Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


The Wesleyan Quadrilateral Step by Step (by T)

posted by Scot McKnight

WesQuad.jpg

Assembling Our
Theology – the Wesleyan Quadrilateral

In my
last post here
, I expressed my surprise that Al Mohler and others were
arguing that theism–the idea that God is active today in the world–is at stake
in the age of earth debates.  

Like
his argument or not, the argument 
clearly assumes that one has little to no basis for believing that God
acts today apart from a YEC view of
Genesis 1-3.  The oddity of this
argument and the ease with which it was made and affirmed by many got me
thinking immediately about Wesley’s Quadrilateral.  In light of that discussion, I think a more in depth look at
how each of us assembles our whole theology, or knowledge of God, is worth a
look, using the Quadrilateral as an outline for discussion.

How exactly do
we come to think what we do about God? 
How do we think about each of Scripture,
Tradition, Reason, and Experience separately in relation to good
theology?  How do we think they
inter-relate in our actual practice and how should they inter-relate? 

Hopefully a post on each of the four
“quads” will be helpful for all of us to think about those questions
and refine our own approach. 
Before
we look at each of the four individually, though, a little background is in
order. First, Wesley saw scripture as clearly primary among the four.  In fact, he saw the other three as the
unavoidable lens through which we viewed everything, including scripture and
even God himself.  We should note
that the Quadrilateral is offered as both prescriptive
(for how we ought to build our theology) and descriptive (of how we all inevitably assemble our knowledge of
God).  Of course, the emphasis we
put on each “quad” may make for a wide margin between the
prescriptive and the descriptive uses, as well as the ideas about God that we
end up with.  (And two quick points
for the record: 1. I’m not Methodist, so folks from that background may want to
give correction or depth to my summaries, and 2. although the quadrilateral is
faithful to Wesley’s theology, the term “quadrilateral” was coined by
a much later admirer of Wesley’s approach.)

I agree with Wesley that scripture should be primary among the four; I also agree that it should not be, perhaps more importantly, cannot be the only player in forming our knowledge of God.  Scripture often supports contrasting claims about God.  It presents opposite truths in tension.  It leaves a sea of questions unanswered.  Some explicit statements we don’t take explicitly.  And we place enormous weight on some Reasonable inferences (like the Trinity, for instance), especially those that have the support of Tradition.  Not only do Tradition, Experience and Reason form the lens for our view of Scripture, they address, with Scripture, they explore and fill in many gaps in our understanding of God, some of which Scripture itself creates.  Perhaps most importantly, they make the faith into our faith.

I grew up as a son of the reformation.  Sola Scriptura was mother’s milk to me, and continues, frankly, to be a huge blessing to me, forever reminding me to go back to scripture as the truest guide.  But I can also say now that the idea of sola scriptura that I was taught in my youth is a mirage, with all the dangers that mirages provide.  The stubborn pursuit of a theology shaped by scripture alone can kill a person from dehydration as they chase it, to the extent that it encourages them to forego drinking from other real, God-given (scripturally recommended) springs which some teach are too poisonous to willingly consume in any but the slightest quantities.  My concern for those who believe that Theism is at stake with the age of the earth debates, for instance, is that such folks have been taught too much disdain for the Spirit as He works in Tradition and Experience; leaving only Scripture and Reason (and an unacknowledged and smaller Tradition and Experience) as their tools to build their faith.  Such a faith may find more than just the age of the earth as a serious threat to its stability and credibility.

For my part, I’ve reluctantly made peace with the fact that the best I can shoot for as I build my own knowledge of God, in reality, is prima scriptura of one form or another.  I can’t build a theology without Tradition, Experience, and my own Reason, however flawed each of them are.  Scripture with Tradition, with Experience, and with Reason is my only option, all with my hope in the Spirit to guide me from top to bottom.  Actually, I prefer to think of the whole process of putting my theology together as relying on, interacting with and looking for the Spirit as I use my Reason (the least trustworthy of the four, IMO) and look for God in my Experience, and in the experience and wisdom of others in Tradition, and, above all, in the Scriptures.  So, I wish that my “sola” brothers would be more honest about the necessary and unavoidable (and even helpful) role of the other members of the Quadrilateral.  We don’t have to say that Experience or Tradition are perfect; we can be honest about their weaknesses and their strengths.  

But part of this, too, is recognizing the reality that the Spirit is active in all of them, and not in “scripture alone” and, more importantly, that God chooses to be active in each and not in scripture alone.  The danger of rejecting Tradition too swiftly or broadly is that we reject an enormous amount of life giving testimony of and experience with the Spirit along with the works of Satan, and the danger of being overly hostile to Experience and/or Reason does the same.  

The scriptures themselves point us to honoring our fathers and mothers (though not above Christ himself); they ask us to “reason” and “think” about and meditate on all sorts of things as we search out the mysteries of life and God, even if we still trust God’s wisdom over our own.  And the scriptures certainly describe our “knowledge” of God as much more experiential than just reading a book.  Our book testifies of a God whom we experience deeply, if surprisingly, in life, not just in the word, but in and through his omnipresent Spirit.  They also warn us of the dangers of holding any quad, even (our take on) the scriptures, so exclusively that we cannot see the Spirit right in front of us in the other ways he works.

Do you agree with the assertion that the Quadrilateral is descriptive of everyone’s theology process (other than giving scripture primacy)?  How do you rank the components prescriptively and why? Is the Quadrilateral how you were taught to assemble your own knowledge of God or how you do it today?  Do you see the Spirit working with each of these or only some?  Does the Quadrilateral help you to keep scripture primary, but also encourage you to seek God in Tradition (present and past) and personal Experience?  How do you think we should (and/or do) build our knowledge of God?  (Remember, we will do a post on each element.)



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james Petticrew

posted July 21, 2010 at 6:46 am


I have studied at a three theological institutions, Glasgow Bible College (mildly reformed) and Nazarene Theological College, Manchester and Asbury Theological Seminary. The first put forward a very clear “sola scriptura” view and of course I was introduced to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral at Asbury and NTC.
My perspective is that the “Wesleyan” methodology is simply more honest about how positions are derived. A classic example of this is the whole debate about justification by faith. The Reformed camp like Piper claim to be operating on “Sola Sciptura” but just look at how many time Calvin and theologians in the Reformed tradition are quoted, tradition IS playing a significant role in this debate.
I think Wesley himself was a great example of how to keep Scripture primary yet have a place for tradition in forming doctrine. He spoke about being a “Homo unius libri” yet in the preacher’s library he assembled to educate his preachers he drew material from Orthodox and catholic writers on spirituality as well as protestants. You can clearly see the influence of these strains of tradition in Wesley’s doctrine of “Christian Perfection” Wesley clearly argued that this doctrine as well as being found in Scripture, resonated with tradition, was confirmed by the experience of his people and was not variance with reason.
Sadly this Wesleyan theological methodology has not always been followed in the Wesleyan “Holiness Movement.” In my own denomination the Church of the Nazarene, there has been a recent movement against the so called “emerging church.’ Its my view that when you consider what these people are saying against, the inclusion of practices from the monastic tradition, the riding widely from all different theological traditions, etc that their real problem is not with the “emerging church” but with Wesleyan theological method. They are operating from a fundamentalist “sola scriptura” perspective that has always been alien to Wesleyanism.



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Rick

posted July 21, 2010 at 7:02 am


Albert Outler at Duke did a good paper years ago about Wesley and tradition, particularly the Orthodox tradition.
He writes:
“Wesley?s understanding of the sources of theology was closer to that of Orthodoxy than most Western traditions. However, there were key differences. First, Wesley joined the West in affirming more explicitly than the East a role for reason and experience in
theological activity… Second, Wesley restricted the authority of tradition to the first four centuries of the Christian Church (and contemporary Anglican standards) in a way that Orthodoxy
would never accept.”
http://www.divinity.duke.edu/docs/faculty/maddox/wesley/John_Wesley_Eastern_Orthodoxy.pdf
I adhere to the quadrilateral in the order of Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. For good or bad, I put a gap between Reason and Experience. My skepticism keeps getting in the way.



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Ed Gentry

posted July 21, 2010 at 7:07 am


I’ve always thought that the quad very helpful both prescriptively and descriptively as you put it.
I’m not sure that I would want to rank the components. They often convey different kinds of truth. So I rarely need to. (This is NOT at all to suggest that the Bible is only interested in theology and not interested in history or any nonsense like that.) Occasionally one of the components comes in tension with another but even then I’m nut sure I’d want to throw one out for the another. Rather my first impulse is to see how they both speak truthfully. Admittedly there may be times when I have to give one component pride of place, and scripture is often what takes that. (Though I’d add that I’m not sure Scripture always to first place for the apostles in Acts. It seems to me that there experience with the Spirit often influenced their readings of the Bible.)
So for me the debate over Gen 1-3 does not cause any tension in the least. A literal reading must attend to the genre of the text – anything else is naive anachronism. Reading it literally (in this sense) the inspired text speaks truthfully about God, and His good but broken creation. And it speaks truthfully about God’s involvement in his good creation. It is not trying to say exactly how and when God created the world. The tension with science is almost non-existent.
This reading of Genesis 1-3 also does not challenge Theism as you have defined it. It boldly states that God is interacting with his good creation (and his mode of interaction is in sharp contrast to some other ANE creation stories).



