Gustavo Gutierrez, Peruvian Catholic Priest and the Father of Liberation Theology, defines salvation as having three different aspects or expressions. First, salvation is to be understood spiritually (and this is perhaps the expression of salvation that we are most familiar with in the Church). Because of God’s love for us, in Christ we experience a new spiritual birth and receive a new spiritual identity (or ontology); we move from the death of sin to life in Christ. Secondly, for Gutierrez salvation has a psychological or emotional expression. Christ comes to give us the gift of liberating us from psychological and emotional concepts that would produce self-hate, fear, anxiety, senses of unworthiness; Christ comes to bring healing to all forms and manners of psychological and emotional unhealth and distress in our lives. The third and final expression of Christ’s salvation for Gutierrez was social transformation. Christ’s salvation means nothing short of the radical transformation of unjust social structures that oppress, marginalize, impoverish and otherwise deny and obscure the humanity of all people, but especially the poor and those whom the Bible names as “the least of these.” Here, Gutierrez helps us understand the broadness and fullness of Christ’s salvific work as a free gift from God on our behalf that offers life to the whole person, mind, body, and spirit. Christ comes to make us free – to make all aspects of ourselves free. Christ’s salvation ought not just to be spiritualized and therefore, cordoned off from other aspects of our life – like the social and psychological dimensions.
Gutierrez’s work has a connection with much of the theological reflection being done in the Missional Church movement. Missional Theology states that the Missio Dei (Mission of God) is to redeem and restore all of creation and this Missio is holistic in nature. God’s Holy Spirit is constantly about this Missio of (as theologian NT Wright says) “setting all things to right,” the Church is invited to join with God in this Missio on earth. The Reign of God (God’s ways of love, mercy, and justice) is present on earth when and where the Holy Spirit is actively remaking the world and where the Church joins in God’s Missio of seeking to make-present this love, grace, mercy, and justice of God. Therefore, according to Gutierrez the Missio Dei is nothing short of spiritual, psychological, and social liberation of all people, but especially the poor and the least of these in this world.