May 13, 2015 – The Wesleyan Quadrilateral

-by Rev. Jeff Gannon

I totally forgot to share with you about the Wesleyan quadrilateral….

This was a part of my sermon when I explored the Christian cliché, “God Said It. I Believe It. That Settles It!”

The Wesleyan QuadrilateralOne of the great gifts of the Methodist tradition, which we received from our mother church, the Church of England, Anglican Church as it is commonly known, is what is called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

Some traditions say….we must go by Scripture alone and not consider any other sources as we seek the truth. The Wesleyan tradition starts with Scripture because it is primary. But, Scripture is not exclusive. As I said in the sermon on this topic, Scripture demands to be interpreted. That is where the real work begins. It is easy to quote Scripture, it is more difficult to interpret Scripture, and of course even more difficult to do or live out.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, said, in essence. We interpret Scripture through tradition, reason, and experience. His Anglican heritage taught him the value of tradition and reason. Wesley learned the value of his own Christian experience in understanding and applying the ways of God.

Tradition – the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. There is a critical difference. Wesley demanded we know what other faithful followers of Jesus have done in ages past. As I typical say…we want to represent and re-present the faith of our mothers and fathers because they are the foundation upon which our faith is built.

Reason – God has given us the capacity to think, to be rational, to be sane, to be logical, to be wrestling with the Scriptures as we seek understanding. More often than not, we are people of faith seeking understanding. There are those for whom understanding is key to gaining any sense of faith. Either way, the mind must be engaged. This is not to say “feelings” are never a part of the Christian equation. But, as the Scripture says, “we live by faith,” not by feelings. Feelings are fickle and follow the way of the will.

Experience – how we personally have experienced the grace of God at work in our lives. This is never to be discounted or denied. It is a piece of the “truth” pie. Alone, this can be dangerous because we base “truth” on whether we have personally experienced some part of the Christian life. Other faithful ones have had experiences we have not and yet we must value our own faith experience and not compare ourselves to others in any way.

What I so deeply value about the Wesleyan quadrilateral is its emphasis on being holistic yet grounded in Scripture. Any one of the quadrilateral taken alone is dangerous. Together, a whole is formed.

The good news is…God is still speaking. I pray we have ears to listen and courage to respond.


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