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"Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in a society is not Christ's message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology." With the publication of his two early works, Black Theology & Black Power (1969) and A Black Theology of Liberation (1970), James Cone emerged as one of the most creative and provocative "Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in a society is not Christ's message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology." With the publication of his two early works, Black Theology & Black Power (1969) and A Black Theology of Liberation (1970), James Cone emerged as one of the most creative and provocative theological voices in North America. These books, which offered a searing indictment of white theology and society, introduced a radical reappraisal of the Christian message for our time. Here, combining the visions of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., Cone radically reappraises Christianity from the perspective of the oppressed black community in North America. Forty years later after its first publication, his work retains its original power, enhanced now by reflections on the evolution of his own thinking and of black theology and on the needs of the present moment. Offers a radical reappraisal of Christianity from the perspective of an oppressed Black North American community.


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"Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in a society is not Christ's message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology." With the publication of his two early works, Black Theology & Black Power (1969) and A Black Theology of Liberation (1970), James Cone emerged as one of the most creative and provocative "Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in a society is not Christ's message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology." With the publication of his two early works, Black Theology & Black Power (1969) and A Black Theology of Liberation (1970), James Cone emerged as one of the most creative and provocative theological voices in North America. These books, which offered a searing indictment of white theology and society, introduced a radical reappraisal of the Christian message for our time. Here, combining the visions of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., Cone radically reappraises Christianity from the perspective of the oppressed black community in North America. Forty years later after its first publication, his work retains its original power, enhanced now by reflections on the evolution of his own thinking and of black theology and on the needs of the present moment. Offers a radical reappraisal of Christianity from the perspective of an oppressed Black North American community.

30 review for A Black Theology of Liberation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    This was the first book I picked up after the Trump win. It’s helped me immensely these past few weeks in trying to articulate some of the internal struggles I’ve been having with this election and the glaring issues that have become much more “visible” (at least to some). Along with that though is a realization that my approach to situations is more – nuanced? – than what it would have been when I first read Cone nearly five years ago. I find myself legitimately trying to see different sides to This was the first book I picked up after the Trump win. It’s helped me immensely these past few weeks in trying to articulate some of the internal struggles I’ve been having with this election and the glaring issues that have become much more “visible” (at least to some). Along with that though is a realization that my approach to situations is more – nuanced? – than what it would have been when I first read Cone nearly five years ago. I find myself legitimately trying to see different sides to various issues vs. holding certain concrete convictions. Part of that has come from spending a number of years in the Middle East and realizing that local situations are much more complex than they can appear from a distance. I’m not always successful at this of course, but I recognize the need to attempt this kind of thinking. But there are some things that leave no room for compromise and nobody is better than Cone at analyzing this need (both then and now) in America. There are three main takeaways that struck me this time around: - God is always on the side of the oppressed. This is not from a desire to eventually become the oppressor as some have criticized these kinds of theologies, but simply to eliminate oppression. - “Blackness” is a state of mind and orientation as much as it is a skin color. We all can participate in these kinds of theologies and ways of life depending on whether we are able/willing to fully commit to the stance for justice that is required. - Liberation theologies don’t claim to have all the answers, and are commendably open to criticism. This is not to suggest for a second that the criticism can come from the oppressors, but from other overlooked oppressed groups. (The example in this anniversary edition was the original’s lack of inclusion of feminist/womanist ideas.) If one is oppressed, all are oppressed. I’m just now starting to process what the next few years will mean and how I’m to effectively respond as a white American who is concerned for the future of the country. One thing we can say is that Trump’s election has brought a lot of ugly sickness back out in the open. This is likely not true for certain segments of the population as they’ve felt it all along, but certainly for many white people. The language is out in the open. Racism and discrimination can’t be denied. I think personally my struggle is not so much to have definite convictions against injustice as it is to find the most effective strategies to change things. How do you talk to people or act in a way that will change minds and attitudes without compromising or changing one’s effective stance against issues of racism and discrimination? I hope more people read this book. It might have more relevance today than it ever did before. If God and Jesus stood with the poor and subjugated of society, then this kind of thinking is true Christianity.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cody

    James Cone is considered to be the founder of Black Liberation Theology, a variant of the Liberation Theology movement most widely connected with South American theologian Gustavo Gutierrez. Liberation Theology emphasizes those biblical concerns that white European flavored Christianity has often looked over– concerns like justice and liberation for the oppressed and downtrodden (Luke 4:16-21, Matthew 25:31-45, etc.). Though these emphases are quite important, in Liberation movements, they can o James Cone is considered to be the founder of Black Liberation Theology, a variant of the Liberation Theology movement most widely connected with South American theologian Gustavo Gutierrez. Liberation Theology emphasizes those biblical concerns that white European flavored Christianity has often looked over– concerns like justice and liberation for the oppressed and downtrodden (Luke 4:16-21, Matthew 25:31-45, etc.). Though these emphases are quite important, in Liberation movements, they can often drown out other, extremely vital, elements of the Christian faith, as they clearly do in Cone’s Black Liberation Theology. One major issue for Cone is one of authority. The experience of one group of people (the oppressed) becomes equivalent with universal truth, and not simply an important concern in Christian theology. In other words, Cone makes his own experience the judge of who God is and what God is for. While “white” (a term used by Cone not so much to reflect skin color but an oppressor mentality) Christianity commits this grave error without realizing it, Cone does so with full knowledge. So, for instance, while a conservative “white” theologian would say that his own views and actions *should* be directed by the scripture (whether or not he does in fact direct them by this standard), Cone makes the judgement of the oppressed black community the ultimate truth for them– and if mass violence against whites is decided by the group as the best means to effect their liberation, so be it. Cone explicitly distances himself from the approach of King, identifying more with the violence-prone philosophy of the Nation of Islam as propounded by Malcolm X. If someone criticizes his approach, he seems to assume that they’re doing so as a “white” oppressor and should be ignored– an oppressor has no moral right to question the rightness or wrongness of the actions of the people he is oppressing. This of course ignores the criticisms of violence, even from the oppressed, of black Christians like Martin Luther King Jr., Desmond Tutu, etc. Cone is also unfortunately either unfamiliar with or unconvinced by pacifist Christian claims to be committed to peaceful action, since he equates non-violence with inaction and acquiescence. While he is absolutely correct in seeing liberation as an important theme in the Christian faith, he, like “white” religionists, allows his own experience and emotions to determine what is right and wrong to the point of supporting evil in the interest of what he feels is best for his community. However, what can’t be said of Cone’s position on violence is that it is radical, because it is emphatically not. The political heroes of most white Americans are men who used violence to gain political autonomy. Thus, it is not radical for black men and women to look up to figures like Malcolm X and James Cone who advocate doing the same thing if it seems necessary for freedom and self-determination; it is merely status quo. The problem is that Jesus calls all men and women, regardless of color, to rise above the status quo and the myth of redemptive violence. Seizing on that point, one major problem with Cone’s view of violent revolution is that when oppressed people rise up through violence, they become the oppressor– co-opting the tools of oppression and dehumanization. “Blacks” become “white” through the use of violence. Cone seems unaware of (doubtful) or unaffected by the history of the Bolshevik, Cuban, or French revolutions, wherein the oppressed quickly became the oppressors and became twofold more a child of hell than their oppressors. His view also reshapes Nat Turner, the slave who claimed to have been directed by God to murder white women and children, into an unqualified hero. Cone’s system re-establishes and re-affirms oppression– it does not end it. For Cone, God is black and the devil is white, because God supports the oppressed and the devil supports the oppressor. But in so closely identifying God with blackness, the actions of those in the black community are now above being questioned, just like the actions of white enslavers were, according to them, above being questioned because they aligned themselves with God and those whom they oppressed with the devil. What Cone is really trying to get at is that since Jesus supports the cause of the oppressed, the oppressor must so distance himself from his oppressor identity that he becomes indistinguishable from the oppressed– willing to suffer along with them– if he is to be Christ-like. In other words, the “white” must become “black.” Cone says that God can’t be colorless where people suffer for their color. So, where blacks suffer God is black. Taking this logic, which is indeed rooted in Scripture, where the poor suffer, God is poor. Where babies are killed in the womb, God is an aborted baby. Where gay people are bullied, God is gay. It is our obligation to identify with the downtrodden, because that’s what Jesus did. Paul, quoting a hymn of the church about Jesus, puts it this way: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: ‘Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!'” –Philippians 2:5-8 Jesus not only gives up his power to express love to the powerless by identifying with them, He also takes on their sin and suffers with and for them. This is the essence of the gospel, and it often gets lost when we translate it into our daily lives. For Cone, this important truth gets lost in the banner of black militantism and the cycle of violence. For so many American Christians, it gets lost when they reduce the political nature of Christianity to scolding those whose private expression of morality doesn’t line up with theirs. We refuse to identify with sinners (which is a category we all fit into) in love.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bracey

