Theological Reflection -- What Others Say
"For me, theological reflection is a three-way conversation among our ancestors in the church, my everyday experience and God. The conversation calls me to bring the whole of who I am - intellect and emotion, memory and hope, action and contemplation, wounds and prayer - in order that I may live out our common calling to love God and neighbor."
Bishop K. H. Ting:
"We Christians should carry out theological reflection often, if not constantly. We do not reflect on things within some kind of void but rather we ponder over things in the light of our encounters with real-life situations. Our theological viewpoints are constantly challenged by what we meet in real-life, thereby undergoing constant revision, enhancement and renewal."
"There is a curious logic in human experience that finally permits no man (sic) to escape the good and the bad. Often the event in which the individual is involved seems to carry with it an order which is independent of merit or demerit. This indeterminateness seems to suggest that in all living there is an element which may be regarded as random in the sense that it is outside of an orderly pattern of reaping and sowing. TO be alive is to be involved in events, some of which take their rise uniquely in the individual's experience and some of which flow into the life, apparently without rhyme or reason. To accept all experience as raw material out of which the human spirit distills meanings and values is a part of the meaning of maturity."
"Few ministers and priests think theologically. Most of them have been educated in a climate in which the behavioral sciences, such as psychology and sociology, so dominated the educational milieu that little true theology was being learned. Most Christian leaders today raise psychological and sociological questions even though they frame them in scriptural terms. Real theological thinking ….. is hard to find in the practice of ministry. Without solid theological reflection, future leaders will be little more than pseudo-psychologists, pseudo-sociologists, pseudo-social workers. They will think of themselves as enablers, facilitators, role models, father or mother figures, big brothers or big sisters, and so on, and thus join the countless men and women who make a living by trying to help their fellow human beings to cope with the stresses and strains of everyday living. But that has little to do with Christian leadership because the Christian leader thinks, speaks and acts in the name of Jesus, who came to free humanity from the power of death and open the way to eternal life. To be such a leader it is essential to be able to discern from moment to moment how God acts in human history and how the personal, communal, national and international events that occur during our lives can make us more and more sensitive to the ways in which we are led to the cross and through the cross to the resurrection…"
The subject matter on which theological reflection focuses is not the doctrinal themes of traditional theology (like, Trinity, Christology, church and sacraments), but great human problems of the day as, for instance, war, oppression, poverty, pollution, and the breakdown of human community on various levels. The assumption here is that Revelation is to be found not so much in clear directives from the past as in the dimension of ultimacy within our own experience. God's revelation to our predecessors afford paradigms or guidelines for the present; they serve to suggest and open up the depth-dimensions in the experience of the believer today. In this sense, one may speak of 'continuing revelation'."
Joseph J. Driscoll:
Theological reflection is perhaps our single most important task after direct care. Adapting the philosopher's wisdom saying, the unreflected ministerial life is not worth the ministering. This is truer than not, when we realize that in the times we get caught in a continuous "doing" of ministry, we slowly lose focus, getting tired, irritable and resentful of 'always doing'. Theological reflection is taking off the shoes of work and walking more gently and quietly in prayer toward the ever-burning love of God."
"Theological reflection is the attempt to see and interpret ours and others' experiences (e.g. illness, death, injustice, physical limitations, etc.) in light of the mysteries of the Gospel. It provides a way to "draw nearer" to see into what is there, to "remove one's shoes," before such profound reality in order to behold the fullness of meaning available and to attempt to articulate that explicitly. Theological reflection provides the (formal or informal) context for a believer to notice and articulate the underlying assumptions which grounds one's faith, hope and love."
"Theological reflection works out of specific contexts rather than working with generic truths, It draws upon lived experience as much as classic texts. …it correlates lived experience with the sources of the Christian tradition; and it draws out practical implications for Christian living."
"If persons are genuinely to experience their human being, they need to reflect on, re-create, and share what has happened to them. Moreover, as we view that landscape from within a community committed to Christian ministry, some of the theological meanings lurking within the landscape may emerge."
James D. Whitehead and Evelyn Eaton Whitehead:
"In every age the community of faith must discover the shape of its ministry. We must discern how we are to be faithful to the gospel and effective in our mission: to celebrate God's saving presence and to contribute, by word and action and sacrament, to the fullness of this presence - the coming of the Kingdom. Theological reflection is an essential tool in this discernment of contemporary ministry…Theological reflection in ministry involves three sources of religiously relevant information - Christian Tradition, the experience of the community of faith, and the resources of the culture."
Howard W. Stone and James O. Duke:
"Serious thinking about the meaning of Christian faith can and does take place anywhere, It goes on while conversing, worshiping, weathering a life crisis, keeping up with the latest news, working, taking some time out for recreation. Wherever and whenever it occurs, theological reflection is not only a personal but also an interactive, dialogical and community-related process. The voices of others are heard. Some of these voices, like those of the biblical writers, come from texts of centuries past. Others are those of our contemporaries. Still others are our own. These voices offer us food for thought to be heeded or debated or improved upon or set aside as unhelpful. To engage in theological reflection is to join an ongoing conversation with others that began long before we ever came along and will continue long after we have passed away.
Patricia O'Connell Killen and John de Beer:
Theological reflection is the discipline of exploring individual and corporate experience in conversation with the wisdom of a religious heritage. The conversation is a genuine dialogue that seeks to hear from our own beliefs, actions, and perspectives, as well as those of the tradition. It respects the integrity of both. Theological reflection therefore may confirm, challenge, clarify, and expand how we understand our own experience and how we understand the religious tradition. The outcome is new truth and meaning for living."