Journal of Latin American Theology, Volume 11, Number 2
208 Pages

Journal of Latin American Theology, Volume 11, Number 2

208 Pages


Journal of Latin American Theology: Christian Reflections from the Latino South
Special Issue on the 2015 Sao Paulo Conference on the Occasion of the FTL's 45th Anniversary
Vol. 11, No. 2, Fall 2016
This issue of our Journal of Latin American Theology: Christian Reflections from the Latino South brings together some of the most representative papers from the FTL's 2015 continental conference, "45 Years of the FTL and Contemporary Theological Borders," held in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Building on the milestones of that past, participants faced the challenges of the present and future. Herein, Brazilian theologians and practitioners offer reflections on the FTL's early days, Pentecostal theology, the intended "irrelevance" of the church, the oral nature of the Gospels, and race relations within church and society. Spanish-speaking theologians and practitioners discuss public theology and the joyful dreams of God the Creator. A presentation of theological poetry rounds out this issue.



Published by
Published 14 November 2016
Reads 0
EAN13 9781725250239
Language English
Document size 8 MB

Legal information: rental price per page €. This information is given for information only in accordance with current legislation.


ISSN 1669-8649
Journal of Latin American
Theology: Christian Reflections
from the Latino South
A publication of the
Fraternidad Teológica Latinoamericana
Vol. 11, No. 2
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 1 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Fraternidad Teológica Latinoamericana
President: Eva Esther Morales
Secretary of Publications: Edesio Sánchez Cetina
Journal of Latin American Theology: Christian Reflections from the Latino South
Editor: Lindy Scott
Managing Editor: Gretchen Abernathy
Graphic Design: Grupo Nivel Uno, Inc.
Translations: Gretchen Abernathy, Lindy Scott
Editorial and advertising address:
Lindy Scott, Whitworth University
Westminster Hall
300 W. Hawthorne Road
Spokane, WA 99251
Phone: 509-777-4837
Editorial and subscription e-mail:
Subscription rates: One year (two issues) $35 for David Mesquiati de Oliveira, eds., FTL 45 anos
individuals; $75 for institutions; $85 for institu- e as fronteiras teológicas na contemporaneidade:
tions outside of the United States; single copy Consulta Continental 2015 (São Paulo: Garimpo,
$20. For airmail add $5 per subscription per 2016); volume 40/41 of the FTL Collection. All
year. Bulk rate: $5 less per subscription per year articles have been translated and reprinted with
for 5 or more copies sent to the same address. the permission of both the authors and the
ediAddress all subscription correspondence to tors.
Lindy Scott, Whitworth University,
WestminUnless otherwise noted, the Scripture quota-ster Hall, 300 W. Hawthorne Road, Spokane, WA
tions contained herein are from the Holy Bible, 99251 or email
New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©
Journal of Latin American Theology: Christian 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used
Reflections from the Latino South © (ISSN 1669- by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
8649) is published twice a year by the
FraterniScripture quotations labeled GW are taken from dad Teológica Latinoamericana (FTL), in care of
GOD’S WORD®, © 1995 God’s Word to the Lindy Scott. All unsolicited editorial
contribuNations. Used by permission of Baker Publish-tions must be accompanied by a letter of
introing Group.duction and sent by email to lscott@whitworth.
edu. Submissions in Spanish, Portuguese, and Scripture quotations labeled CJB are taken from
English are accepted. the Complete Jewish Bible © 1998 by David H.
Stern. All rights reserved.This periodical is indexed in the ATLA Religion
Database®, published by the American The views expressed herein do not necessarily
Theological Library Association, 300 S. Wacker represent the positions of the FTL.
Dr., Suite 2100, Chicago, IL 60606
Copyright © 2016 Fraternidad Teológica Latino-Email:
All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations This periodical is also indexed in the Christian
in critical publications or reviews, no part of this Periodical Index.
journal may be reproduced in any manner
withThis issue is available as a stand-alone copy for out prior written permission from the editor.
purchase, ISBN 978-1-5326-1290-9.
