Liberal Theology vs. Liberation Theology; What’s the Difference?


Lord’s Library editors explore various Christian topics by comparing liberal theology vs. liberation theology to help you gain an understanding.

There are a number of theological worldviews which help shape the modern church. Different Christian denominations have their own worldviews as well, which can sometimes cause strife between groups. A multitude of these theological standpoints have arisen throughout church history, and are ultimately responsible for how each group handles the interaction between their faith and the physical world.

There are several benefits to studying these varying Christian worldviews. Knowing the difference between liberal theology vs. liberation theology, for example, can help one strengthen their stance on important subjects, even if they don’t belong to one of those theological groups. And even more, competence in theological topics can ensure the Christian is prepared to reprove, rebuke, and exhort when necessary.

It’s with these things in mind that our editors decided to compile this resource which compares liberal theology vs. liberation theology. How do these theological standpoints interpret the faith? We’ll also take a look at how they’re similar and how they differ, to offer a well-rounded view.

The Gospel

Liberal Theology vs. Liberation Theology

What is Liberal Theology? Liberal Theology Definition

Liberal theology is a method of understanding Christian spirituality which emphasizes human knowledge and reason on par with, or above that of the Bible This theological worldview considers the Bible but also rationalism and logic.

Liberal theology contains various theological, philosophical, and Biblical perspectives stemming from the Enlightenment (1660-1798). Before the Enlightenment, Christian theology was based mostly on the authority of Scripture alongside early church tradition. But with newfound confidence came the theological mindset to pedestal human ingenuity alongside the Bible. Many in the liberal theology movement believe Christianity requires modern appropriations.

A liberal-based approach is the standard in many mainstream Christian churches today. Liberal sermons commonly reflect lessons more attuned to nature than to the things of God. The prosperity gospel is an example. Google it if you’re unfamiliar.

Liberal theology changes how its adherents understand morality in light of the Scriptures. Since the Scriptures are not held as a superior authority to modern knowledge and science, more worldly understandings of what is good tend to be justified.

Liberal Theology Defined

Liberal theology is a worldview that emphasizes human knowledge and reason on par with or above that of the Bible.

What is Liberation Theology? Liberation Theology Definition

Liberation theology is a theological worldview that aims to interpret Scripture through the eyes of the poor. In light of this, liberation theology emphasizes a just society, social and political change, and support of the working class. This worldview aims to bring about church doctrine centered on these concepts.

Liberation theology most likely stems from Jesus’ example in the Bible, as He lived a humble life. Even during this, Christ focused on ministering to the poor and needy. Inspired by this, believers of liberation theology focus on advocating for and serving those who have been marginalized.

Here is an example of how a subscriber to liberation theology might view a Bible verse:

In Luke 1:52–53, Mary praises God: “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.”

Interpreting this through the lens of liberation theology, we see Mary’s joy that God has elevated the poor and fed the hungry while humbling the rich.

While the term was yet to be coined, we see an emphasis on this action in the early church. Through the writings of the church fathers, one can see many teachings on serving the poor. Even in the Book of Acts, one can see the Apostles pooling their resources and living sacrificially for the betterment of all. The modern mindset of liberation theology aims to continue and further this legacy set by the Apostles and early adherents of the faith.

Liberation Theology Defined

Liberation theology is a Christian worldview that emphasizes the struggle of the poor and God’s focus on providing for them.

Liberal Theology vs. Liberation Theology; What’s the Difference?

Liberal Theology vs. Liberation Theology Chart

Liberation theology focuses on God’s power and authority in this world, with an emphasis on how He uses it to aid the poor. Liberal theology offers a broader understanding of God’s influence based on perceived advances in human understanding, reason, and logic. This makes these two theologies quite different at their core.

Both of these competing viewpoints run the risk of heresy if too much emphasis is put on human understanding and advocacy above the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

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Timothy Andrew

Timothy Andrew

Tim is the Founder of Lord's Library. He believes the Bible commands us to minister "as of the ability which God giveth" (1 Peter 4:11). Tim aspires to be as The Lord's mouth by "taking forth the precious from the vile" (Jeremiah 15:19) and witnessing The Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15: 1-4) to the whole world.

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