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Dan

posted July 21, 2010 at 7:46 am


I would agree with the gist of the quadralateral with a couple of caveats.
1. In Wesley’s 25 articles “The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”
Clearly scripture has a primary place.
2. Reason, tradition and experience all have a significant potential to corruption. Corrupt tradition was obviously a huge issue in the Reformation, we can all point to wild claims made by someone about how the “spirit spoke” to them in experience, and reason fares not better.
I think “the idea that God is active today in the world–is at stake in the age of earth debates” primarily relates to putting too much emphasis on reason, not discounting it altogether. It stems from the definition of science that says EVERYTHING, WITHOUT EXCEPTION in the visible universe can be explained by reason in terms of natural processes operating by natural law. That definition of science does, to many, myself included, rule out the possibility that the creator of natural law might act in ways not bound by it. It says reason can unlock every mystery and puts reason at the top of the quadralateral.
That imbalance I do disagree with.



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David Phillips

posted July 21, 2010 at 8:09 am


T,
Good thoughts. I am not Wesleyan and have not studied the quadrilateral. However, I hope I bring a unique perspective to this.
I finished my D.Min. at George Fox Seminary in 2009. My work centered on integrating emerging brain research – emotional intelligence, advances in how the brain interprets inputs, forms concepts, etc – and theology, primarily to help people change behavior and become whole. This work was suggested to me by Len Sweet, our mentor. What I discovered through this had a great impact on my view of a lot of things.
Relevant to this discussion, here’s what I discovered. What we see is not reality. Instead, our brains combine information from our eyes with data from our other senses, synthesize it, and draw on our past experience to give us a workable image of our world. What we ?see? in the world, then, is really a function of our brain, an image that integrates past experiences, memory, cultural learning and other multi-sensory information. What a person perceives or sees is not the world. It is actually a prediction of what should be in the world based on what a person has experienced. This prediction is constantly tested and adjustments made. Therefore our experience, and changes in experience or culuture, will tweak meaning, including how we understand Scripture.
Television gives us an example of this interpretive struggle. People typically misunderstand thirty percent of what is shown to them on a tv show. A person?s emotional state, mindset at the time, and prior experience construct meaning for him or her, but this could be far from the actual meaning the show was trying to express. It is interpreted by the person, but is not what actually exists. As a result, we go about our lives mostly assuming that what we see is what really is.
We all construct what we believe based on perception, past experience, emotional states, and what is going on around us. Therefore, in our theological thinking, we need theological humility.
People will interpret the scriptures differently based on the frames of reference, which inform their interpretive processes. Think of this as tradition and even community. They both frame our understanding of life in general and scripture in particular. A change in either could change how we understand scripture (and life). And we have to trust the Spirit to keep us or another person from believing and teaching heresy. And in that, we must be willing to accept that the interpretation which comes from that person may truly enhance our own understanding of God. We cannot be too quick to label a view different from ours heresy simply because it is taught from a different frame of reference. Our theology must be a humble orthodoxy.
The idea of absolute truth is foundational, but we have to understand that absolute truth is found in relationship ? relationship to Jesus Christ, because He is the way and the Truth and the Life. It is our relationship to THE Word as He helps us journey in life that helps us understand and interpret the scriptures.
The scriptures are primary, but are shaped by the quadritlateral as the Spirit moves us through various life events and experiences and teaches us the heart of God through the scriptures and those experiences.



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Guy Chmieleski

posted July 21, 2010 at 8:15 am


Great post Scot! I look forward to following posts in this series!
I did not learn about the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, in any meaningful sense, until I was working at Asbury College about 10 years ago. I had probably been a Christian for about 10 years by then, and had even graduated from a strong Christian college (in the Reformed tradition) and gone on to work at another (where I earned an MA in Ministry).
As I began to learn about the Wesleyan Holiness tradition, life and teachings of Wesley, and even got to see the quadrilateral literally being lived out (watching people hold their reason, tradition and experiences up to the truths of scripture as a way of better understanding who God is, what He might think about certain things and how He wants us to live in light of that) that some important connections between orthodoxy and orthopraxy began to finally make more sense for me.
The framework for faith development and living the Christian life that the Quad has provided me has been significant!



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Scot McKnight

posted July 21, 2010 at 8:19 am


David,
I’ve got my doubts about what you have discovered in that it sounds a bit too exaggerated to me. (A little Len Sweet-ish, no?) Yes, our brain perceives and processes but aren’t you in danger of surrendering critical realism?



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Pat

posted July 21, 2010 at 8:36 am


You’ve stated your position well, Scot.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 21, 2010 at 8:46 am


I need to say this: the post is by T, not by Scot.



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Matt Stone

posted July 21, 2010 at 9:40 am


I have to admit, I doubt the self hoesty of the sola scriptura crowd. Prima scriptura seems more in tune with reality.



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T

posted July 21, 2010 at 9:43 am


David,
What I’m getting from the summary of your work is the necessity of the Spirit to help us in our thinking as we are capable of serious error even in our best attempts at assembling our knowledge of God. I think that’s wise. But then again, maybe my brain is missing something that you’re saying . . . :)
As James said, I agree that the Quadrilateral is more honest than most explanations/prescriptions for doing theology. I sometimes wish, though, that the “Tradition” quad had been dubbed “Community” instead, including both temporal (friends, family, local church, etc.) and the Church of Tradition.



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DRT

posted July 21, 2010 at 9:50 am


I unwittingly did a Wesleyan quadrilateral in a post from the other day except that I added experimental evidence to the mix. So the order I had was:
Personal Revelation with God Trumps All
Solid, experimental physical evidence trumps the rest
Reason trumps the rest
Historic Church teaching trumps the rest (i.e. the church interpretation of bible)
Scripture trumps the rest
http://lostcodex.com/2010/07/rational-religion/
To rephrase in Wesleyan Terms:
Experience
Experiment (my add)
Reason
Tradition
Scripture
In narrative form I think my trumping language made the point a bit opaque, perhaps I would say:
Experience informs Experiment, which informs Reason, which informs Tradition, which informs Scripture. Or the converse, Scripture is interpreted by Tradition, which is interpreted by Reason, which is interpreted by experiment, which is interpreted by experience. I do think there is a hierarchy and scripture is the least reliable because it requires the most interpretation.



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J.L. Schafer

posted July 21, 2010 at 10:02 am


T, thanks for another great post. In light of recent conversations about the work of the Holy Spirit, I think it is useful to clarify “experience.” Some might erroneously read this as personal or individual experience, which raises lots of red flags, those dreaded “what ifs” that you spoke of yesterday. But if we understand it to be the broad experience of the Church, it helps us to learn from oone another and other parts of the Body and to be led by the Spirit in exciting new ways that we may not have considered before.



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T

posted July 21, 2010 at 10:20 am


J.L,
Thanks. Yes; I don’t want to get ahead of myself as we will devote a whole post to each “quad,” but you’re right. As a person who believes in and practices many of the spiritual gifts, I don’t equate those with “Experience.” “Experience” is the sense of this post may include those things, but goes well beyond them. It is a term much too broad to be limited in that way.



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keo

posted July 21, 2010 at 10:46 am


Saying that Scripture is primary is fine, and comforting to some, but nigh unto meaningless in practical terms. Scripture is not some Platonic ideal on a spiritual plane, but ideas and stories and propositions and proverbs that rattle around in our hearts and minds and inform our lives. *This* Scripture is an interpreted Scripture. And interpretation of Scripture leads, in effect, to different “Scriptures,” sad and threatening though this may sound. If this were not so, we would not have had any of our great debates (predestination / free will, women in leadership, the Trinity, etc.) — even among those who would assert the primacy and inerrancy of Scripture — because the ideal Scripture would have magically spoken the same thing to all of us.
So, we can *say* that Scripture is most important, and that sounds righteous and proper, and we can even turn this into a loyalty test, but nobody hears Scripture except through lenses of interpretation, such as experience, reason, language, and past beliefs / traditions. Because I work with the issue of interpretation on a daily basis, I have written more on this: http://clanottosoapbox.blogspot.com/2009/06/how-we-read-bible.html
Moreover, is not primacy of Scripture itself an extrabiblical belief, a tradition based on others’ experience and reason in fact? I see a whole lot of experiencing God directly in the Bible and no verses that say we should elevate Scripture above our experience of God himself (God speaking directly through prayer, for example, assuming that this type of experience could possibly happen today and that it is a different type of knowledge than reading or hearing Scripture).
David@5: Nicely put.



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Ben M.

posted July 21, 2010 at 10:50 am


A good read–thought provoking and helpful. Thanks everyone. James P, your last paragraph is spot on. I am a member of the same tribe and your summary is well said.
I’m looking forward to the exploration of the Wesleyan Quad. By the way, the graphic is helpful. I suspect there is a reason why it is termed Quad and not Square. Square might suggest all are equal, and no one has yet said that.



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J.L. Schafer

posted July 21, 2010 at 10:54 am


Okay; I eagerly await your future posts on each of the four.
The part of today’s post that really resonated with me was your remarks about sola scriptura and those perceived dangers of drinking from other wells. Drinking from the well of scripture alone — or, more accurately, my own church’s method of approaching scripture, which is of course laden with tradition whether or not people admit it — was able to quench my thirst for a few years. But eventually that well ran dry, and I needed to go elsewhere. Paying greater attention to tradition, reason and experience has revived my spiritual life and greatly enhanced my study of the scriptures. Ironically, it is by wandering away from “Bible alone” spirituality that I have gained new perspectives on the Bible and how to apply and teach it.