    I’ve had a longing to understand how the beliefs of BLM, the Black church in America, and Black Liberation Theology all intersected. In James Cone’s Black Liberation Theology (The Fortieth Anniversary Edition) I encountered a black approach to the Liberation Theology which to me was made popular originally in South America by Gustavo Gutierrez. My understanding of Liberation Theology stems from the fact that I was born in Chile and experienced the attempts there to see this theological prism imp I’ve had a longing to understand how the beliefs of BLM, the Black church in America, and Black Liberation Theology all intersected. In James Cone’s Black Liberation Theology (The Fortieth Anniversary Edition) I encountered a black approach to the Liberation Theology which to me was made popular originally in South America by Gustavo Gutierrez. My understanding of Liberation Theology stems from the fact that I was born in Chile and experienced the attempts there to see this theological prism imposed upon the faithful. The spectrum desired by Liberation Theologians to be lived out by South American Christians was for the Bible to show them that their white European Christian counterparts had vastly obscured key issues such as social justice, exploitation, and liberation of the poor and oppressed. Though the Scriptures address and deal with the poor in many places, for example (Luke 4:16-21, Matthew 25:31-45, etc.,) Liberation Theology seeks to provide an answer as to how to remedy the issue of oppression, exploitation and poverty. As I said, though the poor have always had a pivotal place in the Scriptures, in Liberation movements, these points are often drowned out and important elements of the Christian faith are deemphasized. This is especially true as the new approach is intertwined with Marxism. In A Black Theology of Liberation, Cone makes it clear that God is always on the side of the blacks who are oppressed. This is because ‘true’ theology is never to be interpreted outside of the context of one’s (in this case black folks) community. “This is so because God is revealed in Jesus as a God whose righteousness is inseparable from the weak and helpless in human society. The goal of black theology is to interpret God’s activity as related to the oppressed black community.” Pg. 5. So as we learn that Israel was oppressed during the Egyptian captivity, the plight of the black community can also be seen through a similar lens of oppression and liberation. Cone says that this is the way God is introduced to use in the Scriptures, “God is revealed as the God of the oppressed, involved in their history, liberating them from human bondage.” Pg. 2. Cone is also quick to reject a variety of approaches to theology. For example a white approach to doing theology is anathema to Cone. He says, “In passing, it may be worthwhile to point out that whites are in no position whatever to question the legitimacy of black theology. Questions like ‘Do you think theology is black?’ or ‘What about others who suffer?’ are the product of minds incapable of black thinking. It is not surprising that those who reject blackness in theology are usually whites who do not question the blue-eyed white Christ.” Pg. 8. Cone goes on to make a clear delineation of good and evil within the context of black and white people; “It is hard to believe that whites are worried about black theology on account of its alleged alienation of other sufferers. Oppressors are not genuinely concerned about any oppressed group. It would seem rather that white rejection of black theology stems from a recognition of the revolutionary implications in its very name: a reaction of whiteness, an unwillingness to live under it, and an identification of whiteness with evil and blackness with good.” Pg. 8-9. The Calvinistic approach, according to Cone, is also unfit for black theology. The reason being is that truth for Cone is defined by the black experience which only a black person can live. Truth in this sense is subjective! Note what Cone says regarding truth: “In the struggle for truth in a revolutionary age, there can be no principles of truth, no absolutes, not even God. For we realize that, though the reality of God must be the presupposition of theology (the very name implies this – theos and logos), we cannot speak of God at the expense of the oppressed.” Pg. 19. Again, in keeping with the subjective and relativistic ethical basis of black theology, Cone says; “we can say that the definition of truth for the black thinker arises from a passionate encounter with black reality. Though that truth may be described religiously as God, it is not the God of white religion but the God of black existence. There is no way to speak of this objectively; truth is not objective. It is subjective, a personal experience of the ultimate in the midst of degradation. Passion is the only appropriate response to this truth.” Pg. 21. One wonders, given Cone’s relativistic definition of truth, if it (truth) is subjective then anything he says is rendered meaningless because it can change at any moment. Without objective truth nothing can be really true and this assertion is simply impossible. The only things that becomes true is what you assert and this can be done in a variety of ways, especially through force backed by one’s experience. Perhaps if Cone wishes to be consistent he must say, ‘nothing is objectively true – including my own relativistic position. So you are free to accept my view or reject it.’ Cone’s ethical relativism misses on a crucial test of internal consistency. The idea that ‘something can be true for one person but false for another’ fails to meet its own criterion for truth. Think about it, if while a worldview can be intelligibly and logically consistent yet still be false, no worldview can be true if it contradicts itself and this is precisely where Cone is headed right from the onset. Cone is not done with Calvin but alludes to three evils that are problematic for blacks, “Other Protestant reformers, especially Calvin and Wesley, did little to make Christianity a religion for the politically oppressed in society. Though no one can be responsible for everything that is done in their name, one may be suspicious of the easy affinity among Calvinism, capitalism, and slave trading.” Pg. 35. Cone’s definition of truth runs contrary to what Calvin teaches regarding truth. John Calvin in his commentary on Titus, says that “All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it; for it has come from God. Besides, all things are of God; and, therefore, why should it not be lawful to dedicate to his glory everything that can properly be employed for such a purpose?” (See Calvin’s Commentaries on – Titus 1:12) Calvin asserts a similar idea in his Institutes, “Therefore, in reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth displayed in them should remind us, that the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we would avoid offering insult to him, not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears. (II.2.15).” Calvin’s statement is consistent with all ‘Calvinistic’ and reformed theology because if something is true, it is because it is something that has been revealed by God, or because it is an accurate understanding of the nature of something created by God, or because it is an accurate description of something decreed by God. In other words, a God-centered view of truth demands that we affirm that all truth is God’s truth. That which is true is true because God said it, created it, or decreed it. This is Calvin and Cone rejects this and much more which I can’t touch on because of the length of my review. But Cone makes some interesting, and I’m being charitable, statements which led me to question a lot of what he said and make immediate conclusions about him and his beliefs. For starters, Cone is as racist as the white racists he excoriates. Why? Because he takes the same approach white racists have taken toward blacks. I’ll let Cone speak for himself, “Blacks know better. They know that whites have only one purpose: the destruction of everything which is not white.” P12. Cone goes on to say that Liberation theologies don’t claim to have all the answers and are open to criticism but insofar as the critiques don’t come from the oppressors, in other words, whites. “White racist theologians are in no position to criticize anything regarding black theology. “White racist theologians are in charge of defining the nature of the gospel and of the discipline for explicating it! How strange! They who are responsible for the evil of racism also want to tell its victims whether bigotry is a legitimate subject matter of systematic theology.” Pg. XVIII in Preface to the 1986 Edition. In this regard Cone is very clear in saying that the oppressor is the white man. Yes, if this comes across as racist, it’s because it is. Cone doesn’t seem to show a desire for forgiveness, redemption or reconciliation between blacks and whites. When Cone discusses the implications of God in black theology in chapter four he does so through the prism of revolution, which leads me to say a few remarks that are worth noting. Cone says that “because whiteness by its very nature is against blackness, the black prophet is a prophet of national doom. He proclaims the end of the ‘American Way,’ for God has stirred the soul of the black community, and now that community will stop at nothing to claim the freedom that is three hundred and fifty years overdue. The black prophet is a rebel with a cause, the cause of over twenty-five million American blacks and all oppressed person everywhere.” Pg. 59. If somehow you are hearing Fight the Power, the lyrics of Public Enemy in your mind, it’s because they embody in their music the theology of black liberation and the unmistakable Malcolm X ethics of achieving the goal of the struggle ‘By any means necessary.’ Chuck D’s lyrics are inarguably a powerful Cone-ian statement, a manifesto for the reignition of a mass movement for the liberation of African-Americans and black power for the new generation. Early on in this review I charged Cone with racism precisely because of his use of terms like “whitey,” which appear to be throughout the book and are in reality veiled calls to violence by blacks against whites. I’ve already mentioned that whites being the oppressor according to Cone are not in a moral position to critique the constructs of black theology. The standard, however, which I employ is the Scriptures themselves. If Cone asserts that there is no absolute truth as he does, and I propose using the revelation of God which is absolute we clash and it is precisely this ethic that Cone utilizes when at times he calls for violence. Cone says, “Christians must fight against evil, for not to fight, not to do everything they can to ease their neighbor’s pain, is to deny the resurrection.” Pg. 149. “To be a disciple of the black Christ is to become black with him. Looting, burning, or the destruction of white property are not primary concerns. Such matters can only be decided by the oppressed themselves who are seeking to develop their images of the black Christ….Nat Turner had no scruples on this issue; and blacks today are beginning to see themselves in a new image. We believe in the manifestation of the black Christ, and our encounter with him defines our values. This means that blacks are free to do what they have to in order to affirm their humanity.” Pg. 130. So if circumstances call for looting & burning to affirm black humanity, does everyone else (White, Latino, Hispanic, Asian, etc.) allow it to happen? Or do we just watch? Is this not violence? Did we not see this very violence throughout the cities of the US in 2020? I saw it and experienced it in person right here where I live in NYC. So how does one interpret these passages in Cone’s work? There is a clear call for black violence against whites. At times Cone seems seriously to endorse immediate violence, and at other times he seems to suggest that violence is more of a possibility than a necessity but a real option that cannot be left off the table. An astute observer of theology and the bible can see that there is a problem with this ‘endorsed’ violent revolution. The fact that it does not represent Christ at all should be telling because when oppressed people rise up through violence, they invariably become the oppressor. Do we need to visit what is currently happening in South Africa? Former oppressors, whites, are being killed and raped and destroyed. The oppressors are in essence grabbing the tools of oppression and dehumanization. Do we not hear these days that one time apologies are not enough? In fact, we now hear talk of reparations and redistribution of land, etc,. In essence, to use the imagery Cone utilizes, ‘blacks’ become ‘white’ through the use of violence. Perhaps one needs to ask Cone, if he is aware about the Bolshevik, Ottoman, Cuban, and / or French revolutions? If Cone is aware of them, as I believe he is, he did not did understand them, as he clearly doesn't understand Nat Turner-- turning him into some kind of saint. The irony in all of this is that a practical outworking of Cone's theology is one wherein it reestablishes and reaffirms the very oppression it seeks to denounce and destroy. Whatever one can say about Cone’s vision about oppression it is this, his black theology does not end oppression, it perpetuates it. According to Cone, however, he does not see the flip side (that he perpetuates more oppression) of the thesis he posits. He only sees that the liberation of blacks is the goal of black theology and it is so not from a desire to eventually see backs become oppressors, as some have criticized, but solely because eliminating oppression is the gospel. Yes, you read that correctly! If you are coming from a conservative orthodox Christian perspective, Cone is redefining the meaning of the gospel. Romans 1:16 is no longer the gospel which is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… In it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. In case you are saying to yourself that Cone seems like a revolutionary you would be right. In fact, he goes on to say that his, “style of doing theology was influenced more by Malcom X than by Martin Luther King, Jr.” Pg. XIX in Preface to the 1986 Edition. I’ve been processing the black/white dynamic for many years now and I’ve lived in predominantly black neighborhoods and have seen injustices both against them by blacks/whites/Hispanics/Latinos and from them toward me (a Hispanic/Latino) and others including whites, Asians and others. What does this mean? Apart from the redemption I experienced in and through the person of Jesus I could not make sense of my own experience in a redemptive fashion. I have been the subject of brutal attacks, being ‘jumped’ by many blacks at one time, being called ‘a cracker’ or other racists names. Even though I was born in Latin America this still happened to me. Was I angry? You bet! But the same thing happened to me when I spent time in a predominantly white neighborhood. What did this te