Printed and distributed by Wipf and Stock
PubThe majority of the articles in this issue are lishers, 199 W. 8th Ave., Eugene, OR 97401.
selections adapted from the bilingual Portu-
guese/Spanish volume: Alexander Fajardo and
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 2 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Contents
05 Letter from the Editor
Lindy Scott
11 Welcome to the FTL’s 2015 Continental Conference
(São Paulo): 45 Years of the FTL and Contemporary
Theological Borders
Lyndon de Araújo Santos
15 Forty-Five Years of the FTL and its Biblical Theology:
A Bit of Theology along the Way…and Mary
Valdir Steuernagel
35 Towards a Biblical Public Theology
Pedro Arana Quiroz
61 A Culture of Values and Justice: Public Theology
through Latin American Protestant Christianity
Tomás Gutiérrez Sánchez
103 The FTL, Pentecostal Theology, and the Academy in
David Mesquiati de Oliveira
121 Church and Culture: On the Border between Relevance
and Weakness
Jonathan Menezes
135 The Gospel in Latin America: Between Narrative and
Sidney de Moraes Sanches
157 Racial Diversity: A Fairy Tale?
Marco Davi de Oliveira
169 In Defense of Life and Harmony
Jocabed Reina Solano Miselis
185 Evangelical Declaration of Cochabamba
189 Book review – The Lausanne Movement: 3A Range of Perspectives
197 Theopoetry – La Espíritu de Dios / The Spirit of God
Luis Cruz-Villalobos
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 3 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.The Fraternidad Teológica Latinoamericana (FTL; known in English as
the Latin American Theological Fellowship) is a movement of followers
of Jesus Christ. Since its beginning in 1970, it has promoted spaces for
theological refection and action contextualized within our wonderful,
yet hurting, Latin America. The diversity of the Christian community and
a commitment to the Kingdom of God and its implementation in the life
and mission of the Latin American church characterize our gatherings of
fellowship and dialogue.
We yearn for a Latin American church that, transformed by the Word
and the Spirit into an agent of the kingdom of God and God’s justice,
ministers in every area of society.
The FTL, as part of the church, provides opportunities for dialogue
and biblical-theological refection from Latin America.
• To promote refection on the gospel and on its signifcance for
human beings and Latin American society. Toward this end,
the FTL stimulates the development of an evangelical thinking
that is attentive to the questions of life within a Latin Ameri -
can context. The FTL recognizes the normative character of the
Bible as the written Word of God and seeks to listen, under the
Holy Spirit’s direction, to the biblical message in relation to the
relativities of our concrete situations.
• To create a framework for dialogue among people who con -
fess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and who are willing to
refect biblically in order to communicate the gospel within
Latin American cultures.
• To contribute to the life and mission of the evangelical church -
es in Latin America, without attempting to speak for them or
assuming the position of being their spokesperson in the Latin
American continent.
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 4 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Letter from the Editor
rom June 4 to 6, 2015, followers of Jesus Christ from around FLatin America came together in São Paulo, Brazil to attend the
FTL’s 2015 continental conference, “45 Years of the FTL and
Contemporary Theological Borders.” They gathered to commemorate
forty-fve years of God’s blessing upon the Fraternidad Teólogica
Latinoamericana (FTL, Latin American Theological Fellowship).
Nevertheless, participants did not dwell upon the past. They faced
the challenges of the present and future by building on the
milestones of the journey. This issue of our Journal of Latin American
Theology: Christian Refections from the Latino South brings
together some of the most representative papers from the conference.
Given that Brazilian theology is typically even less available to the
English-speaking world than theological works originally written
in Spanish, we have given special preference to the presentations
originally written in Portuguese.
Brazilian historian Lyndon Araújo sets the banquet table for the
São Paulo conference. He takes up the challenge of borders and
frontiers, those places where human differences, be they cultural,
theological, or intergenerational, are evident. He then highlights
some of the most pressing borders that need to be addressed in
light of the historical, biblical, theological, and hermeneutical
emphases of the FTL’s legacy of integral mission. The tremendous
numerical growth of a wide diversity of Protestants, Pentecostals,
and Neo-Pentecostals makes us even more responsible before God
to address the vital issues of economic poverty, racial
discrimination, and religious diversity with courage and deep faith in God.
Lindy Scott, editor of the Journal of Latin American Theology, is
Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies at Whitworth
University in Spokane, Washington. A long-term member of the
FTL, he has served on the board as Treasurer. He edited the book El
cuidado de la creación y el calentamiento global: Perspectivas del
5Sur y del Norte (Wipf & Stock).
Vol. 11, No. 2
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 5 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Letter from the Editor
The following article contains the address presented by Valdir
Steuernagel, one of the most respected theologians in Brazil today.