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Rick

posted July 21, 2010 at 11:02 am


Keo #15-
“I see a whole lot of experiencing God directly in the Bible and no verses that say we should elevate Scripture above our experience of God himself”
That is a false dichotomy. Do we experience God apart from Scriptures? Perhaps. Do we experience God throught the Scriptures? Yes.
As N.T. Wright states:
“If we think for a moment what we are actually saying when we use the phrase ?authority of scripture?, we must surely acknowledge that this is a shorthand way of saying that, though authority belongs to God, God has somehow invested this authority in scripture. And that is a complex claim. It is not straightforward….The Bible, then, is designed to function through human beings, through the church, through people who, living still by the Spirit, have their life molded by this Spirit-inspired book. What for? Well, as Jesus said in John 20, ?As the Father sent me, even so I send you?. He sends the church into the world, in other words, to be and do for the world what he was and did for Israel. There, I suggest, is the key hermeneutical bridge.”



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Taylor

posted July 21, 2010 at 11:03 am


Honest question here that I think is being asked by keo and others:
Why is scripture more important than tradition, experience, and reason? What is the argument?
I apologize if this is off the topic of T’s questions.



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Jonathan

posted July 21, 2010 at 11:21 am


If the “lens” of our reason, our experience and our tradition(s) makes the scriptures intelligible, and our reason, experience and tradition are “imperfect” and “fallible,” isn’t Scripture for all practical purposes also imperfect and fallible?
Or, perhaps, noumenally, Scripture is perfect, but then these factors which are necessary for the possibility of understanding of scripture (we might call them the ‘a priori’ of Bible reading) make it imperfect to us.
So, what use is to to sit around conjecturing that Scripture in the noumenal, real (or spiritual?) world is perfect, when it can never perfectly intuited and so is effectively no longer the touch-stone for certainty in an uncertain world that we’d like it to be?
Or, perhaps we could embrace all of these factors, scripture, reason, experience and tradition(s), as ambiguous in their value, capable of being good and being bad guides for human living, and go ahead being as attentive, intelligent, reasonable and responsible as possible.
And most importantly, being in Love, without which none of it “works”



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J.L. Schafer

posted July 21, 2010 at 11:21 am


Taylor #5, here is my two cents’ worth. When Jesus ascended into heaven, he did not leave behind a book or set of writings. He left behind living firsthand witnesses of his life, death and resurrection. He said to his apostles, “You will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8) It was by the testimony, teaching and life of these living, Spirit-filled witnesses that the gospel was preached and spread. As time wore on, the testimony of these primary witnesses was written down and later became the New Testament. These are God-breathed Scriptures, and today they remain our most direct and trustworthy connection to the apostolic witness.



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Charlie Clauss

posted July 21, 2010 at 11:22 am


- I assume you will mention NT Wright’s argument against Experience as a source of authority.
- Someone has suggested that the remaining three should be thought of as a tricycle (and not the often used three-legged stool), with Scripture as the front wheel.



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T

posted July 21, 2010 at 11:23 am


Taylor, not off topic at all. How these 4 work together in our actual practice and how we think they ought to work together as we build our knowledge of God is the topic.
While, as I stated, I do believe scripture should be primary (I’ll let someone else give those arguments today), keo’s position has more merit (ironically, in scripture) than many folks would care to admit. John Frye’s post is worth considering here as is RJS’s frequent refrain that our trust ultimately lies with God, who by his Spirit gives us the scriptures as well as all other means through which we learn of interact with God.
By the way, the United Methodist Church has a wonderful intro to their take on each part of Wesley’s quadrilateral here: http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.2310045/ which I encourage folks to check out if the whole subject of the quadrilateral is relatively new.



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T

posted July 21, 2010 at 11:38 am


Charlie (and everyone else),
If there’s an argument worth mentioning that hasn’t been mentioned, you are hereby encouraged to mention it! I can guarantee that I am ignorant of many arguments that would be relevant to this discussion, and I’m not the only one.
And anyone posting here can handle (and generally welcomes) being corrected or disagreed with. We’re sharpening each other here, and not just with shouts of “Amen!” and pats on the back. Just avoid rudeness and this will be a great and productive conversation.



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Michael Middendorf

posted July 21, 2010 at 11:59 am


I think that it is ironic that we are coming back to the original Catholic argument for Tradition, even though this is taught as equal in authority as scripture, for it is the Church that is the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) and not scripture, for it is the church that is necessary to pass on and interpret scripture. Those who have tried to make experience primary, need only to look at the diverse world religions and sects within Christianity to see the fallacy of that proposition. Reason without Tradition and Scripture lead to the enlightenment and modernity, but Scripture and Tradition are inspired and protected by the power of God, and thus are both primary, and one cannot hold up without the other. (Matt. 16:18, 28:20);(Acts 2:1? 41, 15:7?12)



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keo

posted July 21, 2010 at 11:59 am


Hi Rick (@18): I wouldn’t call that a false dichotomy. Regardless, your comment doesn’t address Scripture’s lack of emphasis on the primacy of Scripture. Love the Lord your God … love your neighbor … do unto others … 10 commandments…. Nothing about “Your interpretation of Scripture trumps any other form of knowledge, including face-to-face experience of God or the logic we use to make sense of the language we’re reading.”
Why did Peter rely on his dream about the unclean animals rather than his knowledge of the Law? Why was Paul converted when he started hearing voices that contradicted his vast knowledge of Scripture? Scripture wasn’t supreme for them, was it?
Did just about everyone in the Bible experience God apart from through reading or hearing their Scriptures? Yes. Do we experience God through the Scriptures? Perhaps — if we are listening and if we can read well and if the Spirit illuminates, etc. Does everyone else today experience God when they read the Bible?
Perhaps you equate the written word and the living Word, Jesus? That would change the discussion entirely.
NT Wright is presenting an interpretation of John 20, by the way. That’s not the only way genuine, inerrancy-of-Scripture-type Christians have understood that passage. I think that confirms my point, actually.
I think the Bible is essential. I just don’t see the point in pretending it’s a fairy-tale Bible that we understand apart from interpretation.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:02 pm


Having grown up in the Church of the Nazarene but becoming PCUSA as a young adult, I’d have to say that the quadrilateral is probably one of the most significant things I’ve carried with me from my Wesleyan upbringing.
I think I see the four pieces as inextricably intertwined. They are four aspects of our discernment but they can’t be neatly separated and analyzed. I’m hesitant to rank them. But I would also add that the Spirit is present and active in all of them … or should I say all of it?



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Taylor

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:14 pm


Michael W. – I agree. How can we seperate scipture from tradition? Scripture is read from the lens of the others. Each tradition has it’s own translation and sensibilities. They are not islands unto themselves.



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Dan

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:17 pm


Why is scripture given primacy?
Cyril from the fourth century:
“For concerning the divine and sacred Mysteries of the Faith, we ought not to deliver even the most casual remark without the Holy Scriptures: nor be drawn aside by mere probabilities and the artifices of argument. Do not then believe me because I tell thee these things, unless thou receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of what is set forth: for this salvation, which is of our faith, is not by ingenious reasonings, but by proof from the Holy Scriptures.” (The Catechetical Lectures of S. Cyril 4.17)
Gregory of Nyssa: ” …we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet (dogma); we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.”
Athanasius: “We, however, who extend the accuracy of the Spirit to the merest stroke and tittle, will never admit the impious assertion that even the smallest matters were dealt with haphazard by those who have recorded them, and have thus been borne in mind to the present day.”
Augustine: “…In the innumerable books that have been written latterly we may sometimes find the same truth as in Scripture, but there is not the same authority. Scripture has a sacredness peculiar to itself. (Augustine, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, book 11.5)
Yes there are challenges to interpretation, but the final authority always comes back to the text. Reason must apprehend the text, not bend it beyond it’s natural shape. Experience validates and applies the text, but must not go off on tangents untethered by the text. Tradition is a consensus of interpretation, but is not a source of new revelation. The scripture is the measuring rod, not a straighjacket, but a fixed standard nontheless.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm


Dan #4
“That definition of science does, to many, myself included, rule out the possibility that the creator of natural law might act in ways not bound by it. It says reason can unlock every mystery and puts reason at the top of the quadralateral.”
Dan some scientists believe this but this is not a definition of science. Science is a self-limited way of investigation. Science uses methodological materialism … it assumes only natural processes and studies only natural phenomenon. If God has intervened in some way that defies natural explanation then the most scientists will ever be able to say is we have no scientific explanation. When they move beyond this to say God did or did not do it, they have left the realm of science. That is why I say both ID and scientism (those that hold to philosophical materialism allegedly based on science) are not science.
And let us also not forget a reciprocal error that tradition … say the sun revolves around the earth because the earth is at the center of Gods creation (or that a literal Adam and Eve listened to serpents and ate apples) … can also lead us astray.



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Scot McKnight

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:26 pm


On why is Scripture most important… this is actually a devilish issue for those who really want to prove such things by going only to the Bible, but here are few considerations:
1. Because Jesus (and his Jewish contemporaries) treated the Bible as final authority. [The argument from tradition was criticized by Jesus severely in Mark 7:1-20.]
2. Because not only did Jesus see Scriptures as authoritative, he saw himself as authoritative. [Read Matt 5:17-48.]
3. Because Christians follow Jesus, and that means we follow his authorities: Bible and himself.
4. Because Jesus commissioned the apostles to represent him and extend his ministries, that gives them authority. [This is why the early church was devoted to apostolic teaching.]
5. Because the NT is the apostolic deposit of representing Jesus.
If I had to reduce this to three words it would be these:
Because the NT is Jesus-centered, pneumatic (Spirit-inspired, shaped, etc), and apostolic.



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Dean

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:41 pm


I love the graphic… The floor or foundation of Scripture, the wider house of tradition, the smaller room of experience within tradition and the roof or cap of reason. Whatever is out of the realm of understanding fits into the wide experience of the whole Church but reason plays a part in being a guarding against total nonsense. I was looking for the wings of the dove, though, as the presence of the Spirit in guiding and illuminating the process.