  4. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Achord

    Cone’s theological learning is superficial, lacks scriptural support, and is ultimately self defeating. He proof-quotes Barth, Tillich, and Bultmann but demonstrates little engagement of their or other writings. Cone rather employs their hermeneutics insofar as they achieve his political ends. I think Cone quoted scripture five times in the entire work. His own view of scripture sees it as a manual for social organization. Cone’s main premise in the treatise is that God is one who fundamentally Cone’s theological learning is superficial, lacks scriptural support, and is ultimately self defeating. He proof-quotes Barth, Tillich, and Bultmann but demonstrates little engagement of their or other writings. Cone rather employs their hermeneutics insofar as they achieve his political ends. I think Cone quoted scripture five times in the entire work. His own view of scripture sees it as a manual for social organization. Cone’s main premise in the treatise is that God is one who fundamentally identifies with the “oppressed community”, and that only the oppressed can truly know God. This precludes whites as oppressors from knowing anything about God or self or the other. Thus, for Cone, white people are outside of Christianity and of being able to make truth claims. Cone goes so far as to say that whites should not be reasoned with but ignored. God identifies with the oppressed, thus salvation is social liberation (salvation) and material elevation (one can see the origins of prosperity gospel). However, the tragedy of Cone’s theology lies with his claim that only the oppressed can know God or claim to be saved/Christians: for, what happens if/when black people finally become liberated? They would no longer be the community of the oppressed, and thus they would no longer be able to identify with or know God. Thus, Cone’s theology of “liberation” ironically requires blacks to remain oppressed forever.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Luke Wagner

