The Spirit in History part 3

In the work of Gustavo Gutiérrez and other liberation theologians, we see the insights of Moltmann applied in specific contexts, especially contexts which consist of the alienated, despised, and ignored—people who, it might be said, have long existed outside of any historical consideration.

Yet, it is in the rejected people that God’s history is so often enacted. Such non-historical people push back in liberation theologies asserting not only their identity as people made in the image of God, but also as true persons, existing in history, creating and participating in moments of historical realization, whether or not historians or any academics have thought to take note of such history. They suggest a radical particularization of historical studies, in which no one who is loved by God is considered an outsider to the field of history.

History, in light of liberation theology, becomes infinitely expansive in its complex particularities. In addition, the work of the Spirit cannot be seen as either idealism or pietism. Gutiérrez writes that the revelation of Scripture, in the prophets and in the Gospels, “presupposes the defense of the rights of the poor, punishment of the oppressors, a life free from the fear of being enslaved by others, the liberation of the oppressed. Peace, justice, love, and freedom are not private realities; they are not only internal attitudes. They are social realities, implying a historical liberation.”

The work of the Spirit is a public enterprise, enacting inner and outer transformation in this world for the sake of a new embrace of Divinely oriented freedom. “The eschatological promises are being fulfilled throughout history,” Gutiérrez writes, “but this does not mean that they can be identified clearly and completely with one or another social reality; their liberation effect goes far beyond the foreseeable and opens up new and unsuspected possibilities. The complete encounter with the Lord will mark an end to history, but it will take place in history.”

He adds, “The encounter is present even now, dynamizing humanity’s process of becoming and projecting it beyond its hopes (1 Cor. 2:6-9); it will not be planned or predesigned.” This encounter is present with every person, whether great or despised, for the Spirit of God works to enliven each to their fullest potentiality in relationship with God and with others, marking each instance as a historical moment.

Those “innocent flowers” who are trampled by supposedly “world-historical figures” are not crushed to pieces by an advanced embrace of an enlightening spirit, but rather are themselves the figures of history in whom the Spirit of God enlivens, inspires, ennobles, and enables to embrace, even in this “density of the present.”

to be continued…

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