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T

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:43 pm


I do think the quadrilateral is something of a bridge for various large branches of the faith. Wesley himself, of course, was Anglican, but is the father of many protestant denoms, both Methodist and other holiness traditions. But Catholics also frequently praise the quadrilateral, and others still point to its compatability with Orthodox thinking. It is a helpful guide and corrective to extremes.
I think especially as some of modernity’s divisive influence on the Church is starting to wane, Wesley’s quadrilateral can serve as helpful common ground over which the whole Church can commune, strengthen relationships and sharpen each other.



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Taylor

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:45 pm


Scot, Jesus treated the OT as authority. The NT wasn’t written yet.
Dan, you are using tradition to prove that scripture is more important that tradition. This is problematic for me.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm


@31 Scot
Thanks for that.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 21, 2010 at 12:52 pm


@Taylor #34
Scot knows that. That’s why he spoke so much about apostolic authority (#4-5).



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Jonathan

posted July 21, 2010 at 1:00 pm


So, I get largely ignored when I do this, but I’m going to keep it up ‘cuz I think its important.
If our discussion of the elements of the quadrilateral is in service of clarifying how we come to knowledge of God, we’d need to answer a few preliminary questions before we could address the “tools” or resources laid out in the quadrilateral.
1) What is knowledge, generally?
2) If God is the object of our knowledge, how does that knowing differ from the knowing of more proportional objects in, for example, chemistry?
Also, defining what we mean by Tradition, Experience and Reason seems really important as well.
1) Does Tradition pertain to all of Church history or just an orthodox thread through that history?
2) By reason do we mean human intelligence broadly construed, or just the syntactical parameters of logic? Or something else entirely?
3) What exactly DO we mean by Experience? Do we just mean practical knowledge? Emotional apprehension?



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SD Jones

posted July 21, 2010 at 1:00 pm


I find the Wesleyan Quadrilateral to be one of the more informative ways of teaching Scripture. I always begin a new Bible Study outlining the Quadrilateral and also Wesleys points about interpreting Scripture. The most startling impact of the Quadrilateral was when I ran a retreat for ex-cons. When they saw that their experience had value in relation to Scripture and they had permission to think about that experience in a Scriptural way, many new insights into their personal lives and faith came to them. That was all it took to convince me Wesley was on the right track with this model. The benefit of having Scripture primary is everything else in our thought, experience and reflection as a community is anchored and rooted in something solid, true and corrective. We don’t get to just make it up, but it is not like our experience and thinking and tradition don’t matter. They very much do. The Prophets bear out this reality as well.
Peace!
SD



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Jonathan

posted July 21, 2010 at 1:08 pm


T,
I realize the second set of questions steps on your future posts a little, but I’d be curious to hear what people think in advance of your (expert) opinion.



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Your Name

posted July 21, 2010 at 1:19 pm


On the primacy of scripture question, it would, of course be circular to merely point to scripture on that point. But it is still worth saying that various scriptures, directly and by example, talk about scripture as a correcting and primary guide. Interestingly, for me, it also is the other three (showing their own necessity and strength) that point to the importance of letting scripture have a unique and even “primary” place in forming our knowledge of God.
But again, while the issue of primacy is important, it easily becomes a way of setting these 4 at odds, rather than appreciate and look for their harmonies via the Spirit. Again, John Frye’s post recently and one of his comments in that thread are especially helpful here. Discernment is not a job for scripture alone, or community alone, or tradition alone, or reason alone or experience alone. We are wise to earnestly ask the Spirit to lead us and look for Him in all of them. From whence he speaks can be surprising sometimes, but I’m routinely looking for harmonies among these, not for one to “trump” the other.



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T

posted July 21, 2010 at 1:34 pm


sorry, 40 was me.
Jonathan, two things: First, those are great questions to keep in mind, which we can discuss some today and more later. Second, I’m no expert.



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Dan

posted July 21, 2010 at 1:47 pm


Michael 30. A bit off topic, but Judge Overton’s McClean v Arkansas definition seems fairly well accepted in the academy, that science is:
…is guided by natural law;
…has to be explained by reference to natural law;
For many of us, this implies that everything, without exception, must be explained in terms of natural law.
Back to the topic at hand, when scripture says Jesus changed water into wine, do reason and experience trump scripture? We have never seen such a thing, nor can we explain it in terms of natural cause and effect mechanisms, yet the fact that it cannot be explained in human terms need not mean it did not happen, if God is outside of natural law. (A scientist may be able to study the effects, but perhaps not the mechanism, because the mechanism may be beyond nature.)
I think this is a big issue in the ongoing impasse between “science” as “faith”. Many believe certain events in the creation narrative are “one-off” events for which no natural cause can be known, but which may or may not have some residual effects that could perhaps be studied. The insistence on methodological naturalism seems to cause certain possibilities to simply be dismissed.
I think it wrongheaded if someone were to look for a natural mechanism for the virgin birth. That does not mean that event could not happen, only that reason and experience (and science) have limits. Likewise, creation of a human from the dust of the ground should not be dismissed only on the basis of it being beyond “reason” or “experience” or outside of a certain definition of science. In matters of faith, what scripture says and how the majority of exegetes of church history have interpreted the passage has to weigh heavily even if reason and experience seem to pull in another direction.



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Rick

posted July 21, 2010 at 1:53 pm


Keo #26-
As usual, it would be hard to improve upon what Scot wrote in #31.



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Taylor

posted July 21, 2010 at 2:13 pm


Kenny (and Scot), NT Scripture came to us through a few hundred year process. Not everything the apostles ever wrote became the NT. Also, some of the NT was written by non-apostles. Therefore it was tradition (or the church) that produced our NT scriptures and I’m still left wondering how one is placed over the other.



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J.L. Schafer

posted July 21, 2010 at 2:43 pm


Taylor #44 raises a great point. The process by which the NT came to us looks messy and human. The same could be said of the OT. The OT was transmitted to us through Jewish tradition, yet Jesus placed the OT above that tradition. The Spirit worked through some very messy, human processes to give birth to authoritative, divinely inspired words. It reminds me of what Peter Enns has written about the incarnational model of scripture. Ultimately I think we must admit that it is a mystery.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 21, 2010 at 2:45 pm


@Taylor,
Considering Scot is a Biblical scholar, I’m sure he’s well aware of how the canon (not the scriptures) were formed.
The church did decide on the final canon, but scriptures were already accepted as authoritative long before that happened. There even seems to be evidence in 2nd Peter that Paul’s writings were already accepted as authoritative.
Are you asking how Scripture trumps Tradition? I would say because it’s closer to the apostolic authority. So, yes I believe that the writings of Paul have more authority than the writings of Pope Benedict V from the 10th century (I’m making up the name and date) because Paul was an apostle called directly by Jesus. If tradition is in conflict with scripture, then I think scripture wins.



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T

posted July 21, 2010 at 3:10 pm


Taylor,
I appreciate your questions; I wish more people asked them. But I tend to think that is like Jesus and Mary, or Moses and the commandments. Jesus came from Mary in a tangibly real (and likely very messy) sense, but any Christian, including Mary, would affirm he was also from God in a very real sense. Because Mary recognized/ diserned/ believed this latter truth, Mary submitted to the authority of her son. She didn’t merely come from her alone; he also came from God. Also, “the law” came via Moses, but it was also from God. Because of that, Moses not only “gave” the law but was also subject to it, and accepted as much. In the same way, the Church ‘gives’ the NT scriptures, but she also recognized (using collective Reason, Tradition and Experience) that they are uniquely from God, and therefore, subjects herself to them. I hope that helps.



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Taylor

posted July 21, 2010 at 3:10 pm


Kenny, I’m not trying to stump Scot. This just happens to be a huge, huge question for me and I have never been able to reconcile it.



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DRT

posted July 21, 2010 at 3:10 pm


I think I am viewing this differently that most others. Many here say (including Scot) that the scripture is primary. But if the only way that we can use the scripture is through interpretation then it is not the scripture that is primary but the interpretation that is primary.
I guess the question is ?for what??. For those of you who are putting scripture as number 1 then I think you are kidding yourself. If I was to take an individual, perhaps Scot, or T, and say ?Why do you think God is good?? then they may say because Jesus said it in the Bible, but the reality is that it is their reasoned interpretation of the churches teaching concerning scripture.
If I were to say was the universe created within the past 10k years or so, I would think that Scot would answer something like, we have scientific evidence that informs my reason that the church should interpret scripture as it not necessarily having been created in the past 10k years.
Put it this way, if the science totally changed for some reason, then it ?how we think about God???s creation would change. Therefore the science has more authority than the others when it comes to how one thinks what they do about God. I further think that if Scot was transported to an alien planet and they shared with him a different perspective then he would probably believe that?..
I am still struggling with the right words, but let me try this since this is closer to the question asked:
I believe scripture, in the absence of historic orthodox church teaching, in the absence of additional reason that would make me doubt church teaching, in the absence of objective conclusive experimentation that would make me doubt my reason, and in the absence of objective my own personal and real (to me) experience that would make me doubt the experimental evidence.
One more try for the gipper. Without anything else being known, would you not accept the orthodox teaching from the church concerning the bible (that is without you thinking about it or testing it or something else)? Then without anything else being known if you don?t think it is reasonable for the orthodox teaching to say what it says, would you not form your belief of God around what your reasoned perspective was? And without anything else, would you not question your reasoned perspective if there was irrefutable experimental evidence?
I guess I just see this differently.
I see your point about how each informs the others and we are seeking harmony, but we are talking about how a person thinks about God, right? The fact that the scripture says a donkey talked does not take priority in this. Church teaching may or may not. Reason for many of us does, so we modify church teaching to reinterpret the Bible’s words. Therefore the Bible is not primary.



