Liberation theology & Marx C/B grade summary notes


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The views of Karl Marx on economics and religion

  • Marx claimed that the reason for economic inequality and poverty is the way the economy is structured. 
  • In capitalism, a few people own businesses and everyone else works for them, thereby creating different classes of people divided by wealth inequality.
  • This also creates ‘alienation’, where workers feel disconnected from their work and a lack of value in their life.
  • Fixing poverty will require challenging and changing capitalism.
  • Marx was against religion – called it the ‘opiate of the people’ – it is designed to keep people down.
  • Religion tells the workers to accept their life of injustice and inequality, because then they will go to heaven when they die.
  • Marx thought religion stood in the way of the communist revolution.

Guitierrez & Boff on the validity of being influenced by Marx’s economic views but not his anti-religious views

  • Liberation theology claims that the teachings of Jesus show that Christians have a duty to help the poor.
  • They also think Marx was correct in his economic views about how to help the poor – about the causes of poverty.
  • So, they conclude that Christians have a duty to challenge and change capitalism.
  • This is what liberation theology is – Christian duty to help the poor PLUS Marx’s views on what helping the poor requires – challenging capitalism.
  • Guitierrez & Boff both claim to only be influenced by Marx’s economic views, not Marx’s anti-religious views.


  • Ratzinger’s critique of liberation theology
  • Look at all the people who died as a result of Marxism (it numbers in the 10s of millions at least).
  • Christians should not be influenced by atheist ideologies like Marxism.
  • He says atheism and denial of human rights is at the core of marxism.
  • Those who try to help the poor through marxist means end up betraying the poor they mean to help.

The preferential option for the poor from a liberation theology perspective

  • The concept of the ‘preferential option for the poor’ is part of traditional Christian theology.
  • It points out that Jesus gave more attention and care and help to those who needed it more – such as the poor, and concludes that Christians should also help the poor.
  • Liberation theologians think helping the poor means challenging capitalism.
  • Traditional theology puts orthodoxy (right beliefs) before orthopraxis (right action). 
  • The correct theology must be figured out first and then from that we will figure out which are the morally right actions to do.
  • Liberation theology challenges this – it claims we must first do the right action (orthopraxis) – which is, whatever action will help the poor. If that involves left-wing or even Marxist economic policy – then so be it. We can figure out orthodoxy later.

JP2’s response

  • JP2 said that it’s wrong to focus so much on economic liberation, like Liberation theology does.
  • We also need to focus on spiritual liberation – he pointed to pornography and drugs and consumerism as examples of spiritual poverty.
  • The Church needs to figure out orthodoxy first – just focusing on orthopraxis first can result in this imbalance of focusing too much on economic liberation and not enough on spiritual liberation.
  • The church should just continue in its approach of helping the poor through charity. That is enough, that is all a Christian’s duty to the poor requires. Once properly understanding the Christian orthodoxy, the orthopraxis which results is merely charity.

The biblical basis for liberation theology & its interpretation of preferential option for the poor

  • Jesus said things about wealth that seem to justify liberation theology and suggest he was a liberator of the poor.
  • “It is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven”.
  • “If you want to be perfect, sell all that you have and give it to the poor”.
  • Jesus seems to be against people being rich, and in favour of radically changing society to liberate the poor. 


  • Kloppenberg disagrees.
  • He points out that Jesus only ever spoke about the sin and salvation of individual people. 
  • Jesus’ teachings were never aimed at the structure of society or the economy itself.
  • So, there’s no way to view Jesus’ teachings as challenging capitalism or anything like that.
  • Jesus is only recommending that rich people give to charity. So, he’s not a liberator.