Valdir was just a young seminarian involved in campus ministry
when he was invited to participate in the FTL. He tells stories that
reveal the warmth and deep sense of mission that characterized the
FTL in those early days. I was especially impressed—both inspired
and subsequently saddened—by the process of writing, honing,
and publishing those initial FTL presentations. Valdir narrates that
presenters would be selected several months in advance, write their
essays, and then circulate them among all who would be attending
the event. Two participants would provide written responses to
each presentation. The conferences themselves were comprised of
verbal presentations, responses, and group discussions. Presenters
would then rework their papers accordingly before the editor of the
published compilation of the conference proceedings gave them
one last polish. The fnal work was a collective contribution of the
FTL to a world in crisis. Forty-fve years out from this model, we at
more recent FTL conferences and in other venues, with the
growing individualism evident in most presentations, can take a lesson
from this communal methodology.
In the next article, Peruvian pastor and founding FTL member
Pedro Arana addresses the subject of public theology. The feld
itself is rather recent and, in Latin America, is explored almost
exclusively in Brazil. Pedro analyzes the contents of public
theology in Latin America from a Reformed, biblical perspective. He
concentrates on the work of the leading public theologian in
Brazil, Rudolf von Sinner. Pedro points out public theology’s potential
usefulness as well as some of its weaknesses, with an eye toward
a biblical public theology. He also highlights the similarities and
differences between public theology and the FTL’s theology of
integral mission.
6 In a complementary article, sociologist and historian Tomás
---- Gutiérrez provides an abundance of historical evidence that
Latin American Theology
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 6 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Letter from the Editor
demonstrates the presence of public theology in the life of Latin
American Protestants/evangelicals over the last two centuries. He
documents this theological emphasis in the papers and
conclusions from the Protestant congresses of Panama (1916), Montevideo
(1925), and Havana (1929). He then demonstrates how Peruvian
Protestants are practicing this theology in their public fght against
corruption in his country. Especially illuminating are Tomás’
examples of democracy and justice in the typical day-to-day life of
Latin American Protestant denominations.
Next, Brazilian theologian David Mesquiati addresses the thorny
relationship between the FTL, Pentecostal theology, and the
academy in Brazil. He analyzes why these three actors have not always
understood or appreciated each other. He then offers serious
proposals for improving these relationships, including actions for the
FTL to implement. Even readers who are not associated with the
FTL, Pentecostalism, or academic institutions will fnd
thoughtful and challenging suggestions for individual and interpersonal
In his article “Church and Culture: On the Border between
Relevance and Weakness,” Brazilian theologian and professor Jonathan
Menezes tackles the tough question of how relevant the church
should be. The common answer is that the church should be as
relevant as possible, but Jonathan brings a necessary, sober caution
to this goal. He challenges the church (and every reader) to seek
to be like Jesus, more than to be relevant or successful. It is in the
“weakness” and “irrelevance” of Jesus that the church will fulfll
its vocation.
Sidney de Moraes Sanches launches a masterful challenge in
his article, “The Gospel in Latin America: Between Narrative and
Testimony.” Christian theology in general and Protestant theology
in particular typically have given priority to a discourse of
propositions. As such, narrative, oral theology has been relegated to a 7
marginalized position. As a consequence, those cultures or people
---Vol. 11, No. 2
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 7 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Letter from the Editor
groups that tend to emphasize oral narrative (women, blacks,
Latinos, Pentecostals) have found themselves on the sidelines of
theological discussions. Sidney strives to change that reality by
redeeming the practices of narrative and testimony. He
persuasively argues that the theology in the New Testament is primarily
testimonial in nature. Consequently, instances of “offcial
theology” need to open up space for these new (yet biblically old) styles.
Sidney also traces threads of oral, narrative theology in the FTL.
Personally, Marco Davi de Oliveira’s article on racial identity has
been very helpful to my own thinking on race. Some theological
circles in the English-speaking world acknowledge the deep racial
issues we still confront in the global North. Many of these same
challenges are present throughout Latin America, specifcally in
Brazil. The fact that Marco Davi embraces his black identity with
a biblical understanding makes his analysis and exhortations even
more poignant for a church that has rarely been receptive to the
voices of the marginalized.
