Reflective Writing. Approaching Methods of Theological Reflection and Meaning of Life

Essay, 2020

18 Pages, Grade: B+





Method in Ministry
Movement towards Insight





When one looks into a mirror or body of clear, still water, the reflection displayed is familiar, yet strange. It is familiar in the sense that even though there may be a hair out of place or a wrinkle in one's shirt, the image of the individual is recognizable and well known. At that moment, the subject at hand is identifiable and representational of whom he or she is at that given instant, captured in time like a snapshot. However, the reflection also represents what lies beneath the surface, well beyond what the eye can see. Interactions and conversations with others, as well as new experiences and acquired knowledge, will transform the individual perhaps not in physicality, but in thought. The ideas and understandings that lie beneath the surface might seem foreign or strange until expressed. We grapple to make the elusive recognizable: Reflections evolve, revealing the familiar as well as the strange (Brevig, 2006)

Reflective writings are well covered in theoretical and applied works of literature, but the reflections are socially constructed and subject to varying interpretations, with no clear consensus on a ‘correct’ meaning (McCarthy, 2011). What we do know is that reflection offers an opportunity to consider how one’s personal experiences and observations through thinking and acceptance of new ideas (The Academic Skills Centre, 2019). The core meaning of reflection is occasionally contested, and, even belittled as mere individual self-dialogue (Harvey L. & Knight P., 1996). Popular commentary has wondered whether a mere recollection of event on a reflective format leads to any meanings at all.

Reflective writingis ananalyticalpractice in which the writer describes a real or imaginary scene, event, interaction, passing thought, memory, form, adding apersonal reflectionon the meaning of the item or incident, thought, feeling, emotion, or situation in his or her life (Wikipedia, 2019). The essay follows the following trajectory or stream of work from definition through models and themes to individual experience and ending at thinking and action.

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Figure 1. Stream

The above is an illustration of the joints of this essay and essential perspectives considered. The last two; action and learning are the most important because it involved what one would do differently and what has been learnt.

Reflective writing as an opportunity for the writer to think deeply about life and learning from experience. When writing reflectively, we keep in mind as note guide questions like “What did I notice?", "How has this changed me?" or "What might I have done differently?" (Wikipedia, 2019). The focus will not be only descriptive, but we shall look at themes, experiences, reflect on meaning, examine what went well and see how best to apply the reflective practice in a real-life situation.


"Anyone who dips into the abundance of literature on theological reflection has a hard time suppressing, first of all, a sense of astonishment at so much productivity, but also amazement at so much confusion... this enormous production has not led to a clear insight into the essence and aim of theological reflection and has perhaps actually raised the level of confusion" (Van der Ven, 1988).

Theological reflection is not a new subject, yet it is plagued by confusion concerning what it is. It was Father Pedro Arrupe, General of the Society of Jesus from 1965 to 1983, and later by The Jesuit theologian, Avery Dulles, who has earlier championed and developed the idea using ministerial and biblical theology. Unlike the biblical and ministerial theology and Catholicism, theological reflection relies on one's experience and questions of modern society to gain new insight and learning.

In essence, theological reflection can be described as a process of learning directly from our experience in international and systematic settings as well as in a classroom through personal assignment (Trokan, 1997), even though it was also intended for spiritual development at the person level (Killen P O & de Beer J, 1994).

Reflection is a natural human behavior but to reflect theologically; it is assumed that one has a spiritual belonging to a corporeal and incorporeal experience such as with God or a Supreme Being. In reality, this is not the case — an atheist, for example, would argue against these beliefs. Luckily, we have strong evidence of the presence of God; the origin and complexities of the universe and the objective moral values in the world (William L. Craig & Atkins P., 1998) .

Some of the most influential interpretation of theological reflection is shown on (Figure 2). Nevertheless, the most comprehensive definition was by (Killen P O & de Beer J, 1994); who famously quoted:

The discipline of exploring our 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 a new truth and meaning for living.” (Killen P O & de Beer J, 1994)

Fundamental to this definition is the recognition of the challenges faced by the contemporary human being and an admission that the ministerial and biblical theology ideas are outmoded. Theological reflection is a practical model of the future.

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Figure 2 Theological Reflection -- What Others Say. Sources: (Vanderbilt Divinity School, 2019)

The primary assumption of this process is that God is found in current experience as well as historical revelation and that this divine presence can be discerned by reflection (Walton R. L., 2002).


Figure three, below, are among the most recognise d models of theological reflection. Central to these models is the importance of experience, as well as the role of contextual theology. "Contextual theology is a way of doing theology in which one takes into account: the spirit and message of the gospel; the tradition of the Christian people; the culture in which one is theologising; and social change in that culture" (Bevans, 1992).

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Figure 3 Important models of theological reflection


Excerpt out of 18 pages


Reflective Writing. Approaching Methods of Theological Reflection and Meaning of Life
UGSM-Monarch Business School Switzerland
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approaching, life, meaning, methods, reflection, reflective, theological, writing
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Victor Frimpong (Author), 2020, Reflective Writing. Approaching Methods of Theological Reflection and Meaning of Life, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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