Monday, May 17, 2010

Wesley's Quadrilateral

It's been a while since I could post. Here is something I've learned only during the past few weeks. Thanks Jeff Gage of Bryan's First United Methodist Church for introducing me to this concept.

I believe in growth through study. I am also a devout Wesleyan in how I view my Christian life and service. John Wesley was a man way ahead of his time in how he viewed the Christian life and our responsibilities to our fellow man. He was chased out of many towns and churches for preaching hard truths and forcing them to think about what they were doing and why they were doing it.

I’ll write more about John Wesley another time though, as today I want to discuss the “Wesley Quadrilateral.” First know that Wesley never wrote directly about this, but people who have studied his writings and journals have summarized his views this way.

The Wesley Quadrilateral is a way we can study the Bible to come to various theological conclusions (truths) about how to live our lives as Christians. I have recently heard a radio preacher speaking about women preaching and how the Bible expressly forbids this. He then said, “You can’t pick and choose what you believe and don’t believe. It’s in the Bible, therefore you have to do it.”

Really? So when your brother dies, you marry your sister in law to keep the bloodline strong? You take part in stoning adulterers? Oh that part doesn’t apply? But you just said, “You can’t pick and choose what you believe and don’t believe.”

So how do we find the answers we seek? What are the truths that God reveals to us in the Bible? Wesley’s thoughts on this are my own and they come down to the famous Wesley Quadrilateral.

First the Bible is divinely inspired and is the primary way we learn of God’s will for our lives. Wesley taught that the Bible was “primary, but not solitary.” This meant that the Bible is where all instruction begins and all the answers are there, but we must also apply reason, experience, and tradition to truly come to the understandings we so desperately seek.

I’ve heard a minister say, “The King James version of the Bible is the only Bible.” Really? What about all the other Bibles printed or copied since the 3rd century? The King James was an English language version in the 16th century marking a Reformation movement for people to be able to read the Bible in their own language. See Education and the application of REASON are important. God would not have given us reason if he did not expect us to use it. I’ve also heard another minister teach that it is “easier for to get a camel through the eye of the needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” He then held up a sewing needle basically emphasizing that no rich man could ever get to Heaven. Okay, let’s apply some reason here. The “Eye of the Needle” was the gate leading to where the Camels and other animals were kept in the “barnyard.” Camels are big, dumb animals and have to be kicked and prodded to be brought into the yard through the gate, but they do make it inside, usually on a daily basis. See this changes the entire meaning of the quote. Don’t half-quote scripture, and do not attempt to apply it without Reason!

To truly understand what Paul was saying about lady ministers we must understand the culture and times he lived in, the basic morals and values, and traditions of that time. If you read the scripture, apply Reason, personal experiences, and church (universal) traditions then you can come to an understanding of what is right and wrong, what are the truths, and how they effect your PERSONAL relationship with God.

Personal experiences are also important in our understanding of God’s love and grace. I believe that every person must “seek God with fear and trembling” as each of us must answer to him for our own lives. My experiences in various churches growing up had both positive and negative effects on me. My personal growth through study in my Church and in my life have given me some insights that may be wrong, but I hope are right. My goal is to live an authentic, Christian life that may help others to know the love and grace of Jesus Christ. My goal is not to attack my brother’s and sisters, to be judgmental, or to drive them away from knowing God’s love and grace. How has God worked in my life and how can I grow and develop from these experiences? We do not exist in a vacuum, and God is ever revealing himself to us in our personal relationship with him. If you came to the alter to get married, you wouldn’t say goodbye as soon as the ceremony was done and leave to live the rest of your life without your spouse. The conversion experience is like that. You must foster a personal relationship with God to grow in that relationship. This is the purpose for your life.

Finally there is the idea of church traditions. Why do Methodist’s always do Communion during the 1st Sunday of a Month? A hundred years ago, itinerate ministers rode from town to town and would perform Communion and weddings while he was there, usually once a month. The Bible actually doesn’t prescribe when to have the Communion service. Jesus said, “Do this as often as you eat it.” Does this mean every meal, or does this mean when we stop to remember him? The church must change and grow with the times. It does not make sense for the church to practice and teach as it did 1000 years ago. The truths may be the same, but the culture, the technology, even the literacy rates are different.

Only by using the Bible as the primary source for learning, and then applying reason, experience, and traditions can we truly discover the truths of God’s grace and love for us and further our personal relationships with him.