Wrapping Up the Wesleyan Quadrilateral
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” - Revelation 21:5
Over the past 4 weeks I have written about each of the 4 parts of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. While there is certainly much more to be discussed about each piece by itself, there is even more to be said about these pieces working with one another. As I mentioned in the beginning of this series, there is no single piece that stands on its own. It’s impossible to read scripture in a vacuum without bringing our traditions, experiences, and rational capabilities to the table. And this is good news, for scripture itself contains all of these things. In it we see traditions, theological discussions, and the experiences of people across millennia come together to point us towards the God who loves us all. It is also good news because it reminds us that God has made and blessed all aspects of our lives. We are invited to read scripture with our whole selves. We may bring our thoughts, feelings, experiences, questions, conversation partners, and our very faith to our reading of scripture. But why is that important? What about reading scripture this way prepares us for spiritual growth? It enables us to be led in the new directions God calls us to.
Trying to juggle all of the various elements of the quadrilateral quickly proves another lesson, however, which is that we enter into something that we can never grasp fully. The live a life of faith is to enter into a mystery. That reality ought to humble us and caution us against arrogance and self-righteousness. It is precisely at the moment when we think we have it all figured out that we stifle our own spiritual development. The complexity of the Quadrilateral reminds us that we must never suppose that our traditions, theologies, and ways of being have God pinned down. To do so not only minimizes God by bringing God down to our level and boxing God in, but it makes us unreceptive to the new and wonderful things that God might be doing in our midst. For rather than reading scripture as entering into a joyful mystery that encompasses our whole selves, we become prone to anxiety over whether or not we've got it right. And that anxiety skews our vision. New theological expressions, testimonies from people we might instinctively deem to be wrong, spiritual fruit from unexpected places, and the possibility of greater inclusion become threats to our way of being rather than opportunities to live even more fully into who God has called us to be. But if we are humbled by the reality of faith as a joyful mystery and understand scripture to point us to that mystery with tradition, reason, and experience, we are able to respond to such things with joy and anticipation. So as we read scripture with our whole selves, my encouragement to you is to read it with joy and humility. In so doing we prepare ourselves for all the wonderful new things that God is doing in the life of our church.
* Cover photo: Portrait of John Wesley by George Romney, 1789