    James Cone's magnum opus, "A Black Theology of Liberation," is required reading for anyone interested in African-American expressions of Christianity and theology. Written in the political, social, and cultural climate of the Black Power movement, following the important Civil Rights era, Cone lays down a systematic theology that focuses on race, liberation, and justice--specifically in how Christianity relates to the freedom struggle of Black persons in the U.S. In speaking of "a" Black theolog James Cone's magnum opus, "A Black Theology of Liberation," is required reading for anyone interested in African-American expressions of Christianity and theology. Written in the political, social, and cultural climate of the Black Power movement, following the important Civil Rights era, Cone lays down a systematic theology that focuses on race, liberation, and justice--specifically in how Christianity relates to the freedom struggle of Black persons in the U.S. In speaking of "a" Black theology, it seems to me that Cone leaves it open for other Black theologies and philosophies to speak to the situation of the mid-20th century and the current situation that we face today. In the same way that Martin, Malcolm, Hampton, and Baldwin all lent their respective voices to their contemporary struggle against racism in America, so Cone's voice should and must be included in that conversation then and the ongoing conversation today. My fundamental disagreement with Cone lies in his "by any means necessary" approach to the freedom and liberation struggle. This, at times, leads Cone to inch closer and closer to sanctioning violence against oppressors. I find this to be quite at odds with the posture and mission of Jesus, whose non-violence and peace-making seem to be central to his ministry on behalf of the "oppressed of the land." Jesus' commitment to die for his enemies is not a wimpish response, nor an endorsement of the evil systems of the world. Rather, Jesus' death is the means by which God can restore all things and cast down "the ruler of this world" from his throne. God vindicates the self-sacrificial, enemy-loving, non-violent ministry of Jesus by raising him from the dead. Yet, while I disagree with some of Cone's starting points and conclusions, I overwhelmingly applaud the task that he chose to take up. He did not allow his commitment to theology distance himself from the concrete struggles of the Black community, but actually sought to consider what the gospel could mean for the Black person living in America. For Cone, blackness is much more than skin tone and much more about identity as the "oppressed of the land." It is an existential reality; thus, Cone contends that Jesus himself was Black. Obviously, Jesus was Jewish by birth; by choosing to exist as a Jewish person under the dominance of the Roman Empire, however, Jesus chose to align himself closely with the "oppressed of the land." His message and mission were for the poor. Likewise, the Church's message and missions must be for the poor and the oppressed. If it is not, perhaps we have lost sight of the mission of Jesus and the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Ward

    Incendiary. Cone pulls no punches. His thesis is that a theology that doesn't deal directly with white oppression of blacks in America is not a theology worth considering. A God who doesn't stand with and for oppressed blacks against white oppressors must be killed. A Jesus who is not black and for black liberation is not Christ. Cone refuses to accept theology as a strictly academic discipline, arguing at every step that the only measure of worth for a black theology is whether it dismantles ra Incendiary. Cone pulls no punches. His thesis is that a theology that doesn't deal directly with white oppression of blacks in America is not a theology worth considering. A God who doesn't stand with and for oppressed blacks against white oppressors must be killed. A Jesus who is not black and for black liberation is not Christ. Cone refuses to accept theology as a strictly academic discipline, arguing at every step that the only measure of worth for a black theology is whether it dismantles racist societal and political structures and frees blacks from oppression by whatever means necessary. The tone of this work is angry, and rightfully so. Cone systematically dismantles traditional theology for its white supremacist worldviews, and builds his theology from the ground up, refusing to accept criticism from white theologians. His writing is aflame with righteous fire, his theology clearly explicated. Racism is his main concern, and for him, a theology that doesn't deal substantively with the very real problem and effects of racism in black lives is not Christian. He has been criticized for shallow theology, among other issues, most of which he addresses in the preface to this new edition, some 20 years after the initial publication. This edition also has commentaries by some leading theologians as to the ongoing significance, challenges, and opportunities of black theology and Cone's original ideas. This book serves more as a shot across the bow than as a deep and nuanced theological exploration. But what a shot! Confronting and uncomfortable, but less so for Cone's merciless evisceration of racism and white Christian enabling than for the ugly mirror it holds up to society, Christianity, and white oppression.

  7. 4 out of 5

    M Christopher

    A highly influential work of Black Theology and precursor to the better known Latin American Theology of Liberation movement. Cone was still a very young and very angry man when he initially wrote this classic in 1969 and it shows. This Twentieth Anniversary Edition includes both a preface written in 1986 and an afterword written in 1990. In the preface, Cone moderates some of his more inflammatory language as regards White Christians in relationship with Black Christians but, rightly, maintains A highly influential work of Black Theology and precursor to the better known Latin American Theology of Liberation movement. Cone was still a very young and very angry man when he initially wrote this classic in 1969 and it shows. This Twentieth Anniversary Edition includes both a preface written in 1986 and an afterword written in 1990. In the preface, Cone moderates some of his more inflammatory language as regards White Christians in relationship with Black Christians but, rightly, maintains his insistence that theology must take account of the oppressed if it is to be at all true. In the afterword, he reflects upon the input from six theologians, Black, White, Asian, and Latino, who had likewise reflected upon the original work. Here, he admits his ongoing failure to take appropriate note of sexism but argues for the equality of importance of racism, sexism, and classism in evaluating theology. "Angry young man" rhetoric aside, this is a clear and compelling look at how theology functions in the real world. Every Christian theologian, regardless of nationality, race, gender, or class, owes Cone a debt of gratitude in setting this high bar for how to join theology and ethic. I believe I will refer back to this work in the future as the struggle for justice continues all over the world. I believe that preaching must address the issues held up by Cone. If Christians are not engaged in making the world better for the oppressed, we are far from the path of Jesus.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Where do I start? This is a book I've needed in my life and I am angry at myself for not seeking this out 20 years ago. It is necessary at this point in my life and for that I give thanks. Cone's work is terrifying and beautiful. It grates at me at times because I need to check my "whiteness". It is beautiful to the point of making me weep. To be the Church is to set the captive free. That is so much more than "saving their soul." It is to work toward liberation and always have our eyes on those Where do I start? This is a book I've needed in my life and I am angry at myself for not seeking this out 20 years ago. It is necessary at this point in my life and for that I give thanks. Cone's work is terrifying and beautiful. It grates at me at times because I need to check my "whiteness". It is beautiful to the point of making me weep. To be the Church is to set the captive free. That is so much more than "saving their soul." It is to work toward liberation and always have our eyes on those needing to be set free. It is also to oppose the systems of injustice. Cone does not let up the entire way through this book. The only gospel is a "black gospel" and that is the gospel that will truly set people free. Enough of sitting comfortably and wondering if God actually exists! Enough of my white angst because I didn't understand something at church, or I am mad they didn't meet MY needs! Enough! It is time to believe the gospel and work to set people free. It is time to believe the gospel and set my face against oppressive systems. I am grateful for this work of James Cone.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Brunt

    It has been a month since I picked up this book and started to read. It has weighed heavily on my heart. So heavily. Cone with laser-pointed clarity defines Jesus and Christian theology from his lived experience of black oppression. He passionately and courageously speaks out against oppression. It induces an awful struggle within me. The struggle of this inherited world, the inherited narratives, the struggle in my own body and mind between the indigenous colonised and the white supremacist Chr It has been a month since I picked up this book and started to read. It has weighed heavily on my heart. So heavily. Cone with laser-pointed clarity defines Jesus and Christian theology from his lived experience of black oppression. He passionately and courageously speaks out against oppression. It induces an awful struggle within me. The struggle of this inherited world, the inherited narratives, the struggle in my own body and mind between the indigenous colonised and the white supremacist Christian oppressive coloniser. It’s an overwhelming book. You cannot read it without being profoundly moved. It fills me with both the shame and hope that is humanity. A necessary and important work in liberation theology.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Grason Poling