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T

posted July 21, 2010 at 3:18 pm


Sorry, “He didn’t merely come from her alone;”
captcha, no lie: “I’m godliness”
HA! Hey, he became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God, right? Can I get an “Amen!” I should probably quit while I’m ahead.



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DRT

posted July 21, 2010 at 3:20 pm


Actually,
Taylor’s point is a good example of the Church tradition taking primacy over the scripture in the bible. The Church decided what is in the Bible, and it actually varies by denomination with some writings being included and some excluded in different Church systems. Therefore the church is over the Bible when it comes to how someone will interpret and have a theology about God.
But if their reason told them another Church…etc etc.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 21, 2010 at 3:34 pm


@DRT,
For what it’s worth, I think you make a valid point. But to play devil’s advocate, if you suddenly decided that it was more reasonable steal money than to work for it (bad example, but best I could think of), does the scripture not trump your reason?
I think there is a tension there. Even if we take this a step further. What would we trust more? The apostolic testimony or experience? For example, how much power do you think the disciples claims of resurrection would have had if the tomb was not empty?
Maybe it’s safe to say that all inform each other, but scripture is still foundational?



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J.L. Schafer

posted July 21, 2010 at 3:35 pm


DRT, your point is well taken for the books of the Bible that are in dispute, which some churches accept as canonical and others do not. But for the core NT books that are held in common, the argument is weak.



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T

posted July 21, 2010 at 3:37 pm


DRT,
I agree with you that Reason, Experience and Tradition are the lens through which we view Scripture, which certainly makes them powerful in our conclusions about God. I also agree that the first three dominate in ways we don’t even recognize sometimes, which is partly why these conversations are important. But I would want suggest that we can look at the primacy question both descriptively and prescriptively, and recognize a difference between the two. We can even see a difference between what we actually believe and what we think God is asking us to trust. Also, some folks are going to put more stock in their experience and reason than others. Faith is something we all have in various things, but it’s also a gift given in greater measure to some than others. Even the 12 apostles bear this out. I would, for instance, say that I aim to have scripture set the bounds for my theology and be the primary influence. That’s not always the way it goes, but I can say without hesitation that’s my goal. I’ll say more later with later posts.



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DRT

posted July 21, 2010 at 4:02 pm


Kenny@52,
I think that is exactly the point. If a person decided using their reason that their view of God is that they would steal then they would probably steal, wouldn’t they? Doesn’t that mean that their reason is held higher than scripture and church (which clearly say do not steal).?
T@54,
I guess what I am saying is that descriptively people do not operate with the scripture being primary. It is always through these other lenses. Also, to your comment that some will put more stock in their experience and reason than others, I would contend that the issue is that they don’t have good enough reason or experience to over rule the church teachings of scripture. If they were to spend a lot of time developing good reason, or they had some tremendous experience then it would over rule scripture, because those are primary (when well founded).
Prescriptively this gets to be a more interesting question. Another way to phrase the prescriptive view of this is for us to ask the question, What collectively should we do? Well, in that case I think we can agree that we collectively would say that someones view of God should be based on the Bible. Unless there is Church teaching that clarifies it. And then we can agree that Church teaching should be believed, unless there is good reason to change that. And this new church teaching based on reason should be believed about God unless there is unequivacal experimental evidence that is in direct contradiction.
In the prescriptive view I think the only one that gets in trouble is the last, but when I say personal experience then I mean solid personal experience. If someone has a direct experience through the Holy Spirit I think we all agree that they should listen to that and follow it.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm


@DRT #55
“Doesn’t that mean that their reason is held higher than scripture and church (which clearly say do not steal).?”
Yes. But is it right? Maybe I’m missing your point.



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DRT

posted July 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm


Kenny#52
About the apostles and the empty tomb. They wrote scripture so they would write that Jesus is risen. If the tomb in fact was empty, then that view can only be attained through reason, experimental evidence or direct experience, all of which would trump the claim he is risen.
But for now, we have no direct experience, experimental evidence, or reason (I mean well thought out reason) to dispute the church teaching of the bible that says the tomb was empty.



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DRT

posted July 21, 2010 at 4:20 pm


Kenny56,
The is it right question is the same one that T posed. Descriptively it is true that he would change his view of God. But prescriptively, we would contend that his reasoned perspective is not a good reasoned perspective therefore he should fall back to church teaching.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 21, 2010 at 4:22 pm


And wouldn’t we contend that it wasn’t a good reasoned perspective BECAUSE it doesn’t match scripture?
I guess I’m still lost.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted July 21, 2010 at 4:23 pm


The early church did not one day sit down with an extensive set of manuscripts and say, “Okay, which ones shall we deem scripture?” Rather over generations, various writings were seen to have authority across the breadth of Christian community. It had little do (early on) with authorship and everything to do with how the writings “lived” within the life of the gathered communities. As these works were seen to have authority they became Scripture. As Kenneth Bailey says, the church did not give the books their authority but rather the church surrendered to the authority the books possessed.
So there was something about the books that was intrinsically different from others but it was through experience and reason that the church was led to see that difference. (And DRT, I know the RCs and Orthodox added the OT apocrypha centuries later. The small Syriac Orthodox community nixes a few NT books. I’m not aware of any other selective inclusion/exclusion of books by any significant branches of Christianity. I think the consensus is stronger than you suggest.)
And this goes to another point. There is no access to the Bible and Christian ethics accept through tradition, reason, and experience. We are told to be the Kingdom of God and to love neighbor as ourselves. And while we are given some pointers as to how that might look in Scripture, interpreting “loving others as we love ourselves” requires the employment of reason, experience, and tradition. This is one of the key points Rodney Stark makes in “Victory of Reason.” While Judaism and Islam are primarily looking back to the faithful practice and preservation of traditions and behavior enumerated in the past, Christianity is anticipatory … it looks futureword (if that’s a word) to a coming Kingdom and seeks to live it in the present.
So again, I see it as impossible to untangle the components and rank them.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted July 21, 2010 at 4:57 pm


Dan #42
I don’t think you seeing the distinction between methodological materialism and philosophical materialism.
Science as a self-limited way of learning and knowing. The judge wrote:
“…is guided by natural law;
…has to be explained by reference to natural law;”
And that is exactly right. Those are the methodological assumptions scientists must make in order to study the natural world. If not, then every time scientists come up against something they can’t solve then someone merely declares “God did it” (or the gods, or fate, or aliens, etc.) and who is to say God didn’t? How do we put that to a scientific test when science is set up to study only natural phenomena?
Introducing supernatural qualities to science defeats learning about the natural world. It does not enhance it. That in no way says that supernatural events have not occurred and can’t occur. It simply says that this is beyond the scope of science to know. If scientists try to study something that is truly a miracle, then the most definitive thing scientists can say is “We have no natural explanation’.” What they can’t say … based on science … is “God did it” or “An intelligent designer did it” because science is not qualified to speak to such matters.
Philosophical materialists have a faith commitment that there is only matter and natural causes, and some falsely claim this is based on science. Science does not support this because as a self-limited endeavor science is not capable of speaking to supernatural or theological truth.
So here is the problem. Some scientists have misrepresented philosophical materialism as necessary to science. It is not. In reaction, many Christians want to fix the problem by trying to insert the supernatural in to science. That is wrong as well. God’s alleged absence or existance are both beyond science. Both camps need to be called back to the self-limited nature of science and recognize that there are other was of knowing that have to be brought into play (like theology) when we want a full orbed discussion about ourselves and our world.
Methodological materialism is thoroughly complementary to theology.



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keo

posted July 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm


Scot #31,
“Because the NT is Jesus-centered, pneumatic (Spirit-inspired, shaped, etc), and apostolic.”
Great three word summary of the NT. So, shouldn’t one say that we should rely on Jesus, the Holy Spirit, (and perhaps the apostolic succession?) for our primary authority? Both (or all) of whom are still living and active today in order to speak to us directly, yes? Rather than having to rely primarily on Scripture, a written text, or (worse, and one step more removed) on someone who has redacted, translated, and thereby interpreted that written text for us?
I agree with your summary of the NT, but I don’t think the logic for why Scripture is, thus, primary is at all obvious. More than half of the points contained within your list don’t even sound like arguments for primacy of Scripture. And the other half are arguments for Scripture’s importance but not *necessarily* primacy. Could you please clarify?
Maybe I’ve hung around too many Christians from the wrong denominations all my life (my experience, reason, and tradition rearing their heads, here), but I can’t understand why anyone would want to argue that our theology — our knowledge and understanding of God — should not be informed primarily by direct experience of and contact with God whenever He should choose to be known by us. That, rather than the Scripture, is what changed the disciples, right?
The Wesleyan Quadrilateral is great, really, but surely we are aware of how regularly, easily, and badly Scripture is misinterpreted by most of those who read it, yes? I’ve taught Bible studies, so I’ve witnessed — oops! There’s my experience again…. I know it sounds spiritually superior to say that the Bible is more important than anything, our final standard, etc. — but come on. A misinterpreted or confusing Bible in the hands of the average believer is not better than a Spirit-powered relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And I think that is an option. Or does the Bible tell us that the Bible itself is our only or even primary means of access to God today, too?



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RJS

posted July 21, 2010 at 5:33 pm


keo,
But without scripture – which is the apostolic witness to the life, death, and resurrection – we have nothing by which to correct or guide interpretation, experience, Spirit. Even apostolic succession can wander off course (and has in massive ways in history). So interpretation of scripture is always a problem – we can be misled and fool ourselves – and follow errant tradition. But our kids and grandkids, like all those who came before us, must and will turn and wrestle with scripture anew.
I think that scripture is primary – not because it is separate from experience, reason, Spirit; they can’t really be separated – but because it is out there through 2000 years as the God-given apostolic witness to our faith.



