Affirming the fe viva

August 9th, 2022

The Methodist experience of practical divinity values tradition and translation, ancient and new. Karen Westerfield Tucker notes that for the first North American Methodist congregations, “Innovative practices in worship, therefore, could be evaluated not only in terms of their testimony to Scripture and tradition but also by the witness of the Spirit in human life.”[1] The people called metodista faithfully profess the faith in the language passed down from church mothers and fathers in symbols like the Apostles’ Creed, and they embrace the freedom to find new symbols that resonate with the experience of being a pilgrim people in solidarity with particular cultural heritages (e.g., Hispanic Creed, Guatemalan Creed) and the experience of marginalized communities (e.g., the Creed of the Immigrant People).

Affirming the fe viva commits Methodists to value the culture within which that faith is lived. When the early Christians witnessed to the gospel of Jesus Christ among the Greeks, they faced critical questions about how the gospel relates to culture. Must gentiles completely abandon their cultures to follow the way of Christ? Or might gentiles become Christians without abandoning their cultures? If Christians are to offer a reasonable account (apologia) of the hope within them (1 Pet 3:15), they must be understood, and this requires them to use the language and cultural conventions of their hearers, even if these are stretched and challenged. According to González, “A culture is, basically, the way in which any group of human beings relates to itself and the surrounding environment.”[2] Norman Wirzba contrasts abstract culture with concrete culture. Abstract culture forgets the web of interrelations that make life possible and meaningful, whereas concrete culture grounds a people’s worldview in a particular land, language, and story.[3] The Guatemalan Methodist people profess, “We believe God gives us life and the conditions for life. He gives us land, plants, waters, the skies with the multitude of stars, the birds, the fish, and other animals, generating interrelationship, independence, and equilibrium in all forms of life.”[4] This is the God who affirms concrete cultures and who is confessed by people who appreciate their concrete culture. This is the God professed in the creed of the Guatemalan Methodist people and in González’s Hispanic Creed, which names each person of the Trinity in relation to culture.[5]

God is “the creator of all peoples and all cultures.” Contra the Gnostics, creation is not the mistaken act of a lesser and evil God, but a loving expression of generous abundance from a good and wise God. God’s charge to human beings to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it” commits humans to generating many cultures. In the “Table of Nations” of Genesis 10, we read how the multiplication and dispersion of Noah’s children across the face of the earth caused a proliferation of families, languages, and nations. Culture communicates a shared cultural memory. Humans share cultural memory in explicit ways, for example, through artistic production, and in implicit ways, such as stories passed down from time immemorial. What is shared and passed down is a fallen good that we should neither romanticize nor demonize. “No doubt there is much evil in the manner in which creation, history, and the cultures which humankind has created operate today. Even so, history and culture exist within the realm of God’s creation and beneath the shadow of God’s love. Not everything that happens in history and culture is evil because of God’s continuous action in them.”[6]

The Hispanic Creed professes Jesus Christ as “God made flesh in one culture for all cultures.”[7] This affirmation restates the scandal of particularity of Christianity. Jesus is a Jew born in Bethlehem of Judea “while Quirinius was governor of Syria” (Luke 2:2), and he is God’s logos, “the true light, which enlightens every one” (John 1:9). As God’s word through whom and for whom all things were made, Christ illumines all peoples and cultures and discloses their goodness as historical modes of expression of the richness of human nature. Justin Martyr (c.100–165) affirmed the luminosity of culture, seeing seeds of the Word in the civilizational achievements of Greece. As the redeemer, Christ is also the purifier and perfector of culture, because all peoples are marked by sin and in need of sanctification. Tertullian (c.155–220) emphasized this fallenness of culture, questioning the possibility of reconciling the saving events in Jerusalem with the philosophical schools of Athens. The Hispanic Creed affirms both the continuity of God’s work in creation and redemption (like Justin Martyr) and the uniqueness of Christian revelation (like Tertullian), even as it also affirms that Christ’s light reaches all dimensions of human existence, not just religious ones. “That is to say, when examining any culture, we should seek signs of the logos not only in their religion, but also in their practice of justice, in their social order, in the structure of their families, in its art, its music, and its ancient legends and myths.”[8] In general, European missionaries did not follow this path when they crossed the Atlantic and then the Pacific. Most saw the lands and peoples they encountered as shaded from the light of Christ with only a few glimmers breaking through. Bartolomé de las Casas (c.1484–1566) is a notable exception. His Apologética Historia Sumaria examines how all aspects of the Indigenous people’s culture, from political organization and religious practices to artisanal work, were under the headship of Christ.

