Writer, educator, philosopher, theologian, and PTS alumnus Rubem Azevedo Alves (’68 PhD) died on July 19, 2014 at age 80 in Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil. He is considered to be one of the intellectual fathers of Latin American liberation theology.

rubem alvesAn educational innovator who helped refine Christian social ethics in light of the theology of liberation, Alves helped shape the field of ecumenical formation in partnership with theological institutions in the north and south, as well as programs of the World Council of Churches, the World Student Christian Federation, the Committee on Society, Development, and Peace, and similar international bodies and conferences of churches.

As a university professor, Alves’s interests ranged from educational theory to constructive philosophy to psychotherapy, of which he eventually created his own clinic.

His writing covered a vast range of subjects, including books for children. Widely translated, he published more than 160 works on education and psychology and countless works in English, including What is Religion? and A Theology of Human Hope.  

“Rubem Alves never allowed himself to be defined by a particular label,” said Raimundo Barreto (’06 PhD), Princeton Seminary’s assistant professor of world Christianity. “He was a pastor, theologian, philosopher, educator, psychoanalyst, writer, poet, musician, and even a gardener. He loved trees. He loved living, and tried to warn the rest of us that religion only makes sense when it teaches us to love life,” he said.

Barreto continues, “One of liberation theology’s foundational thinkers, [Alves] never fit within the limits imposed by other liberation theologians. He paid attention to children, and moved beyond the limited circle of theologians and philosophers to mingle with the world. [He] became one of the most read and beloved contemporary writers in Brazil. He inspired and challenged a generation of educators, and never forgot his origins as a young pastor of a small community.” 

As a doctoral student, the Seminary not only witnessed the birth of theology of liberation, but also provided much needed safety for Alves and his family in times of extreme political persecution in Brazil. Click here to read more about Rubem Alves’s ties to Princeton Seminary, and here for the release from the World Council of Churches. 

Thank you to Theodore Gill (’75) at the World Council of Churches, and alumni Raimundo Barreto and Bruno Linhares (’08 PhD) for their assistance with this notice.