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keo

posted July 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm


Rick #43, I’m not sure what you’re latching onto, sorry. Note Scot’s use in #31 of reason, his acknowledgment that Scripture’s support for itself is problematic, and the fact that neither of those passages from the Gospels tells us that Scripture is more important than, for example, our direct experience of God.
Is Scripture more important than Jesus to you? And please don’t call that a false dichotomy, too. The original question was about ranking the four components and I’m trying to understand why Scripture should trump experiencing God directly in anyone’s ranking.



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RJS

posted July 21, 2010 at 5:45 pm


keo,
Experiencing God directly is primary – but isn’t the lesson from history pretty clear that any time someone claims to have experienced God directly and moves in a direction opposed to scripture something is wrong?
Led to reinterpret and look at scripture with new eyes – this has happened and has been necessary. But still returning to scripture.
So let me ask it this way: Why do we (if you do) think that the Mormon church is in error, or Islam, or Jehovah’s Witnesses or any other such group. Against what do you judge “experience of God.”



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keo

posted July 21, 2010 at 5:54 pm


Hi RJS (#63),
1. Why would we want to correct or guide the Spirit?!
2. I don’t believe in apostolic succession. That was a hypothetical for Scot based on his list.
3. “interpretation of scripture is always a problem” — That’s why I don’t understand elevating it above direct experience of God.
4. We could quibble over the age of the Bible, but I would say that we have years of tradition of the same order of magnitude as the Bible.
5. “Without scripture … we have nothing….” I guess there’s the rub. I would say that we still have God, even without Scripture, and that we can experience him directly, even without Scripture. He is sufficient for salvation, even without the Scripture — as many throughout history could attest — and is sufficient for changing lives.
We disagree on that, or I’m not following you?



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RJS

posted July 21, 2010 at 6:03 pm


Keo,
How would you answer the question I have in #65? All of these groups are founded on direct experience of God.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted July 21, 2010 at 6:08 pm


Keo #66
Without Scripture, how do you know it is God your are encountering and not your own delusions or other spirits that may be at work in the world?



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T

posted July 21, 2010 at 6:25 pm


keo,
Yes, interpretation of scripture has its difficulties and inevitable mistakes, but so does sorting out what we get from the Spirit in other ways! And I say that as one who believes strongly that God still speaks in a variety of ways to people. I practice or at least argue for prophetic gifts more than most on this blog, and I can attest that discerning his voice in those ways carries all potential for error that interpreting scripture does and more besides. If our own desires, biases or baggage can twist the written word to let us hear them wrongly, they can and do certainly do that to the impressions we get prophetically. I love that God speaks prophetically. Absolutely love it for so many reasons. But I’m soooo glad he’s also given us the scriptures. Learning his voice is so much easier with scriptures I can trust.
As RJS mentioned, Islam is founded on what God supposedly told Muhammed, and Mormonism on what God supposedly told Joseph Smith. The disagreements b/n either of them and the NT are so great that I have to choose which to trust, and, as I told a group of Mormon missionaries once, I’m not inclined to trust Joseph Smith (or anyone else) over the the words of Jesus in the NT. It is at least in this important sense that scripture is “primary” in how I build my thinking about God.



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keo

posted July 21, 2010 at 6:37 pm


RJS #65 (We’re out of phase),
I’m not a historian but, in the Bible, people were told by God to do things that contradicted what they thought Scripture meant. Even though it was really God. So being dogmatic about that could lead to problems. Again, explain Paul’s conversion. Crazy lights and voices?! Abraham and Isaac? You’d be arrested for doing that today.
I do hear people saying that miracles ended with the apostles, or that God stopped speaking when the canon was closed, and that those who claim to experience God in those ways now are in contradiction to the Bible. But I think that such opinions or interpretations of the Bible are probably flawed. Therefore, I don’t think history supports a conclusion that people experiencing God in such ways today are always wrong, though they contradict others’ interpretations of Scripture. Now, wackos and cults, sure ;)
Regarding Mormons, Islam, and JWs, what I’ve read of their beliefs, founders, and history doesn’t impress me. And their gods don’t sound like the Jesus I know. And that’s even before we get to where their theology contradicts what I think the Bible says.
I know what you’re getting at here, but none of it makes me more comfortable with saying that Scripture trumps God. If I was awakened every night by the audible voice of God, using weird “Hagar is Jerusalem” analogies to reinterpret what I previously thought the Bible said, and telling me that I really should be following Levitical laws today, or that polygamy is still OK … then I’d be really troubled. And would pray like a madman. And ask my Christian friends and pastors and family. But I would have a really hard time concluding that I could just ignore that experience and pretend that I didn’t believe that I thought/felt that it was God in the same way I think/feel other beliefs. Eventually, I might try obeying what I thought God was telling me to do. And then see whether subsequent experience seemed to confirm that I was right.



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keo

posted July 21, 2010 at 6:42 pm


Michael #68
And without God, how do you think that you can understand Scripture or that your interpretation of it is correct? Or how do you know that your Scripture was correctly translated or transcribed? The “Scripture” argument doesn’t rest on itself in the logic pyramid.



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keo

posted July 21, 2010 at 7:01 pm


T #69,
And I love the Bible. I didn’t think that was the topic of discussion here :)
If scripture is interpreted through reason, tradition, community, and experience, then scripture doesn’t speak to us directly. I totally get the interconnected part of the quadrilateral, just not the primacy of scripture part.
We agree on the Mormons, but I would like to think that it isn’t just our reason/feeling/opinion that we really “like better” what Jesus said, or that it strikes us as more like what we were born imagining God would really sound like. Theoretically, an even more impressive-sounding hero with even more amazing dialog than Jesus could be written by a skilled fiction writer. Would that sway us from the NT? No. Why?! Then there’s the historicity of the resurrection argument. Reason and experience trumping scripture, right?
At some point, don’t we get down to a foundation of being convinced by God that he is real, and that he is who he says he is, and maybe a few other crucial beliefs? And did those beliefs, that faith, magically appear just because we read some verses in the Bible? Or did God grab us in some sense, reveal himself to us, deposit his spirit in us? Something that we could notice by experience, in addition to just reading about? Reading it doesn’t convince anyone if they don’t see confirmation by experience.
I just don’t see how we can separate or rank these God-given confirmations, unless we have some other reason for insisting that they have to be ranked.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted July 21, 2010 at 7:17 pm


#71 Keo
As I said above, I’m uncomfortable trying to rank the for elements and setting up a trumping order. But let me try analogy.
Which is more important to you: Inhaling or exhaling? You hear some people here saying that inhaling (Scripture) is primary. You disagree and I’m inclined to agree with you (but I do think Scripture is unique from the others.) But your answer seems to the primacy of inhaling seems to be to argue that exhaling (experience) is primary. I’m saying that it is inextricably both … our departing from the analogy … it is all four.
I do think there is a sense in which Scripture is the anchor … it is fixed … while the other three are more malleable and dynamic. It is the gyroscope that keeps all else focused. Yes the church has been led into error through tradition, reason, and experience, but Scripture has never led us into error. And it is God working significantly through Scripture that has corrected error. So while I’m hesitant to rank the four I think Scripture plays a unique role.



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Michael W. Kruse

posted July 21, 2010 at 7:24 pm


#71 Keo
(Hit the post before editing. Hopefully this makes more sense than #73.)
As I said above, I’m uncomfortable trying to rank the four elements and setting up a trumping order. But let me try an analogy.
Which is more important to you: Inhaling or exhaling? You hear some people here saying that inhaling (Scripture) is primary. You disagree and I’m inclined to agree with you (but I do think Scripture is unique from the others.) But your answer seems to argue that exhaling (experience) is primary. I’m saying that it is inextricably both … or departing from the analogy … it is all four.
I do think there is a sense in which Scripture is the anchor … it is fixed … while the other three are more malleable and dynamic. It is the gyroscope that keeps all else focused. Yes, the church has been led into error through tradition, reason, and experience, but Scripture has never led us into error. And it is God working significantly through Scripture that has corrected error. So while I’m hesitant to rank the four I think Scripture plays a unique role.



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RJS

posted July 21, 2010 at 7:40 pm


keo,
I’ve said before – and still believe – that scripture is more like a lamp than a foundation. The foundation is God – this is our rock. Our relationship with God – Father, Son, Spirit is before all else.
But as we look at human discernment following God we have the quadrilateral above. Scripture, reason, experience, and tradition are all lamps that provide light for our path etc. I still think that of the four scripture is primary – but I wouldn’t rank the other three. Experience is important – but in the absence of other support can be a problem. If it leads away from key concepts of scripture, not just reinterpretation, but truly away I would have a hard time believing it was truly from God.



