René Padilla will be speaking at Spring Garden Church this Sunday (June 17). Along with being an important evangelical figure in Latin America, he is the author of the essay "Evangelical theology in Latin American contexts," in Timothy Larsen and Daniel J. Treier, The Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Theology (Cambridge 2007): 259-73.
Padilla's essay frames evangelical theology in Latin America around three time periods of history: the Roman Catholic, revolutionary, and evangelical growth. He highlights the way in which Christianity came to Latin America with the imperial power of Spain and Portugal and that the Roman Catholic Church was essentially the same, state and religion. Out of this arose a revolution that sought to see faith in the care of the poor and not just the powerful and rich. Since the revolutionary time, evangelical groups have seen dramatic growth, but Padilla warns that evangelical church in Latin America cannot and should not replace the dominance of the Catholic Church.
"The criterion for faithfulness to the Lord's intention regarding the life and mission of the church [Matt 28:19-20] was thus clearly defined at the very beginning of church history -- not success measured in terms of numbers, but faithfulness in the making of disciples who would take upon themselves the yoke of obedience to the law of Christ in every aspect of life" (267).
"The mark of a truly evangelical theology is faithfulness to the Word of God, but its relevance depends on the extent to which it responds to human needs in a particular extent. What we may call a 'universal theology' can only be the final result of the search for both faithfulness and relevance in multiple contexts" (271).