Jocabed Solano is a richly gifted young theologian in Latin
America and no stranger to our journal. Her writings (and her life)
always minister to me. In her article, “In Defense of Life and
Harmony,” she refects on aspects of her life as an indigenous woman
in light of the Word of God. Her powerful insights help peel off
some of our cultural blinders so that we can see God more fully and
work more effectively in this needy world.
It gives us great pleasure to include in this issue the Evangelical
Declaration of Cochabamba. This was the fruit of that conference
over forty-fve years ago when the FTL was founded in 1970. This
important document is a bedrock of the FTL and has infuenced
Christian ministry in Latin America and beyond.
Our book review in this issue analyzes the monumental volume
The Lausanne Movement: A Range of Perspectives, volume 22 in
8 the Regnum Edinburgh Centenary Series. Samuel Escobar—one of

---Latin American Theology
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 8 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Letter from the Editor
the two Latin American presenters at the 1974 Lausanne
conference—pens this review. Knowing well of which he speaks, Samuel
fnds plenty to laud in this analytical volume as well as insightful
critiques of its limitations.
Finally, with this issue of the journal we are introducing a new
section: “Teo-poesía / Theopoetry,” or theological poetry. It has
been several years since poetry appeared in the journal, but we
hope to offer a selection in each issue going forward. In his article
included herein, Valdir Steuernagel describes a change in his own
theological journey that sets the stage for expanding our literary
repertoire. He writes, “I increasingly desire to do theology as poetry
and perhaps thereby enter into a richer conversation between the
human soul and the exuberant Spirit of God.” In that vein, we are
happy to respond to a growing, engaging movement among Latin
American theologians who express their theology through
poetry instead of only through academic articles. In Old Testament
Hebrew, the Spirit of God is described as feminine, both in
gender and in characteristics. Nevertheless, over the centuries she has
become overly masculinized and in Spanish is treated as “he”: el
Espiritu Santo. This mistake is countered in our frst offering of
theopoetry, “La Espíritu de Dios / The Spirit of God,” from Chilean
pastor, psychologist, and poet Luis Cruz-Villalobos.
Your brother in
---Vol. 11, No. 2
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 9 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 10 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Welcome
to the FTL’s 2015
Continental Conference
(São Paulo):
45 Years of the FTL
and Contemporary
Theological Borders
Lyndon de Araújo Santos
ood morning! Bom dia! ¡Buenos días! In Portuguese, Spanish, GTupi-Guarani, Quechua, Yanomami, and Yoruba, we greet you.
We begin our conference with deep joy and thankful hearts. We
Lyndon de Araújo Santos, from Brazil, has advanced degrees in history
and religious sciences. He is a history professor at the Federal University
of Maranhão and coordinates the History and Religion Research Group
(GPHR). For six years he served as the president of the Brazilian Association
for the History of Religions.
Vol. 11, No. 2
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 11 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Lyndon de Araújo Santos
anticipate days that will be greatly blessed by our Father. Welcome,
everyone, to Brazil and to São Paulo, to the continental gathering of the
1Fraternidad Teológica Latinoamericana, and to the national gathering
of the Brazilian Fraternidade Teológica Latinoamericana. Welcome to
Brazil, which is Latin America, yet also different. And welcome to São
Paulo, which is an unfnished synthesis of all that is Brazilian.
From our homes and cultures we doubtless have brought our
experiences and life stories with all of our anxieties, questions, horizons,
and feelings. All that we are and all that we bring come together here
at the borders of the present time full of possibilities, in light of the
gospel of the kingdom and our joint, radical hope in Christ. We give a
hearty welcome to each sister and brother in Christ who has gathered
inspired by our common commitment: fraternal fellowship through
the Holy Spirit which is transformed sacramentally by dialogue, in
deep friendships, through seeing each other eye to eye, in sincere
communication, and through a mutual respect for the variety of
hermeneutical readings and theological perspectives among us.