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Justin Topp

posted July 21, 2010 at 8:12 pm


At the BioLogos conference that I attended this past June, Pete Enns made a comment that I think helps in this debate a great deal. Or at least it helps me in this debate. It’s anecdotal, but I still like it.
He said that he was speaking with a Rabbi friend about issues in dealing with the Old Testament. His Rabbi friend said that in Judaism it’s followers primarily “struggle” with what the Bible says. That is, they reason with it, analyze it, etc. in an effort to make the most sense of it. I think I’m with them.
For me, as a scientist, reason does trump all. I’m not sure I would necessarily rank them as in a hierarchy, but I think of the 4 as all pieces of a pie, with the pieces being of different sizes for different people. My reason piece is bigger than the other pieces, but yours might not be. This can make discussion difficult, but not impossible, as we struggle through the Scriptures together with a common goal. I would tend to believe that reason is more important for most than they actually think though…
I do wonder though if perhaps a triangle isn’t better than a quadrilateral. I would keep reason and experience as arms, and then lump Scripture/tradition together as another. I think this is what we do in practice anyway. Thoughts?
scienceandtheology.wordpress.com



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Michael W. Kruse

posted July 21, 2010 at 8:35 pm


#76 Justin
Reason is important to me too but I’m unwilling to elevate it. Rather what I think is more likely is that, based on our temperament, we may gravitate to some aspects more than others. That says more about you or me than it does about the way discernment actually takes place. And this diversity of proclivities re-emphasizes the need for a community of discernment where the various gifts of discernment are brought into play. I think there is a strong tendency to become imperialistic with our own proclivities and it is learning to temper that tendency in community that brings wholeness.



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Justin Topp

posted July 21, 2010 at 8:48 pm


Well said Michael.



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josenmiami

posted July 21, 2010 at 9:16 pm


this quadrilateral discussion is very illuminating and helpful for me. Thanks!
joseph



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DRT

posted July 21, 2010 at 9:55 pm


Try 3
Argggh, gateway timeout.
I hear Michael and the inhale exhale and I don’t buy it.
I think we are all talking about different things in this post. I believe that I am talking about an order or differentiation among the relative authority of different avenues for theology. I think that was what was asked.
But I think Michael’s inhale/exhale is not referring to authority, but necessity. Sure, inhale/exhale are intertwined, but they are not analogous to this situation.
Let’s take direct experience with God (I saw and touched a body in my back yard that said it was Jesus and it had holes in its hands and feet) and scripture (a book). If I had intervention, the former, I would not need the later. But if I had the later, I may still be enhanced (in a very uneasy way potentially) by the former. So it is not a both are required in any sense of the phrase. The analogy is wrong.
The church is in a similar theme. Catholics for generations and people throughout the world prior to Gutenberg did not need the Bible to understand the word of God~! There is no inhale or exhale thing here. The Church could easily have had a tradition handed down throughout the ages (much like it was prior to 800 BC or so whenever Moses ostensibly wrote it down).
I still think you all are just so stuck on the thought that the Bible is central that it is difficult to think that it actually is the least authoritative of the sources of God that we have.
Perhaps I will think of a better way of expressing this over night.
captcha – broken because…
captcha – accept wailing



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keo

posted July 22, 2010 at 12:17 am


Michael Kruse #74. Thanks for your thoughts.
Mainly I’m trying to say that the Scripture we *want* to give special status to is not really the same as the interpreted Scripture that we have inherited via tradition, processed through our own understanding, and colored with our own experience. It is meaningless to talk about how we use some idealized Bible — precisely because that isn’t the actual Bible that we ever are using. If there ever is a perfect state of the Bible, it changes as soon as we open it and start interpreting it. You can’t read without interpreting! Do we really want to equate what God actually said through the Bible with what we think God meant as we are reading our current translation of whichever canon we opine is correct?
If we could somehow separate out the real Scripture from our interpreted Scripture, then maybe we could talk about special status, and primacy, and infallibility for that matter. Sadly, every Pharisee with a Bible stick to beat people with (Chick tracts, for example) wants that special status for their interpretation of the Bible — the thing they call and insist IS the Bible. I think we do a disservice to the rest of the church when we fail to distinguish between the two, when we fail to acknowledge that we might be putting words in God’s mouth, when we “Thus saith the Lord” without humility, and when our kids grow up hearing ten different Christians with ten different Bible opinions but each saying that s/he is “only following the Bible.”
I love the inescapable humility when we acknowledge that our decisions or opinions are based on a best guess mixture of “Scripture and….” rather than insisting on the “Scripture alone” myth — however well-meaning we may be when we employ that rhetoric. When we don’t acknowledge the reality of the mixture, we are in danger of placing our interpretations of the Bible on a pedestal. It then becomes harder to question what anyone believes the Bible says or to consider the possibility that there might be another way of interpreting it. It’s a conversation stopper.
Scripture as “anchor”? It might be more fixed in some ways, but aren’t you really still talking about interpretations of the Bible, which DO move around? The idealized Scripture didn’t KEEP the Pharisees from error, or Arius, or whoever is wrong in the predestination debate. On the other hand, their practical, real interpretations of Scripture DID lead them into error. The only reason we could meaningfully say that the Bible hasn’t led us into error is because such an idealized Bible *doesn’t speak* to us. As soon as we open it and start using our mind to read and think, however, all bets are off on never going astray. The pattern we see in the Bible is God correcting errors in our “Scripture” (our understanding of the Bible) by direct intervention into human history to correct us, rather than by sending another copy of the Bible for us to re-read.
Finally … if we were to say that the Bible is not like other books, and that God bypasses our normal faculties when he speaks to us through Scripture, then I think we would really be talking about an “experience” of God at that point, rather than about Scripture: a real encounter with God, outside of Scripture itself, and not available for scrutiny or judgment by anyone else…. And I’d like to think we would respect enough God’s decision to meet and speak to us directly that we would prioritize the value of that encounter over any best guesses (interpretations) about what we think the Bible means.



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keo

posted July 22, 2010 at 12:44 am


RJS #75,
I’m with you on the lamp / foundation distinction.
So you think scripture is primary on the basis of reason and tradition? Is that right?
Any of the four can be a problem if there isn’t support from the others. Just look at the problem when Jesus talked about having to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Look at the hard time his audience had believing that it was “truly from God” even though it was God speaking to them. Their understanding of Scripture, as well as their reason and their traditions, got in the way of their direct experience.
I guess I don’t see why we should be so much more distrustful of experience than of our guesses about the Bible’s meaning. Our interpretation of our experience can contain error, just as our interpretation of the Bible often does. We can delude ourselves, just as we can when interpreting Scripture. But it can truly be from God, too. And I think I’d rather err on the side of looking for God to show himself real than err on the side of doubting my experience of him.



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Rick

posted July 22, 2010 at 7:04 am


Keo #65-
“Is Scripture more important than Jesus to you? And please don’t call that a false dichotomy, too.”
Scripture is important because Jesus/the Trinity is so important (the foundation) to me.
“Our interpretation of our experience can contain error, just as our interpretation of the Bible often does. We can delude ourselves, just as we can when interpreting Scripture. But it can truly be from God, too.”
Which are you more sure of: Scripture is from God (I am not talking about interpretations), or a personal experience?
I don’t think many here would argue with you about the on-going work of the Holy Spirit. These posts by T, and John Frye’s recent post here on the Holy Spirit, are evidence of that. In fact, John Frye asked:
“Do we really believe in the Spirit? Or, do we believe in Scripture alone and that Spirit is entirely contained there? Or, does the Spirit lead us to do things today the way the Spirit led Jesus to break down boundaries and for Paul to start ministries with Gentiles?”
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2010/07/do-we-believe-in-the-spirit-by.html#ixzz0uPMcw5op



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keo

posted July 22, 2010 at 9:56 am


Hi Rick #82,
What I have been talking about IS interpretations of Scripture, however, not traditions or beliefs about the Bible. By the way, I am more sure of some of my interpretations of Scripture than some of my interpretations of some of my experiences ;)
But, to answer your question, I’m MUCH more sure of the sum of my life’s experience of relationship with God than I am of any propositions ABOUT the Bible. My experience of God or knowing a fact about the Bible? No contest.
I am sure this was true of most converts in the NT, too. They met Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, directly. Later on they were taught beliefs about the Scripture, such as where it comes from.
It sounds as if you’re wanting to compare only our craziest or most unverifiable experiences, including deja vu or misunderstood voice mail messages, with a priori assertions about Scripture. And that’s a silly pair of options.
The true range of experience for a Christian includes the forgiveness we know in our hearts when we reconcile with our brothers or sisters, the “peace that passes understanding;” the stirrings of our conscience; the sorrow Paul felt for his lost brethren; Isaiah’s “Woe is me” reaction to being in the presence of God; some of God’s invisible qualities (Romans 1:20); and the voice of Jesus which his sheep know. These are not less real or certain than beliefs ABOUT the Bible that were taught to you (or required of you) by your Sunday School teachers, or beliefs based on circular REASONing about the Bible (“I believe that the Bible is from God because … the Bible says that the Bible is from God”).
Which are you more sure of, the voice of Jesus or (pick any) 1)that your translation of the Bible is 100% accurate 2)that John 8:1-11 should/shouldn’t be in the Bible 3)that Moses authored the Torah 4)that the canon your church follows is the one Jesus most approves of? Really, for a Christian — a follower of Christ — I would hope that the first one is much more certain. More certain than almost anything, including knowledge about the Bible. If not, pray that you learn his *voice* — and not just those *words* of his which have been written down.
Peace to you.



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Rick

posted July 22, 2010 at 11:00 am


Keo #83-
I appreciate your goal, and unless there is an encounter with the living God, there is little point. We are in agreement on that.
However, you seem to limit discussion about the Bible to knowing “about” the Bible, rather than about soaking it in and meditating on it (ie. Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book http://www.amazon.com/Eat-This-Book-Conversation-Spiritual/dp/0802829481).
Paul, who had a direct experience from Jesus, none-the-less appreciated the approach of the Bereans.



