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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: January 2008

2 - ‘Action is the life of all’: the praxis-based epistemology of liberation theology

from Part I - Contemporary Liberation Theology


If you continue in my word then you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.

(John 8.31, 32)

That practice, truth and freedom are inseparable is axiomatic for liberation theology.

The defining characteristic of liberation theology is that it is a lived praxis in solidarity with the poor and oppressed. It is defined as theology, and not simply as an ethical or pragmatic stance, in that the key question concerns the living of a specifically Christian life, and the story of the Bible is brought into dialogue with the story of life, the story of the world. Freedom is the goal towards which practice is oriented. In this committed and value-laden practice, truth will be made manifest; the true character of the ideologically distorted structures of this world will be unmasked; and, for the truth of God’s fullness of life for all humanity, men and women will live and die.

The commitment and practice of liberation theology requires three moments: the moment of praxis, the moment of reflection on praxis, and the moment of return to a renewed praxis. It begins and ends in praxis. Given this primacy, and the claim to a new way of doing theology founded in it, the question arises whether praxis is in itself epistemologically significant. Can we know through praxis? And if so, what can we know?

This question is significant not only for liberation theology, but for a wide variety of theologies of practice. The epistemological significance of practice is a question raised by the extensive contemporary use of the Pastoral Cycle, a model of doing theology which begins in concrete experience and practice.