Using the quadrilateral to look at Scripture


The other day, someone told me that they attend a church were little time is spent on “theologians and other such types”; he said that those at this particular church “simply take the Bible for what it says.” Can you see the implications here? I inferred from this statement that this person (and his church) believe that there is a purely objective, agenda-free reading of the Bible (and, after asking him if my inferrences were correct, he affirmed them). Rob Bell does a great job of handling this issue in his book Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, where he has a similar encounter. Definately a recommended read.

We all have our interpretations of Scripture; it is impossible to separate our readings of Scripture (or any other text) from our influences and unique perspectives. Bell gets it right when he says that “the idea that everyone else approaches the Bible with baggage and agendas and lenses and I don’t is the ultimate in arrogance.” We all read our own cultural perspectives into Scripture. So, how do we approach and understand Scripture?

I think the answer lies in: 1) Recongnizing the Scriptures as alive, as dynamic, and as narrative; and 2) to embrace Wesley’s quadrilateral. First, when we approach Scriptures not as a stagnant, static document, but as alive with the breath of God, as something that we are participating in even now, as a narrative not only of the Biblical characters but also of us as post-modern followers of Christ, we are freed from being bogged down with arguments of the objectivity of particular interpretations and such. We, with a humble spirit, can acknowledge, that, in the motto of the United Church of Christ, that “God is still speaking,” (note the comma).

Secondly, Wesley’s quadrilateral helps us greatly (please allow me to stand on my Methodist soapbox for a moment). Albert Outler (a Wesley scholar) looked at the sermons, the teaching and preaching of John Wesley, and noticed four things guiding him: Scripture, Reason, Experience, and Tradition. “Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason” ( from The Book of Discipline). Scripture, as it should, holds the highest place. Do you see how this gives us liberty? Whenever we interpret a passage of Scripture, we look at the text, we look at how Christian tradition has dealt with this Scripture, we examine how this Scripture fits with our personal experience, and we use our God-given reason.


One Response to “Using the quadrilateral to look at Scripture”

  1. 1 cgjcw

    Good site!!!

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