Journal of Christian Ministry | Some Reflections on Theological Reflection
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Some Reflections on Theological Reflection

Some Reflections on Theological Reflection

Some Reflections on Theological Refection (JCM, Vol. 2 – 2010)
John Patton
Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Theology
Columbia Theological Seminary
Decatur, Georgia

All of us are aware of the kind of practical and anxious theological reflection that is stirred up by disastrous events like the earthquake in Haiti. Where was God in such an event? A more common type of theological reflection may occur when a family survives an automobile crash or a house fire, and the mother says, “The Lord must have been taking care of us.” And a later reflection may conclude, “Because we survived we must have a special calling.”

That kind of theological reflection can take place any time the circumstances of life call it forth.

Required or intentional theological reflection is more likely to take place in a group that is part of an academic program or a part of a church’s Christian education. Its subject matter can be an event in life and ministry or a text from scripture or faith tradition that calls for something other than routine, everyday thought. I like to describe that kind of event or text as one that feels “meaningfull.” Its meaning is seldom immediately clear, and it needs to be thought about further, shared, and discussed in search of some understanding of its present meaning. The reflection is theological when the person or reflecting group’s view of life involves assumptions about and some sense of relationship to God.

What I want to suggest in this paper is that there is not one type of theological formulation that facilitators of the theological reflection process should be looking for. Rather, it is the involvement in a process that contributes to the wisdom of the participants. Theological reflection should contribute to a wisdom that gains insight into situations of ministry, that creatively interprets the texts and traditions of faith, and that further develops the person and practice of the minister.