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keo

posted July 22, 2010 at 11:33 am


Rick #84
I’m glad we’re getting closer on this. Like you, I appreciate and recommend the disciplines of study and meditation. Have you read Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster?
I wasn’t limiting the topic. Knowing *about* the Bible was what you presented (“Scripture is from God”) in your choices to me.
If we shift back to actually knowing the Bible, which I had been talking about until your question (#82), then we are back to our interpretation of what we have read, different from knowing the Bible itself directly in some soul-to-soul communion sort of way, unhindered by our interpretive lenses. Unless, as I tried to explain in the last paragraph of my novella at #80, we don’t think reading the Bible uses the same reading-understanding mechanism that we use for all other books.



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Rick

posted July 22, 2010 at 12:11 pm


“Have you read Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster?”
Yes, enjoyed it. Found it helpful.
I understand your concern about varying interpretations, but I don’t think that is enough to discount the primacy of Scripture. There still is much the 3 streams of Christianity (RC, EO, Prot)agree on, and the overall story of Scripture remains clear enough. I also still see it (with the assistance of the Holy Spirit) as the primary tool Jesus/the Trinity gives the universal church in its journey/mission.



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John W Frye

posted July 22, 2010 at 2:31 pm


I think “keo” has been making a valid point. Imagine the Bible is composed of clear white pages. Imagine we all have a red lens over our corneas. We will only and always see the Bible as red or some shade of pink. We have no way of not to see it as such. So the “sola” or primary source is unknowable as it is in itself (white). But the logic fails.
The Bible is a book written in human languages. Languages from humans in an historical context. People spoke and wrote and passed on significant meaning(s). Was it pure? No. Even Peter’s references about Paul’s writings admits there were some things hard to understand. These men know each other and were from the same culture, same language, etc. So while we can swerve into error and heresy, by in large we still can “speak/write the same language” about Bible realities. I do not think the Bible is as alien as “keo” makes it out to be. If it was, we could say nothing other than “It’s red/pink.” Since the Bible is about encounters between the living God and human beings, it will be the *primary* framer of all our discussions as tradition, reason and experience comes into play as well.



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John W Frye

posted July 22, 2010 at 2:34 pm


Comment #88 Forgive me for the grammatical errors. I must learn to edit before I do the “captcha” thing.



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keo

posted July 22, 2010 at 3:39 pm


Rick #87,
“I also still see it (with the assistance of the Holy Spirit) as the primary tool Jesus/the Trinity gives the universal church in its journey/mission.”
Sounds great, but that claim is based on reason, tradition, and/or experience.
If you don’t think that “primacy of Scripture” is itself a tradition, then I’m going to back out of this dialog and move on. Your belief that Scripture is primary (primary, not that it is important) is not a theme in the Bible. Moreover, the creeds don’t emphasize the Bible, even when they do mention it. Scripture is wonderful, but deciding it is primary was a decision made by men (probably Protestants) and based on reason, tradition, and experience, rather than on Scripture itself.



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Rick

posted July 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm


Keo-
Is Scripture our primary way of knowing the message about Jesus/the Trinity, the gospel, His Kingdom, how He has worked in history, etc…?



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DRT

posted July 22, 2010 at 3:55 pm


keo,
I am with you. It seems that you made more progress than I did, but the thought is the same. The bible is a book of writing. God inspired or whatever else one wants to believe about it, but it is still text. The text in and of itself has very little meaning. It is all about the interpretation.
The “primacy of scripture” is double talk for some church or some person saying that their interpretation of scripture is the authority.
I actually believe that (aside from nothing), the bible itself has the least authority of any other authority. Let’s face it. The interpretation of the church has more “authority” if you are in that church than the bible. If you think what I just said is wrong, then the reason you think it is wrong is because you feel reason, or experiment, or personal experience is more important. Not because you think the bible is more important. It is your interpretation through your reason, or experiment or personal experience.
I can go on, and i did earlier in the thread….



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keo

posted July 22, 2010 at 4:34 pm


Hi John W. Frye #89,
Good grief! I’m not saying the Bible is alien :)
I’m saying three things:
1) It’s a quadrilateral. We don’t understand Scripture without using tradition; we don’t interpret our experience without reason, etc. We might as well just acknowledge that it’s a quadrilateral and move on to other matters instead of trying to rank the sides.
2) Saying the Bible is primary has, in practical terms, little if any meaning because we can’t in any useful sense separate Scripture from our (unrecognized) interpretations of Scripture in daily life. Nobody reads Scripture without interpreting it, because *that is how language works.* Hence, the heresies, the denominations, the great debates, all despite the Scripture. Yet there is little humility about this in much of the “Bible uber alles” rhetoric in the church today. “God said it –> That settles it,” right? Scripture and interpretation get conflated. As a result, many believers don’t see the need for developing better skills for reading the Bible. Leaders who wave the Bible become harder and harder to question or dialog with. Kids are discouraged from really thinking in the church. And the unsaved witness the dogma and the anti-intellectual pablum and are further alienated from us and from God. This is a big problem.
3) If we HAD to rank our tools for knowing and understanding God, and if we COULD separate them, then I would hope our personal lifelong encounter with the living God (not our crazy emotions and whims) would be prioritized and valued over the written text. That’s the main pattern we see in the Bible — God encountering people directly — rather than a pattern of people meeting God or changing their beliefs about God because they read the Scriptures. That’s how the church without the luxury of the Bible has lived and grown throughout history, yes? Pharisees had the Scripture, not the gentiles. Bible without knowing God: useless. Knowing God without having a Bible: sad, perhaps, but still viable. Do we expect to be doing much Bible reading in Heaven? If Jesus were in the room, would we sit around and read the Bible?



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keo

posted July 22, 2010 at 4:43 pm


Rick #91,
“Is Scripture our primary way of knowing the message about Jesus/the Trinity, the gospel, His Kingdom, how He has worked in history, etc…?”
You’re appealing to my experience and reason, you realize? And asking about factual knowledge. Words on a page don’t save people, brother.



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keo

posted July 22, 2010 at 4:58 pm


DRT #92,
Yes, we are saying some of the same things. You sound cynical, however, which I hope I haven’t. I believe that text has great significance and meaning, though I don’t believe I can read it without inadvertently imposing some interpretation on it. Sometimes this blocks the main point, sometimes not. I hope that the Spirit somehow helps me understand, too, beyond what my own mind can get from the text by normal reading (Oops — supernatural experience!)
“The “primacy of scripture” is double talk for some church or some person saying that their interpretation of scripture is the authority.”
It can be double talk. Sometimes it is genuine belief, though. Just naive, and not helpful when perpetuated.
“The interpretation of the church has more ‘authority’ if you are in that church than the bible.”
Your comment emphasizes what I meant about there being no “practical” benefit to saying Scripture is primary, because we can’t separate Scripture from interpretation.



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Rick

posted July 22, 2010 at 7:25 pm


Had the Holy Spirit only listened to you He would have not wasted His time inspiring Scripture.
Oh well.
(By the way, you still did not answer my question in #91).
No one here is advocating the ignorning of reason and experience. In fact, the whole point of the Quadrilateral is to include them.
“That’s the main pattern we see in the Bible — God encountering people directly”. Ooops- you are appealing to Scripture. But Jesus did too, so I guess it is ok. Likewise, Paul experienced Christ, yet continue to write….. But I guess that is besides the point.
Finally, Jesus/Trinity saves people, and since He invested His teachings in writings/Scripture (from the 10 Commandments on through the NT), and wants us to use it to deepen our encounter with Him, I will continue to recognize that.



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DRT

posted July 22, 2010 at 8:01 pm


keo
Yes, we are saying some of the same things. You sound cynical, however, which I hope I haven’t. I believe that text has great significance and meaning, though I don’t believe I can read it without inadvertently imposing some interpretation on it.
Thanks for the feedback. I did not realize that i sounded cynical. I tell you that I am not cynical, the things I say I believe are true, really true.
I too agree the text has great significance and meaning, but I obviously have to figure out a better way to express my idea that all those other things in descriptive and prescriptive practice show that they have more authority than the text.
captcha – him sapient – thanks!



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Rick

posted July 23, 2010 at 6:17 am


Keo- let me point you to some writings Ken Schenck (prof and dean at a Wesleyan seminary) did on some of the concerns you have, including that of interpretation.
“…the meaning of Scripture in the Quadrilateral should, in the first place, be the canonical meanings, meanings that fit with the way the mainstream church came to understand these Scriptures. The meaning of Scripture in the Quadrilateral is thus Scripture-as-traditioned or better Scripture-as-churched….
….The healthy operation of Wesley’s Quadrilateral is thus not to see Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience working in isolation from each other.
For example, it is not the rarified original meaning of the biblical books that we should primarily have in view but the Bible as Scripture, the Bible with the significance that the creeds and consensus of the church have given it. The consensus of the church is the safest organizing and prioritizing principle, the safest controlliing element in determining its meaning and significance for Christians.
Many traditions of interpretation of varying weight flow smoothly from the words of Scripture. These range from ones that most churches hold to others that seem the special emphases of smaller Christian groups. Some of these may be God-ordained emphases of particular bodies of believers. Others may be idiosyncratic and not ordained of God.
Reason and experience will always play a role in sorting out all these things, for all human knowing passes through the human mind, the content of which comes through our experiences. True Wesleyan integration will accordingly involve the intermingling of all these components in an organic fashion.”
http://kenschenck.blogspot.com/2006/05/contemporizing-quadrilateral.html
http://kenschenck.blogspot.com/2006/05/clarifying-quadrilateral-2-scripture.html
I don’t necessarily disagree with him.
Good discussion.



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keo

posted July 23, 2010 at 9:45 am


DRT,
I’m sorry if I misread your tone. We both need to figure out new ways of communicating, I guess :) 3,500 words of explanation in these comments and I’m caricatured as thinking the inspiration of Scripture was a waste of time….
Onward to the second piece of the quadrilateral!



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