The Holy Spirit “makes his presence known in our peoples and cultures.”[9] Christianity is always culturally embodied. To think otherwise is to flirt with Docetism. The gospel can only be heard in someone’s native tongue. But as we affirm the Holy Spirit’s presence in culture, we must avoid cultural idealization. All cultures arise from histories wounded by sin. We must also avoid cultural ossification. All cultures develop by engaging their surroundings. González insists Christians always live in at least two cultures, the surrounding culture and the Christian one.[10] “One aspect of the paradox is clear: simply by virtue of now having faith in Christ, Christians are not plucked from their culture or from their manner of understanding the world, and organizing their lives.”[11] At the same time, they will undoubtedly understand some elements of their culture better in the light of the gospel, leading to affirmation in some cases, reformation in others, and rejection in others still. Early church apologists (e.g., the epistles to Diognetus) display a keen awareness of the conflicted nature of these multiple belongings and of the importance of privileging Christian identity. The Holy Spirit’s presence in cultures gives these identities an eschatological orientation to the day of the great fiesta, “when all peoples will join in joyful banquet, when all tongues of the universe will sing the same song.”[12]

“We believe in the Church Universal...where all the colors paint a single landscape.”[13] The church and its peoples are one. In this eschatological landscape, the colors join, blend, form new shapes, and lend vibrancy and surprise, engaging in mestizaje (mixing). Mestizo (mixed) historically referred to the children born from the traumatic encounter between Spanish conquistadors and Amerindian women, as well as the broader cultural and religious mixing due to the Spanish conquest. Starting with Virgilio Elizondo’s seminal articulations, Hispanic theology has given mestizaje multiple evolving valences.[14] Although the terminology comes with challenges,[15] mestizaje as a theological category pairs its pain- ful history with the hope of better forms of generative togetherness, made possible by the ultimate example and source of mestizaje—the joining of God to humanity in the incarnation. The fe viva finds hope in the shadow of death not by ignoring the shadow but by looking to the God who joins us there and invites us into the bright, multihued landscape of the great fiesta. The fe viva embraces the change that genuine encounter brings us, anticipating how the future is mestiza.

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Renewing Worship through Creedal Practice

“We believe in the Reign of God, the day of the Great Fiesta.”[16] This affirmation from the Hispanic Creed expresses the faith of the people called metodista regarding God’s promised future. The end does not look like global pandemics or world war, nor does it resemble the big crunch of cosmic collapse or the long whimper of entropic death. The end looks like the peaceable kingdom of Isaiah 2, the multiethnic choir of Revelation 7, the global dinner party of Matthew 8, and the wedding banquet of Revelation 19. In other words, the future looks like fiesta. The renewal of worship benefits from the gifts metodistas have received while walking the Wesleyan way of salvation in the cantones of El Salvador, the barrios of New York, and the side streets of Durham. The gifts of fiesta and the profession of faith in Spanish can reconnect worship to its end: the day of the great fiesta.

The fiesta cristiana has no borders and the fe metodista has no anathemas. True, the day of the great fiesta as announced in Scripture draws a sharp line between those who have been welcomed and those who have been cast off. A universalist account of salvation where all persons, peoples, and cultures are necessarily saved is neither scriptural nor Methodist. However, whereas creeds like the Athanasian Creed and the original Nicene Creed concluded with anathemas[17]—statements that condemn those who do not profess its particular formulation of the faith—the Hispanic Creed ends differently: “Because we believe, we commit ourselves to believe for those who do not believe, to love for those who do not love, to dream for those who do not dream, until the day when hope becomes reality.”[18] The day of the great fiesta is precisely the day of hope, and hope renews the fiesta cristiana and the fe metodista.

Celebrating the fiesta cristiana enlivens the faith. One of the gifts of the Hispanic churches to the church universal is the rediscovery of worship as fiesta and the renewal of Christian anthropology. According to Goizueta, “What lies at the heart of the Latino affinity for festive celebration is not necessarily a happier, warmer, or more easy-going temperament, but a fundamentally different understanding of the human and, specifically, of the nature of human activity in the world.”[19] Human beings are not first and foremost homo faber or homo ludens but what Cándido Pozo calls homo festivus. To be human is to be one “who worships God with a free, gladsome and festive spirit, the human who has a cultic and liturgical posture.”[20] This posture contrasts the nihilistic posture powerfully captured in the exhortation, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (Isa 22:13). The posture of homo festivus is one of gratitude for the past, commitment to the present, and hope for the future.