    (4.5/5) A Black Theology of Liberation is a distillation of raw emotion and a tightly-developed theology. In compelling terms, Cone tells the Black Christian community to take the Gospel and life of Jesus specifically to heart with action. Their long-suffering, perpetuated by the implicit and explicit racism of white America and the particularly nagging silence and apathy of white Christians, is *exactly* why Jesus offers liberation. Cone offers effectively no comfort for white readers, and to a g (4.5/5) A Black Theology of Liberation is a distillation of raw emotion and a tightly-developed theology. In compelling terms, Cone tells the Black Christian community to take the Gospel and life of Jesus specifically to heart with action. Their long-suffering, perpetuated by the implicit and explicit racism of white America and the particularly nagging silence and apathy of white Christians, is *exactly* why Jesus offers liberation. Cone offers effectively no comfort for white readers, and to a greater degree, white Christian readers (for our stagnation is great). It’s a call to see all the depth of our clinging and to open our hands to what this new understanding of the gospel offers for us and to join in the liberation effort.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Richey

    Very interesting and insightful book from a very different context and arriving upon very different conclusions that my own. This book did help me understand a certain perspective much better and provided much to think about. If you decide to read it and are offended or upset by the first chapter or so, keep reading. His ideas deserve a hearing.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Stanley

    In his 'A Black Theology of Liberation,' James Cone shows the relevance of the Gospel to the Black Community (and White Community!) in America (and, by extrapolation, the West as a whole). In this text, Cone wants us to see that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is expressed in the historical struggle of oppressed peoples for liberation. This is what the Gospel means in our current historical context. Cone wants to challenge the ways that we as whites have constructed a picture of Jesus and a narrative In his 'A Black Theology of Liberation,' James Cone shows the relevance of the Gospel to the Black Community (and White Community!) in America (and, by extrapolation, the West as a whole). In this text, Cone wants us to see that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is expressed in the historical struggle of oppressed peoples for liberation. This is what the Gospel means in our current historical context. Cone wants to challenge the ways that we as whites have constructed a picture of Jesus and a narrative of God's activity in the world which fails to challenge instances of oppression and those structures of stability in our lives. I think it would be best to articulate the layers of Cone's thought by looking at various ways he wants to challenge the reader. I will comment on this later in the review, but I believe that Cone's work cannot always be read on "face-value." This means that, at times, Cone employs intentionally shocking language, forgoes nuance, and makes use of black slang in order to incite the reader to a reaction which will cause them to reflect. (1) In this book, Cone seeks to challenge the flattened out picture of Jesus and His Kingdom that has dominated in American Christianity. For example, Cone says that God is not "for" everyone in the same sense. Particularly as Americans, we have an emphasis on equality and 'fairness' which causes us to emphasize the universality of Jesus' love. While Cone does not want to disregard the insight that Jesus' love is for all, he wants to recover the inherent nuance in Jesus' love. Jesus does not love oppressors and the oppressed equally. Jesus loves the oppressed by identifying with them and liberating them. Jesus loves the oppressors by judging them and calling them to repentance. Jesus' love to the white, according to Cone, is the call of the Kingdom to repent of one's acting in complicity with practices and structures of oppression. What was particularly illuminating for me is that this too constitutes liberation! The one who lives within a plastic world built on the backs of the oppression of others has succeeded only in oppressing themselves and enslaving themselves to their own idol. Thus, the freedom of the black is also the freedom of the white. But, for the white, this liberation will sting mightily because it will mean a loss of comfort and stability. As long as blacks continue to be trapped in their current situation, whites will continue to lead a vapid existence which relies on consumerism, political power, and inwardness to numb their emptiness. Only through the upset of the arrangement where whites define their existence as the powerful and righteous ones and blacks as the non-white, as the dangerous, the non-being, can both groups experience liberation. (2) Cone wants us to see the numerous passages in the Old Testament which describe God's commitment to the poor and oppressed not as anomalous, ambiguous, or irrelevant today. Cone points to the Exodus as the primary event of salvation in the Old Testament (a fact attested to by the Psalms) and how this event expresses God's commitment to the enslaved and their liberation. Israel began as the single man Abraham, and then became an enslaved people group. God's commitment to them expressed itself in liberation. Then, when they were given the land to live in, God provided for the poor through the laws in the Torah. Throughout Israel's history, God continues to identify himself not simply as being for Israel, but as being for the poor and the oppressed of Israel. The kings, money lenders, land lords, and religious leaders came under fire from God because they used their power for their own advantage instead of for the benefit of others. It was on account of such behavior that God destroyed Israel and sent her into exile. (3) Cone wants to remind us that Jesus was not white. Not historically and not theologically. For Cone, being black means being identified with the oppressed. It means to be entangled in the historical experience of suffering at the hands of another. By this metric then, Jesus is most certainly black. Jesus was born into a poor family in a backwater of Israel, an ethnic group who were ruled by an oppressive empire that taxed them heavily and stripped them of their national identity. This is the reality of who Jesus was and thus who Jesus is. Throughout his life, Jesus sided with the outcasts and marginalized of society and rebuked those who exercised their power in an abusive manner. Jesus did not preach a Gospel of 'love and acceptance,' he proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God, which includes both judgment and liberation. (4) Because this is who Jesus was, Cone wants us to see that this is who he still is. Thus, Cone identifies the current struggle of blacks for freedom in this nation as a concrete manifestation of the Kingdom of God. Wherever there is oppression and their is a consequent struggle for freedom, God is on the side of the oppressed. He never sanctions or condones the activities of the oppressors. Cone rails against a blind 'Divine Providence' which simply serves to justify the way things are. "Well, that's what happened and this is how it is. It's the will of the Lord." No, the will of the Lord is the liberation of all people. That much is made clear in the person of Jesus Christ. That much is clear in Scripture, the place where God reveals His will to us. The Kingdom is not a force of stagnation which affirms the status quo, but rather the proclamation of the Kingdom of God is the most disruptive and radical reality in the world. Through a return to the words of Scripture and the historical reality of Jesus' ministry, Cone confronts us with ways that we have watered down the Gospel, used it as a tool to maintain power, or made it into an individualistic quietism that makes us feel good about ourselves while not actually doing anything. There are many more insights in this text that are worthy of note. I do not intend to go into all of them here. I simply want to raise a critique which troubles me about Cone's work. While Cone does supply clarification in various places throughout the text, his work also lends itself to a very anthropological reading of religion. Cone himself confesses the deity of Christ, the historical reality of Jesus, the authority of the Scriptures, and the reality of God's coming Kingdom, but throughout the text he also employs language that lends itself to being twisted in the direction of God and religion simply being a useful postulate for to achieve societal goods. He speaks of Jesus' liberation as allowing the oppressed to see that their impulse for liberation is the same as Jesus' and that he is the power for them to achieve liberation "on their own terms." Throughout the text, Cone also speaks of how if God or Jesus aren't for the liberation of blacks, they are of no use and ought to be discard. My concern then is that, while he makes much of Jesus identification with the oppressed, he seems to overlook how Jesus coming to the oppressed is itself also an act of overturning and judgment. For instance, in the case of the Exodus, God was not the internal principle or hope which drove the Israelites on as they fought for liberty. No, God came in and crushed the Egyptians and brought about things His way. This liberation is in direct opposition to Moses' foolish attempt to free the people through killing the Egyptian taskmaster. Even in the Exodus, some Israelites did not make it out of Egypt because they did not obey God. On the evening of Passover, one had to obey the Lord in order to be passed over and not become an object of judgment. In the case of Jesus, yes, we absolutely have a Jesus who comes to the oppressed Jews, but he frees them through the weakness of the cross and explicitly repudiates his disciple's notions that he has come to free them through armed rebellion. Cone draws on images of armed rebellion throughout and encourages blacks to commit violence against whites. On the one hand, I do not want to disqualify such acts of violence outright because clearly (1) Jesus took violent action against oppressors and (2) white people have a history of taking violent action against their oppressors (that was the foundation of America, right?) and we hail that behavior as heroic. So, we should miss Cone's point that whites have appropriated to themselves violent tactics and have constructed a national mythos built on violent revolution, but I am also disturbed by Cone's overlooking the fact that Jesus' coming is not a simple identification with the oppressed, in the sense that Jesus embraces the terms of the oppressed. Jesus' coming is always a simultaneous judgment and liberation, such that even our notions of liberation may require judgment. We only get to resurrection life by passing through the bloody door of the cross, and that includes even the oppressed (the Israelites had to put blood on their doors too!). This does not justify white behavior and it does not excuse the status quo. It's simply the case that Cone overlooks ways in which the black community itself may be enslaved to their own peculiar sets of idols and sins which Jesus is asking them to give up too. I am not qualified to comment more extensively on those things, not being black myself. But, it seems obvious to me from Scripture that Jesus never unequivocally affirms any one particular group. Jesus doesn't get on our team; we get on Jesus' team. That always means dying to ourselves and giving something up. I don't know what that will look like for a black individual. But I know it needs to happen for everyone one of us as we approach the cross. More to Cone's point though, this book has helped me see what that dying to self and letting go might look like in my life. I highly recommend wrestling with this text. You will be confronted afresh with the reality of Jesus and the proclamation of his Gospel. You will be shaped to be a more effective disciple, and you will be SENT.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jonny