We will discuss some of these borders and frontiers
The heart over the next few days as we celebrate 45 years as the
of Christian FTL. In this coming together of different generations,
mission our central themes will be Scripture, public spaces, and
involves a theology as a feld of knowledge constructed in dialogue
trail of tears with other felds of knowledge. We want to understand
only possible our place and discourse as the FTL in our contemporary
through the scenario which thrusts us toward previously
unimagdeep solidarity ined borders. Thus this intergenerational encounter is
of radical crucial for what the FTL will become in the future and
fellowship. for integral mission itself. All paths that are truly human
and Christian take place at the borders, especially those
1. Known in English as the Latin American Theological Fellowship, in this volume the
organization will be abbreviated as FTL, which expresses the Fraternidad Teológica 12
Latinoamericana (in Spanish) and the Fraternidade Teológica Latinoamericana (in
Latin American Theology
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 12 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Welcome to the FTL’s 2015 Continental Conference (São Paulo):
45 Years of the FTL and Contemporary Theological Borders
borders that we cross due to our calling of the mission of the
kingdom of God in human history. These themes are close to the heart
of the FTL. As the FTL, we have attempted to articulate clearly the
historical, biblical, theological, and hermeneutical span of integral
mission, which is our primary legacy to the church in the
twentyfrst century. Integral mission cannot be reduced to a doctrinal code
nor to a political or ideological program, much less to institutional
or marketing projects or personality-driven schemes.
In this conference, the FTL opens itself up to sincere dialogue
with the most pressing demands of our day even as we listen to the
voices of our past and anticipate actions for tomorrow’s horizons.
We are talking about a Latin America that, forty-fve years ago, was
suffering from great economic inequalities and was buried under
dictatorial regimes far from a social or political democracy.
Protestants were a small religious minority in the midst of a Catholic
hegemony and a multiplicity of religious syncretisms. We lacked
public policies, yet we were culturally rich with the ethnic
heritage of our indigenous peoples as well as of Africans, Spaniards,
and Portuguese. Almost fve decades later, the same inequalities
and contradictions still exist, but now we have governments that
are formally democratic. We have seen tremendous growth in
Protestantism, yet without a substantive impact on ethics. We have
seen the growth of world capitalism, workers’ rights movements,
and rampant violence in our cities. The face of Latin America is
still scarred by the suffering of the poor, whether they be
Protestants, Pentecostals, Neo-Pentecostals, charismatic or traditional
Catholics, progressives or conservatives, followers of witchcraft or
of African religions. Thus we reaffrm that the heart of Christian
mission is not conquest but rather sacrifcial service. It involves a
trail of tears only possible through the deep solidarity of radical
fellowship. It also urgently demands theological refection that arises
from praxis, from the context, and from the reality in which we are

---Vol. 11, No. 2
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 13 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Lyndon de Araújo Santos
I would like to propose that we all feel:
1. “At home” in our shared Latino land whose wealth
consists of her people. We especially want to express
solidarity with all those who were exiled from their homes
and cultures in Africa and forced against their will to the
2. That we are followers of the work that was started and will
be fnished by the Lord, through the faith that once for all
was given to the saints beginning with the apostles, that
faith which in every age and generation has been lived
out primarily by simple folk: peasants, women, children,
workers, nameless Christians who wrote the multifaceted
history of the church.
3. That we are heirs of the Christian gatherings in Jerusalem,
Nicaea, Constantinople, Chalcedon, Wittenberg, Geneva,
Edinburgh, Panama, Montevideo, the World Council of
Churches, Vatican II, Berlin, Lausanne, and the Latin
American Congresses on Evangelization (CLADEs I to V);
not in a conciliar perspective but rather as an act of
conscience recognizing that we are heirs of these and other
great conclaves of Christianity.
4. Grateful, profoundly grateful, for Bogotá/Cochabamba in
1969/1970 and for the founders of the FTL. They were and
are Christians with an apostolic dimension in the wake
of Bartolomé de las Casas and John Mackay. They left us
not only their theological writings shaped by a singular
pastoral, prophetic, and academic clarity but also, and
above all, a lifestyle of simplicity and deep fellowship.
They were sowers of the gospel in complex times flled
with other gospels, preachers of kingdom justice in a Latin
America still scourged by
---Latin American Theology
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 14 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Forty-Five Years of the FTL
and its Biblical Theology:
A Bit of Theology along
the Way…and Mary
Valdir Steuernagel
o look back on the forty-fve years of the Fraternidad Teológica TLatinoamericana (FTL, Latin American Theological
Fellowship) is a wonderful privilege for me, especially because the ABU/
1FTL combination was deeply formative in my life. The foundation
and pillars that have given strength and direction to my life and
ministry were established in that world. As the years go by and I
recall and retell stories of my walk with God, I am surprised by the
1. Some of the founders of the FTL were at the same time leaders in the International
Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) in various Latin American countries. Valdir
Steuernagel was a leader in the Aliança Bíblica Universitária do Brasil (ABU), which
is the IFES student ministry in Brazil.
