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Liberating Black Theology: Some Short Reflections

February 23, 2010

I just finished reading through Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in American, by Anthony Bradley. The book is a little under 200 pages – not too long – but has some significant profundity to it.  Let me, first, give a brief note about the readability of this book.  While Bradley is a good writer and is very approachable, because of the nature of the book and his critique, he assumes quite a bit from his reader.  Bradley goes into some detail about Black and Liberation Theology’s relation to Neo-orthodoxy and Marxism, assuming the reader to have some familiarity with these topics already.  Also, throughout the book, especially in Chapter 5, Bradley expects his reader to be fairly knowledgeable on issues of contextualization and hermeneutics.

That being said, Anthony Bradley provides a significant help to the Church at large.  There are several reasons to love this book.  Let me give a few:

  1. Bradley doesn’t critique simply the outward failures of Black Theology – its Marxism, its failure to speak to contemporary economic realities of blacks in America, misguided biblical interpretations, etc – but he critiques the presuppositions of the movement.  From the very beginning of the book, Bradley begins his critique by examining Black Theology in light historical Christian Orthodoxy.  He begins with their doctrine God, Scripture, sin and human history.  Make no mistake, Bradley’s argument is that Black Theology fails, not primarily because its does not deliver on what it promises, but because it is decidedly unbiblical and unchristian.
  2. Bradley doesn’t cover and critique the extremes examples of Black Theology.  He explains the nuances in differing perspectives of Black Theology in the last thirty years and where evangelical Christians ought to be sympathetic.  While he is narrow in his focus – primarily focussing his attention on James Cone and Cornel West – he gives the context and influences that inform the movement as a whole.  The reader gains the vantage point of why certain authors and theologians say and write what they do, instead of simply gawking at their remarks.
  3. Because of the nature of Bradley’s critique (beginning with their unbiblical presuppositions), the reader is equipped to engage at a more than superficial level.  He displays, convincingly, how other critiques of Black Theology have failed and sufficiently informs his readers how not to make the same mistakes.

I’m very grateful for Anthony Bradley’s unique book.  Its a good lesson on how to not only to engage with Black and Liberation Theology, but with any theological system.  Students and pastors should take note.  This book deserves some significant attention.

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