    Best book I've read in a long time. Incisive, sadly relevant, and crucial to listen to. Best book I've read in a long time. Incisive, sadly relevant, and crucial to listen to.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    By spring of 1969, James Cone had two substantial works under his belt: a dissertation on Karl Barth, and the mad-as-hell instant classic Black Theology and Black Power. This book, written that summer, represents Cone's first attempt to combine both those threads of his training and interest. The result is a very distinct work from BTBP: Cone has lost none of his fire, but has organized its expression around reference to the state of the art in mid-twentieth-century European Protestant theology. By spring of 1969, James Cone had two substantial works under his belt: a dissertation on Karl Barth, and the mad-as-hell instant classic Black Theology and Black Power. This book, written that summer, represents Cone's first attempt to combine both those threads of his training and interest. The result is a very distinct work from BTBP: Cone has lost none of his fire, but has organized its expression around reference to the state of the art in mid-twentieth-century European Protestant theology. Its straightforward march through the doctrines and ticking off of the big German names might be stereotypical if the stakes were any lower. As it stands, BToL has a logic all its own, standing as a true Barthian counterpart to the Karl Rahner-isms of A Theology of Liberation. Those theological points of reference, with a few exceptions, have gone out of fashion enough to leave this book feeling somewhat dated. If BTBP feels dated today, by contrast, it is because White America has succeeded in forgetting the Watts and Detroit and Newark riots, for which we should hardly be proud. Cone's liberal heritage is nevertheless inseparable from his considerable achievement here. Take his ontological account of symbolic or spiritual blackness. To define blackness by skin color, for Cone's purposes, is obviously impossible, given the long social history of plantation rape, intermarriage, and one-drop laws. The dichotomy between Black and White, in Cone, only weakly describes bodies: More strictly, it describes identification with and existential struggle alongside the oppressed, poor, and marginalized. The abstraction of bodies into ethical states is a classic liberal move, but here repurposed for radicals. My slightly lower rating for this book than for BTBP reflects less on its objective merits (the two really form one thought) than on the earlier book's uniquely shattering impact. I know several people whose conversion was effected through BTBP; this one lacks that distinction. But if this book did change your life, please let me know. I'd love to hear those stories.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dwight Davis

    This is maybe the most challenging work of theology I've read. Cone writes clearly, and while it's not as technically hard as many books I've read, the challenge Cone presents to theology as a discipline to overcome it's whiteness is scathing and demands to be taken seriously. The thesis of Cone's work is that God is most in solidarity with oppressed people, in this case with the black population of the United States. Cone expands on this by explicating each of the primary doctrines of Christian This is maybe the most challenging work of theology I've read. Cone writes clearly, and while it's not as technically hard as many books I've read, the challenge Cone presents to theology as a discipline to overcome it's whiteness is scathing and demands to be taken seriously. The thesis of Cone's work is that God is most in solidarity with oppressed people, in this case with the black population of the United States. Cone expands on this by explicating each of the primary doctrines of Christian theology in light of the struggle for black liberation. Many of his positions are helpful and challenging. I have a few problems with the text, but they are relatively minor. I feel that Cone is too indebted to Tillich and existential notions of sin. I think that this weakness is a profound one in that it does not take seriously sin as a state of being. Those few critiques are not to say that this book isn't helpful and incredibly important. To ignore the voice of James Cone is to allow the discipline of theology to become irrelevant. EDIT 9/29/16 This is my third time through this book and it never gets any easier. I find myself constantly challenged by Cone's thought. Looking back on the first time I read this three years ago in a pre-Ferguson pre-#blacklivesmatter world, it's amazing to see that Cone's critiques of whiteness and white supremacy are just as relevant today as they were in 1969. I also look back and see what a profound influence Cone had on my own theology, to the point where I think he represents something of a seismic shift in my thought. I can no longer do theology that doesn't aim at liberating the oppressed and critiquing structures of power. I still have my issues with Cone, but I no longer feel as comfortable making them as explicitly as I once did. These days I find myself more interested in sitting under Cone's teaching and learning, all the while trying to convert out of my whiteness and into a more authentic existence of solidarity with the oppressed.

  16. 4 out of 5

    David

    Cone narrates white oppression while interpreting history and theology from the perspective of the black experience. God is black because God identifies with the plight of black people. God sides with the oppressed and opposes the oppressor; therefore, God sides with blacks and opposes whites. Whites must be converted to blackness to receive and announce the gospel, to be saved. I personally wrestled with these ideas while reading. I have many questions, but I'm increasingly convinced that Chris Cone narrates white oppression while interpreting history and theology from the perspective of the black experience. God is black because God identifies with the plight of black people. God sides with the oppressed and opposes the oppressor; therefore, God sides with blacks and opposes whites. Whites must be converted to blackness to receive and announce the gospel, to be saved. I personally wrestled with these ideas while reading. I have many questions, but I'm increasingly convinced that Christianity must be the liberating presence and acts of God. This means I must own and deal with my whiteness and the systemic white supremacy that sustains it. I don't feel guilty for being white. I simply can't continue to reap the benefits of whiteness while calling myself a follower of Jesus. This is difficult. For those not interested in a theological book, I would encourage reading a simple summary of Cone's work and consider the implications.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    This book is a MUST READ for anyone in ministry. I encountered this work during my seminary education about a decade ago. I'm embarrassed and a bit ashamed that my privilege and blindness kept me from realizing its importance and impact. This 20th-anniversary edition, for a work that is now FIFTY years old, is tragically all too relevant and necessary in 2020. I'm grateful for the subconscious "push" I got to read this in the growing aftermath of George Floyd's death. It makes we wonder about my hi This book is a MUST READ for anyone in ministry. I encountered this work during my seminary education about a decade ago. I'm embarrassed and a bit ashamed that my privilege and blindness kept me from realizing its importance and impact. This 20th-anniversary edition, for a work that is now FIFTY years old, is tragically all too relevant and necessary in 2020. I'm grateful for the subconscious "push" I got to read this in the growing aftermath of George Floyd's death. It makes we wonder about my history of sermons I've given in a decade of ministry. As the now-thirty-year-old critiques expand the spectrum of consideration, this work reveals all the work that has been going on, yet all the work that still needs done.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brad Inglis

