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The question of the relationship between socially engaged biblical scholars and ordinary poor and marginalised readers of the Bible lies at the heart of this chapter. While it may seem strange to begin an essay on 'The Bible and the poor' with such a statement, liberation theologies in their various forms all emerge from the interface between socially committed theologians and ordinary Christians from poor and marginalised communities. The task of this chapter is to understand the contours of the interface more clearly. As most of the readers of this volume are probably from the First World, we must begin by making it quite clear that liberation theologies are different from First World theology. It is not just that liberation theologies have a different content, they are more profoundly different in that they have a different methodology. 'The established methodology of First World theology - often regarded as a universally valid norm - has recently been challenged. The challenge comes from different quarters in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, but it also comes from certain groups within the First World, e.g., from Christians within the feminist and labour movements.'
Elaborating on this statement, Per Frostin defines the challenge posed by theologies of liberation with reference to five interrelated emphases: the choice of the interlocutors of theology, the perception of God, the social analysis of conflicts, the choice of theological tools, and the relationship between theology and praxis. Of particular concern in this chapter is the first of these emphases, what Frostin calls 'the interlocutors of theology', because it is this emphasis that shapes each of the others.