Critics of liberation theology have often charged that it reduces faith to politics. In response, proponents have argued that it advances an encompassing, or integral, sense of liberation. This chapter shows that this debate illuminates a set of basic philosophical differences between supporters and detractors, especially around issues of methodology, hermeneutics, metaphysics, and praxis. The author proposes to explore these issues not through the familiar categories of faith and politics but rather through the categories of the ethical and the aesthetic, especially as they are developed by pragmatic philosopher John Dewey. This approach has the added advantage of reconciling two theological traditions that are closely related: Latin American liberation theology, which in its early years tended to emphasize the ethical and political dimensions of faith, and U.S. Latino theology, which tends to emphasize the cultural and aesthetic dimensions of faith. Though the author draws on Dewey’s religious thought, a case is made that simple recourse to Dewey’s A Common Faith is not enough. Rather, a careful and critical reconstruction of Dewey’s philosophy of religion demands that one looks at other core areas of his thought, including his metaphysics, social psychology, and theory of education.
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