Many of us who follow Jesus have become keenly aware during the last few days that we have a variety of opinions on hot button issues. That’s certainly not new. Christians have always seemed to find multiple ways of applying Scripture to life. It doesn’t really bother me that a room full of Jesus followers can have a room full of applications. What I struggle with is how we arrive at theological application (Please note that what I am talking about is Scriptural application. There is only one interpretation of the Biblical text. How we apply the interpretation is a little more flexible and subjective).
In my own faith tradition (United Methodist) we have adopted a unique way of forming our theology. We call it the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. The Quadrilateral is our methodology for theological reflection. Albert Outler, who first coined the term, understood that John Wesley used four sources for coming to a theological conclusion.
1. Scripture. Wesley believed that the Bible was the “first authority and contains the only measure whereby all other truth is tested”. The Bible is divinely inspired and that is reason enough for it to hold the weight it does. In the Bible we find out who God is, the way to salvation and how to live as a Christians. Although there are four legs to the stool of the Quadrilateral, each leg is not equal or bears the same weight. Scripture is the primary source for Christian theology. It is where God reveals himself. Scripture is an objective source that is more trustworthy than our feelings.
2. Reason. Although Scripture is enough, Wesley understood quite clearly that without reason we cannot understand the essential truths of Scripture. Reason must be assisted by the Holy Spirit if we are to understand the mysteries of God. With a redeemed mind, we can see truth more clearly and spiritual matters begin to make sense.
3. Tradition. I am not referring to the traditions of any particular denomination but rather the tradition of the early Church; things that were established as foundational from the beginning. Tradition supplies a link through 2,000 years of history with Jesus and the apostles.
4. Experience. Apart from Scripture, experience is the strongest proof of Christianity. Wesley insisted that we cannot have reasonable assurance of something unless we have experienced it personally.
Using the Quadrilateral will help us do appropriate theological reflection. The methodology can free Jesus followers from knee jerk reactions to contemporary struggles as well as remove the temptation to form a subjective, “feelings-only” opinion.
The purpose and goal of doing theology is to lead people and the church toward holiness of heart and life. In doing theology well, a Jesus follower can build a foundational Biblical worldview that is relevant for discipleship and evangelism.
What about you?
- How do you think theologically?
- How would you use the Quadrilateral to think through current issues?