Valdir Steuernagel pastors a Lutheran church in the city of Curitiba, Brazil.
He earned his Ph.D. from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago,
Illinois. He and his wife Silêda have four grown sons and six grandchildren.
Vol. 11, No. 2
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 15 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Valdir Steuernagel
countless times I reference this dynamic duo of the ABU and the
FTL. I can only conclude that both were a fascinating bedrock for
my development.
In examining biblical theology, I believe we are gazing at the
very core of this formative process, both for me personally and for
the FTL. From the start, I have stated and also lived out by
experience that our theology must be grounded in, inspired by, and
submitted to the Holy Scriptures which we affrm to be our point of
both departure and arrival. Nevertheless, I am not talking about the
Book ipsis literis but rather about how this Book must be opened.
The way that we do so is of vital importance for understanding and
living it. In addition, the person who opens this Book, which in
reality is Book-Word-Presence, is essential for the process of
hearing the Word that emerges from it. Last, but not least, I have learned
that the place where you are as this Book is opened and listened to
is also essential for perceiving that the voice which speaks is a
declaration of love, an invitation to live life holistically, to the full. The
Book is a plan for a communal life of service and an
invitation to profound transformation. In other words, the
With every Book simply is. It is an invitation to worship.
passing year I
My message up to this point, I confess, has not been
become more
very “academic” or “theological.” To tell the truth, with
of a mere
every passing year I become more of a mere storyteller:
life stories that dialogue with the Book-Word and stories
More than
from the Book that bring on the “Aha!” moments. In this
way, I gradually discover the path of grace, the path of
my neighbor, and the path of hope. What has helped me
I advance by
in my journey is having learned from Frederick
ner, in his book The Sacred Journey, that all theology is,
in fact, autobiography. He explains it in this way, “What
a theologian is doing essentially is examining as honestly as he
can the rough-and-tumble of his own experience with all its ups 16
and downs, its mysteries and loose ends, and expressing in logical,
Latin American Theology
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 16 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Forty-Five Years of the FTL and its Biblical Theology: A
Bit of Theology along the Way…and Mary
abstract terms the truths about human life and about God that he
2believes he has found implicit there.” This is how I make my way,
striving to let myself be found by God, striving to fnd my neighbor,
and listening for the groans of the world in which I live. More than
making declarations, I advance by groping. And my travel
companions from earlier years and those that walk with me today take me
by the hand and steady me, lightening my steps and turning my
gait more passionate, more confdent.
And you have the Book, the traveling companion par excellence.
May I share some of my “stories”?
“We Have Met Here to Reflect Together
3on the Revelation of God”
It is of signifcant value, in my opinion, that the frst gathering of
the FTL centered on the Bible in an intentional effort to affrm the
great capacity of the Word to transmit meaning, provide direction,
and create community. This affrmation implies that the Word
must ever be read and discussed in a fresh way. Doing so requires
the ability and the willingness to read and discuss in constant
movement from the Word to our reality and from our reality to the
Word. That is, we need to embrace the Word so that it can speak to
us from its birthplace to the places wherein we dwell, and thus we
can better hear and capture its intentional voice. This
intentionality is never abstract but rather always relational: its name is Jesus.
The Declaration of Cochabamba, which was the concluding
document from the FTL’s frst gathering—in Bolivia in 1970—, affrmed
2. Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey (New York: HarperCollins, 1982), 1.
3. “Evangelical Declaration of Cochabamba,” Latin America Pulse 6, no. 1 (1970): 4.
Originally in Spanish: “Declaración Evangélica de Cochabamba,” in El debate 17
contemporáneo sobre la Biblia, ed. Peter Savage (Barcelona: Ediciones Evangélicas
Europeas, 1972), 225-28.
Vol. 11, No. 2
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 17 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Valdir Steuernagel
the authority of the Scriptures. This authority points toward Christ,
and, therefore, demands a Christocentric reading of the Scriptures.