The fiesta cristiana embraces all tenses in history. “We celebrate what God has done for and with us. And most especially we celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. But above all, we celebrate the great celebration that is still to come, the final fiesta of all ages, the heavenly banquet, the Reign of God.”[21] The kingdom-bound celebration of the fiesta cristiana empowers God’s people to sing even while walking in the deepest valley and in the darkest shadows. The vision of the end gives contextual worship the catholicity without which it would cease to be Christian. This posture towards the kingdom is only achievable in community. Fiestas are social. One cannot celebrate a fiesta alone. The homo festivus is plural and the homines festivus a social “we.”

Fiesta is a kingdom practice with the power to renew our understanding of the human being as a cultural being made for worship. The fiesta cristiana celebrates the faith in its diversity of concrete cultural expressions. This celebration occurs through doxology. For instance, the popular corito “Alabaré” expresses the eschatological orientation of the fiesta and the fe.[22]

Alabaré, alabaré, alabaré a mi Señor.
Juan vió el número de los redimidos
y todos alababan al Señor,
unos oraban, otros cantaban,
y todos alababan al Señor.

Todos unidos, alegres cantamos
gloria y alabanzas al Señor.
Gloria al Padre, gloria al Hijo,
y gloria al Espíritu de amor.

I will praise. I will praise. I will praise my Lord.
John saw the number of the redeemed
and they were all praising the Lord,
Some prayed, some sang,
and all together praised the Lord.

All together, we sing joyfully
glories and praises to the Lord.
Glory to the Father, glory to the Son,
and glory to the Spirit of Love.

In charismatic Methodist churches in Peru’s Cuzco region, the worship leader often invites the congregation to offer God tres glorias (three glories). Although the fe metodista (Methodist faith) finds expression beyond the creeds, the exuberance and mystery of fiesta can protect the creeds from turning into a list of doctrinal propositions abstracted from the way of salvation. Embedded in the density and beauty of fiesta, the creeds can indeed become the confession of faith of a pilgrim people.

Professing the fe metodista hallows the fiesta. Reading the Apostles’ Creed in Spanish and affirming the fe viva helps Christians live in the subjunctive. The subjunctive mood is fragile. As Goizueta puts it, “Any subjunctive situation has a tendency to revert to indicativity; that is, to lose its ability to celebrate the present as projected into a possible future.”[23] This tendency toward the indicative and the status quo gives fiestas an ambiguous character. The splurge or bótate of a fiesta may be a celebration of the richness of being alive, or an expression of consumerist values that bigger is better. The focus on a young woman in the quinceañera may point to a reversal of social roles that brings a marginalized person to the forefront, or a coming-of-age party that solidifies patriarchal gender roles. Fiestas are structured affairs, a confluence of planning and spontaneity, work and play. At its best, “the fiesta challenges and subverts both an escapist (postmodern) understanding of play and a mechanistic (modern) understanding of work.”[24] At its worst, the fiesta becomes romanticized and reduced to mere play. At its best, fiesta is a “royal waste of time” that fires our hope for the transformation of the world.[25]

Creeds help keep fiesta at its best by renewing its roots in the mystery of Christ. As Goizueta asserts, “Jesus’ solidarity with and compassion for the outcasts of his society, that is his active celebration of their lives, alone makes possible—and credible—the celebration of life as a gift.”[26] By professing the fe metodista, we believe in the God who has a special affinity for the cultures of marginalized peoples. The God who became incarnate in Jesus Christ is a God who delivers the oppressed by becoming a victim. Justo González is right. “If being a minority means being subjected and victimized by forces that one does not control, God is a minority!”[27] This is the scandalous claim at the heart of the fiesta cristiana: the God of the people called metodista, the host of the day of the great fiesta, is a minoritized God who works for the liberation, reconciliation, and sanctification of all peoples and cultures. And to embrace this claim is to provide hope for worship’s renewal.


Excerpted from The People Called Metodista  by Edgardo Colón-Emeric. Copyright © 2022 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


[1] Karen B. Westerfield Tucker, American Methodist Worship (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 5.

