. Students are expected to arrive in
class ready to discuss the assigned readings in a way that is attentive and accountable to
the texts, providing specific references to back up their points.
3. Film: All students should watch the film Romero as background to the discussion of
Liberation Theology. We will attempt to schedule a group viewing and the film will also
be made available in the library.
4. Papers: Students will be expected to complete three papers of 3-5 double-spaced pages
over the course of the quarter. These are not research papers; they are based entirely on
assigned class readings, and the topics are to be selected from the prompts given.
a. Paper #1: Based on your reading of representative sources from Latin American
liberation theology, how do you respond to Cardinal Ratzinger’s critique of the
movement in the “Instruction on Certain Aspects of the ‘Theology of
b. Paper #2: Ruether and Terrell draw heavily on Latin American liberation
theology and black theology, respectively. Choose one of the two and discuss
what they owe to their forebears and where they push beyond them.
c. Paper #3: Choose either Ela or the Minjung theologians and discuss what they
owe to Latin American liberation theology and where they push beyond it.
5. Attendance: More than two absences will result in a reduction in the student’s final
grade. Attendance will be tracked with a sign-in sheet. Note that this concession to human
weakness does not mean that you are permitted two “skips”—you are expected to
participate actively in class discussion.
6. Academic integrity: All students are expected to fully abide by the Honor Code of
Kalamazoo College. Collaborative study is encouraged, but all submitted work must be
the student’s own.

Grade summary:
• Class participation: 10%
• Reading summaries: 30%
• Papers (3): 20% each

Outline of Course and Reading

September 17: Course Introduction

September 22: Boff & Boff, Introducing Liberation Theology chs. 1 through 4

September 24: Boff & Boff, Introducing Liberation Theology chs. 5 through 7; Ratzinger,
“Instruction on Certain Aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation’” (on Moodle)

September 29: Sobrino, No Salvation Outside the Poor, prologue, chs. 2 and 3

October 1: Sobrino, No Salvation Outside the Poor, chs. 4 through 6

October 6: Gutierrez, On Job, introduction, parts I and II

October 8: Gutierrez, On Job, part III

October 13: Paper #1 due; Cone, God of the Oppressed, prefaces, chs. 1 through 4

October 15: Cone, God of the Oppressed, chs. 5 through 7

October 20: Cone, God of the Oppressed, chs. 8 through 10

October 22: West, Prophesy Deliverance, preface, introduction, chs. 1 through 3

October 27: West, Prophesy Deliverance, chs. 4 and 5

October 29: Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk, “Kenosis of the Father,” chs. 1 through 3

November 3: Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk, chs. 4, 5, 7

November 5: Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk, chs. 8 through 10, postscript

November 10: Terrell, Power in the Blood?, introduction, chs. 1 and 2

November 12: Terrell, Power in the Blood?, chs. 3 through 5

November 17: Paper #2 due; Ela, African Cry, [blah]

November 19: Ela, African Cry, [blah]

November 24: Selections from Minjung Theology (on Moodle)

Paper #3 due Thursday, December 3, by noon

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