The same declaration recognizes, with gratitude, the importance
of missionaries who brought the Book to our continent and
proclaimed it here in many ways. It also recognizes that the church
born from the proclamation of the Word from this Book should
always return to it in order to overcome its own superfciality
and its misunderstanding of this Word. Therefore, the gathering
in Cochabamba denounced biblical illiteracy and emphasized the
need to read the Bible fully aware of our contemporary setting. The
Declaration says:
The need of the hour is to turn to the Word of God in
submission to the Holy Spirit. It involves returning to
the Bible and to the Lord who reigns through it. It is to
call into question our “evangelical traditions” in light
of written revelation. It means placing every activity of
the church under the judgment of the Word of the
living God. It is to obey the clear demands of the Word of
God in announcing the message of Jesus Christ to all,
calling all people to be His disciples, and, within the
complex social, political and economic scene in Latin
America, to become a community which expresses the
spirit of justice, kindness, and service which is implied
4in the Gospel.
In the early years of the FTL, I was a seminary student in the
School of Theology of the Igreja Evangélica de Confssão Luterana
(Lutheran Confession Protestant Church). Coming from a pietistic
German background, in which the Bible was affrmed in its “closed
totality,” I came face to face with a liberal German theology that
taught that the seminarian should approach the Bible and dissect it
4. Ibid.
Latin American Theology
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 18 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Forty-Five Years of the FTL and its Biblical Theology: A
Bit of Theology along the Way…and Mary
as a medical student would dissect a cadaver in order to understand
the human body. The “closed totality” had become, in my journey,
an “open door” before which very little seemed to be left standing.
I will not go into the tension between these two approaches to the
Bible nor into the diffculty of fnding a space that both affrmed the
Bible and dialogued with the biblical text, the community of faith,
and the context: a true conversation in which one’s faith is
encouraged, one’s vocation is worked out, and one’s neighbor is met. The
ABU/FTL offered me this new and necessary space where I entered
into a conversation about survival and the meaning of life. They
also held out a vision that the Book needed to be very open, that the
soul is thirsty for the Word-Presence that emerges from the Book,
and that this Word gives meaning to life in all of its areas and hope
for the steps that need to be taken—taken in community.
Now I will tell my “stories.” In the end, they will shed light on
how to open the Book.
The Way to Open the Book
After hanging around the fringes of FTL theological conferences, I
made my debut in 1976. I cannot recall the topic that drew us
together, but I do remember that it was cold in chilly Buenos Aires.
I was staying in the home of Andrew Kirk, and he lent me a very
warm winter coat. The two most important parts of
conferences in those days were the text and the discussion The FTL
group tables. The text was the fruit of competent indi- has never
vidual work, and the discussion groups were where the been known
text was presented and debated, or rather dissected, for theological
because the debates were serious and intense. The char- uniformity.
acteristics of the participants were quite diverse. The FTL
has never been known for theological uniformity. Instead, 19
what came through was a commitment to the faith, a harmony in
Vol. 11, No. 2
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 19 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.Valdir Steuernagel
our vocational callings, and a desire to fnd a common path to
proclaim and live the Word that emerged from the Book.
5The discussion group tables seamlessly morphed into meal
tables: the place where we ate, talked, and shared wine, frequently
accompanied by Buenos Aires’ famous carbonated water. Here we
enjoyed simple meals, lots of talking, and hearty laughter.
The frst book published as the result of the frst FTL conference
is the fruit of just such a theological style. The book was never the
work of only one author but rather of many. Accordingly, the
prologue acknowledges that what follows is by no means the defnitive
word. It is only one tool for the journey. The prologue reads, “In no
way do these Latin American theologians desire to be considered as
experts who have the fnal word on the topics that were presented.
They are simply men of God who desire to contribute their one
6little grain of sand to what God wants to say to us in these times.”
This same prologue easily could have appeared in numerous
other books that were the fruits of other conferences. I can attest to
the fact that, indeed, that is how things were. The work produced
was serious and competent, but the original author merely gave
birth to the frst draft which was then submitted to discussion by
the groups. The discussions were intense, but conversation over
meals was lighthearted and lively. Added to this approach was the
fact that frequently the home that housed the meetings also housed
the participants (and lent out winter coats to those like me who
were unprepared for the cold weather).
This was what I experienced: a way of doing theology that strove
to follow the steps of John Mackay. Having been a missionary in
5. [In the author’s original Portuguese, there is a play on words that gets lost in the
English. “Mesas da discussão” are “discussion groups,” but “mesa” literally means
a table, including the kind around which conference participants would eat their
6. Peter Savage, ed., El debate contemporáneo sobre la Biblia (Barcelona: Ediciones
Evangélicas Europeas, 1972), 9.
Latin American Theology
BOLETIN_TEOLOGICO_JLAT_11.2.indd 20 9/11/16 6:51 a.m.