[2] Justo L. González, Culto, cultura, y cultivo: Apuntes teológicos entorno a las culturas (Lima, Perú: Ediciones Puma, 2014), 37.

[3] See Norman Wirzba, The Paradise of God: Renewing Religion in an Ecological Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 85–90. Wirzba states, “Another way to describe an abstract culture is to say that its members have undergone a narrowing of vision and sympathy. This narrowing is reflected and abetted in practical living conditions that promote insularity and blindness with respect to the larger contexts of a healthy life” (86).

[4] Cánticos de vida y esperanza, 4.

[5] The Hispanic Creed is found in Spanish and English in both Mil voces para celebrar, 69–70 and Fiesta cristiana, 269–70.

[6] González, Breve Historia de las Doctrinas Cristianas (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2007), 71.

[7] González, “Hispanic Creed,” Fiesta cristiana, 269.

[8] González, Breve Historia de las Doctrinas, 80.

[9] González, “Hispanic Creed,” 269.

[10] González, Culto, cultura, y cultivo, 139.

[11] González, Breve Historia de las Doctrinas, 70.

[12] González, “Hispanic Creed,” 270.

[13] González, “Hispanic Creed,” 269–70.

[14] For a thorough overview of mestizaje in Latinx theology, see Néstor Medina, “U.S. Latina/o Theology: Challenges, Possibilities, and Future Prospects,” in Theology and the Crisis of Engagement, ed. Jeff Nowers and Néstor Medina (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2013), 141–60. See also Medina’s entry on “Mestizaje” in Encyclopedia of Christianity in the Global South, ed. Mark A. Lamport (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018), 500–502. For Elizondo’s original articulation, see Virgilio P. Elizondo, Galilean Journey: The Mexican-American Promise (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2006).

[15] Rubén Rosario Rodriquez walks us through one of the challenges that attend the terminology: “Elizondo’s emphasis on biological mestizaje stems from the fact that his attempts to articulate an alternative to the language of modern racism—which views various human groups as distinct biological entities—can perpetuate an essentialist view of human groups by insisting that mestizaje describes a new and distinct biological entity. I support his emancipatory project and strongly believe that mestizaje is a vital concept for racial reconciliation, but not as the source of a distinct Latino/a genetic identity. Rather, by emphasizing the universality of mestizaje as a more accurate scientific description of human biological diversity, Latino/a theology can resist racism and positively transform racial discourse.” Rubén Rosario Rodríguez, Racism and God-talk: A Latino/a Perspective (New York: New York University Press, 2008), 68.

[16] González, “Hispanic Creed,” 270.

[17] For an insightful consideration of anathemas in Christian creeds, see Jaroslav Pelikan, Credo: Historical and Theological Guide to Creeds and Confessions of Faith in the Christian Tradition (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005), 189–95.

[18] González, “Hispanic Creed,” 270.

[19] Goizueta, “Fiesta: Life in the Subjunctive,” 90.

[20] Pozo, “La teología de la fiesta,” 419.

[21] Fiesta cristiana, 11.

[22] Alabaré© 1979, Manuel José Alonso and José Pagán. All rights reserved. Exclusive agent in US, Canada and Mexico: OCP. Used with permission. Translated by the author.

Daniel Ramírez connects this chorus of “anonymous authorship” to the Latina/o “sub- altern” of the Azusa Street revival, a.k.a. the birth of modern Pentecostalism. According to Ramírez, the corito’s emerging popularity traces Pentecostalism’s growth, flowing from the “black-brown Pentecostal borderlands” that often go overlooked and spreading across cultural, national, and even religious borders. Daniel Ramírez, Migrating Faith: Pentecostalism in the United States and Mexico in the Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), 197.

[23] Goizueta, “Fiesta: Life in the Subjunctive,” 93.

[24] Goizueta, “Fiesta: Life in the Subjunctive,” 95.

[25] See Marva J. Dawn, A Royal “Waste” of Time: The Splendor of Worshipping God and Being Church for the World (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999), 17: “Worship is a royal waste of time that spirals into passion for living as Christians and back into more passionate worship. It is totally irrelevant, not efficient, not powerful, not productive, sometimes not even satisfying to us. It is also the only hope for changing the world.”

[26] Goizueta, “Fiesta: Life in the Subjunctive,” 91.

[27] Justo L. González, Mañana: Christian Theology from a Hispanic Perspective (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1990), 93.

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