What is theological reflection? How can I relate life to theology, and theology to life? What is practical theology? In what ways might we connect Christian practice with Christian thinking and writing? These are the questions that Theological Reflection: Methods seeks to address; and through the adoption of a typological approach and engagement with primary sources, it does so very successfully.
The authors -- three eminent practical theologians in Britain -- recognize that while such questions have been tackled many times before, theological reflection remains "easier said than done." Pointing out that usual "understandings of theological reflection are largely under-theorized and narrow, and too often fail to connect adequately with biblical, historical and systematic scholarship," they aim to help the reader "engage in patterns of theological reflection that are richer in the sources they draw on, more diverse in their knowledge-base, more rigorous and more imaginative" (1). Given that much writing about practical theology and theological reflection abounds in vagaries and generalities, this is welcome news.
An introductory chapter traces the history of the field. Graham, Walton, and Ward outline a transition from an understanding of practical/pastoral theology as a discipline concerned with "practical training for the ordained ministry" to a broader, more general understanding of theology as "critical reflection on faithful practice in a variety of settings" (2). Today, theology is understood "as process rather than product" and Christian practice -- alongside systematic, biblical and historical theology -- is recognized as capable of generating theological insight (5). They stress that problems with theological reflection remain, however; above all, engagement with traditional Christian resources -- especially the Bible -- is weak. They wonder, "What if we could reclaim the project of 'theological reflection' as something that has been fundamental to...
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