I HAVE PREPARED A GUIDE or “rubric” (in the modern educational use of that word) for theological students writing a “theological reflection paper.” I had one class in my seminary experience that was completely focused on writing theological reflection papers. I found it to be one of the most helpful classes in my education as it related to the everyday work of the pastorate. Much of my thinking comes from this class and from grading such papers over the years. Neither of those experiences qualifies one as an expert. This is, most obviously, not the last word of the subject of theological reflection papers for seminary. But, I trust it is a starter and, perhaps, is of some help to those first-year students entering theological college or seminary this year. Always check with your professor first!
This is a general guide that I use in grading theological reflection papers (“rubric”).
Theological Reflection Attained
A reflection paper, here, assumes an appreciable knowledge of or scholarly interest in a larger category of learning and, thus, an aptitude to interact with others in the field. In Theology and Religious Studies, the student conducts such reflection and composes a theological reflection paper. This kind of research paper is comprised (regardless of other criteria) of the following six, measurable components:
A theological reflection paper will always include and integrate:
- Presenting issues;
- Theological issues;
- New insights; and
- Possibilities for solutions to human problems.
Example (simplified in brief):
“I read Augustine’s Confessions (presenting issue). I found that this classic text raises the perennial concerns of the human condition through self-disclosure, the need to be forgiven, redemption, and God’s love (theological issues). I began to think about how these concepts could apply in my ministry as a student intern at St. Paul’s Church (new insights). I found that as I put the book aside I could articulate my own ‘confession.’ I began to sense the possibility of release from negative thoughts that have haunted me for some time. Perhaps, Augustine’s Confessions is as powerful today as it was in 398 AD. I began to see that there is a redemption here that transcends Augustine’s own life and touches our own (solutions).”
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