In this chapter Cone examines the nature and purpose of “revelation,” i.e. God’s self-disclosure
“There is no revelation of God without a condition of oppression which develops into a situation of liberation. Revelation is only for the oppressed of the land. God comes to those who have been enslaved and abused and declares identification with their situation, disclosing to them the righteousness of emancipation”
The ultimate act of God’s self-revelation
The Scriptures, according to Cone, witness or tell the story of God breaking into time and liberating his people; hence, revelation embodies a political dimension. History is the arena where revelation takes place.
Cone sees the Black Revolution of the 60s and 70s, especially as manifested in the “Black Power” movement as an act of God’s revelation. He affirms that all human acts taken against the powers that enslave, even acts of violence, are acts of God.
Addressing the issue of epistemology, Cone states that revelation is perceived only through the eyes of faith. Oppressors do not recognize God’s revelation. Faith is saying “yes” to God and “no” to oppression. Blacks above all, at least in America, have eyes to see. Whites, for the most part, are blinded. Revelation, therefore, in the American context, is a Black event.
Cone’s theological knowledge shines forth in this chapter. But it will not be appreciated by all, especially among Anglos from conservative backgrounds with little or no understanding of liberation theology who happen to stumble upon the book. They will likely see it as a revolutionary call for Blacks to rebel against the establishment and to justify it as an act of God’s will. Whites, however, are not the intended audience. This is a Black theology written for African American readers.
No doubt Cone went too far in identifying violence as an acceptable response to oppression. But one must realize this book was written in 1970. Over four decades have come and gone since Cone put pen to paper. Martin Luther King armed with his philosophy of non-violent resistance has won the day.
This chapter is essential to Cone’s formulation of a Black theology. It stimulated my thinking. I can’t wait to speak with Cone at this year’s SBL meeting and see how his thinking has evolved over the years.
Next week, I will interact with chapter 4.