    James Cone's work in this book is an incredibly raw, human approach to the topic of race and theology, providing a framework which can be applied to any oppression suffered in our material world. Cone's writing on theological method makes this work accessible to anyone, while not skimping out on the important topics (as we see in his discussion on natural theology). By identifying God as black, and reading the bible in a revolutionary lens, Cone puts the white, oppressive church of the slave mas James Cone's work in this book is an incredibly raw, human approach to the topic of race and theology, providing a framework which can be applied to any oppression suffered in our material world. Cone's writing on theological method makes this work accessible to anyone, while not skimping out on the important topics (as we see in his discussion on natural theology). By identifying God as black, and reading the bible in a revolutionary lens, Cone puts the white, oppressive church of the slave master on blast, and gives a hopeful message of justice to all of us living under oppressive structures.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Freddie

    This book by Dr. Cone was amazing. It is not reciprocal hatred as some poster tried to put it. It is Cone's attempt to make the Christian Gospel relevant to African-Americans in the environment in which they lived. This work by Dr. Cone, I think, is relevant to any group that is marginalized by the powers of a society. He doesn't claim (or care) that Christ is black-but unreservedly claims that Christ ALWAYS identifies with the powerless in a society against those with all the power. This book by Dr. Cone was amazing. It is not reciprocal hatred as some poster tried to put it. It is Cone's attempt to make the Christian Gospel relevant to African-Americans in the environment in which they lived. This work by Dr. Cone, I think, is relevant to any group that is marginalized by the powers of a society. He doesn't claim (or care) that Christ is black-but unreservedly claims that Christ ALWAYS identifies with the powerless in a society against those with all the power.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sean Watkins

    Incredible read. Though 45 years old and definitely speaking to a heavy racially charged time, Dr. Cone affirms the Black (descendant of slave) experience in America with a prophetic voice. He brings new light in what the meaning and application of the gospel means for the least of these. That the book still affirms--in some ways--the plight of Black people in America means there is still more to do...even 45 years later.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Austin

    Every churchperson should read this book. For years I thought this subject matter was confined to small circles; who knew it would be at the forefront of a national discussion about our next president?!

  22. 5 out of 5

    T.Kay Browning

    By far the most significant thing I have read in my first year of seminary.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jasonlylescampbell

    This was a poweful hardhitting important book. It was a book that makes you uncomfortable and forces you to see that reading Christian theology should make you uncomfortable if you are white and wealthy. Written in 1970, it is willing to address a very troubling American landscape as far as race. Cone wanders among various theologions (Tillich, Barth, Bultmann, Niebuhr to name a few) but also Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X as well as Camus, Fannon, Marx of other disciplines. I think in one This was a poweful hardhitting important book. It was a book that makes you uncomfortable and forces you to see that reading Christian theology should make you uncomfortable if you are white and wealthy. Written in 1970, it is willing to address a very troubling American landscape as far as race. Cone wanders among various theologions (Tillich, Barth, Bultmann, Niebuhr to name a few) but also Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X as well as Camus, Fannon, Marx of other disciplines. I think in one of the introductions to a new addition or maybe in the afterward he says that Black Theology is "Black"-drawing from Malcolm X and "Theology"-drawing from King. Again, if you are not familier with both Malcolm and King this is a good place to start. Reminding me of Bonhoeffer, he does not allow theology and Christianity to be an abstraction. It is real people and real action and in this world and right now. "God's revelation has nothing to do with white suburban ministry admonishing their congregation to be nice to black persons. It has nothing to do with voting for open occupancy or holding a memorial service for Martin Luther King Jr. God's revelation means a radical encounter with the structures of power which King fought against to his death. It is what happens in a black ghetto when the ghettoized decide to strike against their enemies. In a word, God's revelation means liberation--nothing more, nothing less." 46 I imagine that some people are bothered by the violent language and by the consistent pitting of black against white in the book. I would implore you to realize how much this happens the other way and you don't notice. It is especially helpful if you know about the history of racism and mistreatment of black americans. "The white God is an idol created by racists, and we blacks must perform teh iconoclastic task of smashing false images." 59 And you surely must see that over and over again Cone is right! On p62 he is warning against "so-called white revolutionary theologians" - "What is most disturbing about their proclaimed identification with black power is their inability to let us speak for ourselves." Cone briefly touches on other theological issues from that time like the death of god movement "The death-of-God question is a white issue which arises out of the white experience. Questions like 'How do we find meaning and purpose in a world in which God is absent?' are questions of an affluent society. Whites may wonder how to find purpose for their lives, but our purpose is forced upon us ..." Since these are exactly the questions I ask, it is good to be pulled out of my affluent world and learn from Dr. James Cone. My copy is the 20th anniversary so it has multiple critiques at the end. Cone and others acknowledge that the book doesn't address class or gender as much as it should. He discusses this in his 1986 introduction and they discuss in the various follow on essays.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alex Tongue

    This book is such a strange thing. On one hand, it's a powerful critique of whiteness and white theology, showing the importance of the liberative aspects of the gospel while tearing down the overemphasis of a weak, white Christianity. On the other, Cone's use of a Barthian approach really just doesn't work. You can tell this is the work of a younger theologian (he was only 35!) still getting out of the biases of his schooling. Cone definitely uses Barth's emphasis on revelation to justify his l This book is such a strange thing. On one hand, it's a powerful critique of whiteness and white theology, showing the importance of the liberative aspects of the gospel while tearing down the overemphasis of a weak, white Christianity. On the other, Cone's use of a Barthian approach really just doesn't work. You can tell this is the work of a younger theologian (he was only 35!) still getting out of the biases of his schooling. Cone definitely uses Barth's emphasis on revelation to justify his liberation theology; he almost definitely didn't arrive at his theology via Barth's method. And that's fine. Cone himself recognizes the error in his preface that he wrote 15 years later. It's why I don't actually have much of a problem with his theological errors (his restriction of revelation to JUST God' encounter with the oppressed is sketchy). As a white man, the main takeaway I got was that I must shed my white identity and like Christ, identify with the oppressed. The language of Jesus as black fits perfectly here, and I have no theological problem with it. It makes the radical nature of Christ as the One Who Overturns the World much more apparent. I'm going to have to spend a lot more time with this book. EDIT: I thought more about Cone's eschatological approach, and I really, really like it. He's very Bultmannian, but he does Bultmann better by still engaging historical and material realities. Bultmann rightly wants to avoid the eschatological event as a historical event, meaning that he wants to avoid designating the event as a finite, definite instance in history that has an end. However, we run into issues of disengagement with materiality: what would the plight of the oppressed even mean if Christ on the cross was ahistorical? While Christ subverts expectations, there is still a concrete nature to salvation and to eschatology - we will live on a new Earth, where all things will be made new, meaning that they will not be destroyed or done away with. A real eschatology cannot be reached without liberation for the oppressed. Christ fulfills this, and because His crucifixion and resurrection are ever-unfolding, eternal events, we are able to participate in them continually. Participation means taking sides with the oppressed, the poor, and the outcast. If we believe the gospel, we actively partake in the continual End.

