Wesley’s Four Corners

What a gift it is to be part of a denomination that does not require assent to a single doctrinal statement! I love how John Wesley’s quadrilateral (Scripture, tradition, reason and experience) can work together as each person thinks through his or her personal theology. I talk about it like four tent pegs holding down the corners of a tent, with the cross as the central pole. Someone like C.S. Lewis had a theological tent that leaned more toward tradition and reason, while Thomas Merton’s leaned a lot more toward experience.

Recently my husband and I were talking about what reason entails and its role in theology. That prompted me to pull out the Book of Discipline and read how the section on “Our Theological Task” describes these four corners. The few paragraphs under “Sources and Criteria” are worthy of a local church group study all on their own. Highlights for me are: how Scripture is primary, read through critical reflection; the specific parts of Christian tradition that Wesley paid attention to; how reason can help us understand the Bible and wider fields of knowledge; and how Christian witness needs to be understood and appropriated through the individual’s experience.

We are called to be “stewards of the gospel.” Maybe this phrase doesn’t just mean sharing the Good News with other people, but also exploring its depths and dimensions together in thoughtful conversations.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

See also: A Wesleyan Perspective on Christian Stewardship