Blessings on your 2023!
Some friends of mine love going to those escape rooms. A group of friends/ family enter a room and have a certain amount of time to figure out the riddle/ puzzle in order to escape the room. Sometimes you get one person who gores through the clues ont heir own and just tries to move everyone along. Most of my friends are the type who dialogue, though. They find a clue, discuss the clue, and cooperatively work on solving the puzzle together.
This reminds me of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. As Methodists, we do life and theology together using the tool known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. It is not a Square (equal sides) but more illustrated by a trapazoid.
Methodiists talk about God, ponder God, study God through dialogue between Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason.
“Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason.”
We seek to discover the word of God through reading the Bible. We believe the Bible is a primary way God speaks to us and reveals God’s self to us. We seek to study scripture through various translations as well as commentaries (which is the voice of Christian tradition).
This is the wisdom and creativity of Christians over time and across the world. It includes inspirational material like hymns, songs, prayers, poetry, Christian art and devotional books,. There are also formally agreed teachings like the creeds.
We are called to love God with our minds as well as with our hearts. To the best of our ability we need to think things through in the light of reason. This means becoming aware of different points of view, and using our own critical thinking to make sense of God's world. We are called to discern what is good and faithful and true. We do this through our dialogue with Scripture, tradition and our experience.
Methodism particularly stresses the importance of our own experience of God's grace working in our lives. We gain wisdom and maturity from life experience, especially when we pray and reflect about our story with other Christians.
Life can be hard. Relationships can be messy. Scripture is not always easy to understand. Wesley, working on his Anglican roots, offers us the quadrilateral as a tool to listen for God’s voice. What does scripture say? What does the tradition of the Christian Church say? What is my understanding? What is my experience? The quadrilateral is a checks and balance in a way. Does the tradition, my reasoning/ discernment, and experience line up with Scripture? Does my understanding of Scripture produce love in and through me? Do I understand the truth and scripture that the tradition is pointing me to?
The Wesleyan quadrilateral is one of the things I love about our Methodist heritage. It acknowledges that we never come to Scripture alone. All of our pastors, Sunday School teachers, and all of their teachers come to the scripture with us—they have influenced how we read the Bible. I also carry with me my experience and my reasoning. When I can identify these things I bring with me to scripture, I can ask better questions of scripture and find ways to hear the stories in fresh ways. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral also invites us to bring our whole selves to Scripture and our experience of God.
May we know the depths of God’s love better this year. May we love God and neighbor more this year.