  25. 4 out of 5

    A.J. Mendoza

    James Cone has an original theology indeed. Not in regards to liberation, but the narrowing of liberation to that of "blacks" as the oppressed identity and "whites" as the oppressor identity. The theology itself has many positive implications, such as the need to recognize the identity of Christ as the Oppressed One, the state of sin being the resistance and rejection of God's liberating power and the uncomfortable question of "How should the Church respond but to injustice and the ones causing James Cone has an original theology indeed. Not in regards to liberation, but the narrowing of liberation to that of "blacks" as the oppressed identity and "whites" as the oppressor identity. The theology itself has many positive implications, such as the need to recognize the identity of Christ as the Oppressed One, the state of sin being the resistance and rejection of God's liberating power and the uncomfortable question of "How should the Church respond but to injustice and the ones causing the injustice?" The area of contestation for me as a reader the endorsing of violence to cause black liberation amongst a white society. I do not understand how Christ can be called both the Black Messiah and the Oppressed One, one's who life demonstrated nonviolence as a means of victory and liberation, and be a launching pad for "black power" being the ammunition to take down the white man. Would this not transform "blackness" into "whiteness," turning the oppressed into the oppressor? Would this not change the identification of God, which always aligns with the oppressed within society according to Cone, into a white God instead of a black God? The actual fulfillment of black liberation seems to be the end of a theology of liberation if liberation was actually realized in the manner desired by Cone and similar radicals. With all that being said, I enjoyed the challenging theology and the expansion of understanding through the posing of different and more black questions. I would not recommend this to laymen who would either find great offense or find reason for violence.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brian Dukes

    This is definitely a challenging book. There are many parts of it which I wholly disagree with, and there are many parts which have a strong impact and challenge me deeply. Cone seems content to redefine almost every theological term in order to fit his vision of a black Jesus who is embodied in the liberation, by any means necessary, of the black community in America (while redefining "black" in the process). He starts by stating this position as a fact, and only 2/3 of the way through the book This is definitely a challenging book. There are many parts of it which I wholly disagree with, and there are many parts which have a strong impact and challenge me deeply. Cone seems content to redefine almost every theological term in order to fit his vision of a black Jesus who is embodied in the liberation, by any means necessary, of the black community in America (while redefining "black" in the process). He starts by stating this position as a fact, and only 2/3 of the way through the book gives any sort of justification for this position, and the justification given, in my opinion, is too little to defend many of his assertions. That said, written in the midst of the Black Power movement, the book's condemnation of the church in America is something which must be reckoned with. Without having to agree to the premise of the book, I can very much agree with many of the observations, and respond with both a better understanding of the historical and current situation that America finds itself in, as well as a deep desire to alleviate the suffering and oppression within America, specifically against blacks (though Cone's expanded definition of "black" can also include other minorities and oppressed peoples). All in all, I'm glad to have read through the book, and found it useful in many ways, both towards understanding and towards action, even if I have major disagreements and can't freely recommend it to others.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    This book wasn't intended for me, but I'm grateful to God for it. Whatever one thinks about liberation theologies, I'm finding them (white male that I am) to be a bit like the Emmaus and Damascus roads - just as secular a place as any, but also a place where Jesus likes to show up. What James Cone only notes in a preface to a revised edition, written some years later, is that oppression is multifaceted. I'm not sure the line between oppressor and oppressed are as black and white as he originally This book wasn't intended for me, but I'm grateful to God for it. Whatever one thinks about liberation theologies, I'm finding them (white male that I am) to be a bit like the Emmaus and Damascus roads - just as secular a place as any, but also a place where Jesus likes to show up. What James Cone only notes in a preface to a revised edition, written some years later, is that oppression is multifaceted. I'm not sure the line between oppressor and oppressed are as black and white as he originally portrayed it. For a white man, this may mean my demons are legion, but it also might mean "he who is without sin let him cast the first stone." Only years later could James have the scales of sexism (and maybe, following his definition, we could call this "whiteness") fall from his own eyes. Yet to read James defensively (especially as we evangelicals are prone to do) is to miss the work of the Holy Spirit through him. This book was a prophetic voice, still echoing today - a call which ought to shake every white Christian to the core. James doesn't tell us how a white man can be saved, but I have to wonder if it doesn't at least begin with asking the question.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    This is one of those books with which I have profound disagreements, yet abiding sympathy for its starting point. Written first in 1969, James Cone was deeply bothered by the failure of most of the white (especially American) theological tradition to address the issue of racism and injustice. This led him to a wholesale reworking of the traditional Christian faith through the theme of liberation from oppression. Such a project will always doomed to failure from the start, and this book is no exc This is one of those books with which I have profound disagreements, yet abiding sympathy for its starting point. Written first in 1969, James Cone was deeply bothered by the failure of most of the white (especially American) theological tradition to address the issue of racism and injustice. This led him to a wholesale reworking of the traditional Christian faith through the theme of liberation from oppression. Such a project will always doomed to failure from the start, and this book is no exception to that rule. Cone’s project is a human theological system that denies the authority of Scripture and obscures the gospel. Yet his initial starting point (the lack of faithful Christian reflection on racism) remains a valid critique. Unfortunately, the solution is the one Cone disregarded: a deeper submission to the authority of the Scriptures that are both the only source and standard for all human theological reflection.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Murray

    Rev. Dr. James Cone does not pull punches-- nor does he necessarily throw them in this book. For those unaccustomed to reading a theological tradition other than mainline evangelical, this book is confusing, startling, triggering, and difficult. That is why I chose to read it. It took me multiple starts and restarts over the years. What Dr. Cone states is needed to be heard by those of us who are far removed from the life of the African American community. I am still unsure about how I truly rega Rev. Dr. James Cone does not pull punches-- nor does he necessarily throw them in this book. For those unaccustomed to reading a theological tradition other than mainline evangelical, this book is confusing, startling, triggering, and difficult. That is why I chose to read it. It took me multiple starts and restarts over the years. What Dr. Cone states is needed to be heard by those of us who are far removed from the life of the African American community. I am still unsure about how I truly regard the conclusions of this book. But for those who are wondering what Rev Warmack believes: read this. For those wondering what Liberation Theology is: read this. For those wanting to think about the implications of the incarnation: read this. Do not read this book if you are unwilling to be challenged theologically and politically. This book was incredibly challenging, but made light of a lot of the civil rights conversations during the protests following the killing of George Floyd.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    This book is written for Black Christians. Therefore, this book is not written for me, as I am not Black and I do not have the life experiences that would give me full understanding or power from reading this book. Nevertheless, I think it is an essential book for understanding who God is for a Black American. Cone's answer to questions of why suffering exists and how the Christian can live in a world of oppression (and a world where white Christians were the oppressors) helped broaden my own fa This book is written for Black Christians. Therefore, this book is not written for me, as I am not Black and I do not have the life experiences that would give me full understanding or power from reading this book. Nevertheless, I think it is an essential book for understanding who God is for a Black American. Cone's answer to questions of why suffering exists and how the Christian can live in a world of oppression (and a world where white Christians were the oppressors) helped broaden my own faith and understand God differently/more fully. For white friends reading anti-racism books, I would recommend reading those books first before reading this one. It is very good to read what POC theologians say! But some statements are hard to hear if you are white and have never done the work to deal with your own white fragility or racism. Very good book, but because it's not meant for us, we need to do some work before reading this one.

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