The two books by De La Torre are concerned with liberation theology, one of the contemporary approaches that emerged in the twentieth century. Liberation theology has suffered rejection and criticism, but it has radically changed what it means to do Christian theology.
In Liberation Theology for Armchair Theologians, which is part of larger series of introductory books, De La Torre does a wonderful job in presenting what liberation theology is in a simple way. As a part of the Armchair series, the book is purposely written for the novice with no theological training. De La Torre introduces the historical background from which liberation theology emerges, the South American context that strongly influences the discourse, and the important figures, and he explains how liberation theology put more emphasis on orthopraxis than on orthodoxy. Liberation theology comes from the margins and uses the eyes of the margins to interpret the whole of Christian theology. It seeks to liberate society from structural oppression. The forte of this book is its daring attempt in disclosing how theology is never unrelated to reality. Rather, theology is either about helping the oppressors and their endeavors in maintaining the status quo or about becoming a fuel to subvert the system and transform the society. [End Page 612]
De La Torre defends liberation theology from an accusation that it is a form of Marxism because it incorporates sociopolitical analysis into its methodology. He states that “Marx may be one of many conversation partners, but he can never be the sole guide into the future” (p. 61). Since the book is introductory, it would not really be useful for scholars. Further, the author covers only the older generation of liberation theologians, neglecting recent developments or younger theologians.
Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins is revised and expanded from the 2004 original and is specifically dedicated to elaborate Christian ethics from the lens of liberation theology. It is an attempt by De La Torre to shift the discourse of Christian ethics by integrating a hermeneutical mode of liberation theology. If Christian ethics begins with certain “truth” derived from dogmatic or biblical precepts, and ethics is treated as an endeavor to apply the “truth,” De La Torre emphasizes praxis that could redefine what is perceived before as the “truth.” The first way reflects an approach from the center, while the second comes from the margins. He believes that Christian ethics could really embody God’s will only through using the eyes of the margins.
The hermeneutical circle proposed in this book has five steps. The first step is “observing” where Christians identify the problem. The second is “reflecting,” which includes social analysis as a tool to scrutinize injustice and oppression. Third is theological and biblical analysis on the problem or “praying.” Fourth, ethicists must formulate an actual plan for implementing praxis or “acting.” The last step is “reassessing” where new ethical perspectives emerge. The bulk of this book contains an analysis on using this five-step hermeneutical lens on various issues that he differentiates in three clusters: global, national, and business. Those are examples of how Christian ethics from the margins could be done in the context of the United States. This book is an excellent example of how liberation theology impacts on Christian theology, particularly in the field of ethics. It also shows how Christian ethics should impact real life. The inclusion of social analysis makes this book suitable for those interested in the study of ethics in general, not only within Christianity. However, its strong emphasis on doing Christian ethics in the U.S. context, especially the case studies, makes this...