Have you ever heard of Wesley’s Quadrilateral? I posted the image above to help understand it a bit. If you are unfamiliar, you’re not alone. This may be a new concept even for some with formal training. It is simple enough to understand. I will explain it below and try to help us understand how it applies to our current situation.
What is Wesley’s Quadrilateral?
Besides winning you points at parties for knowing sweet theological vocab, this idea is pretty helpful. It is attributed to John Wesley, though there are debates about whether he came up with all of them or just a couple. That’s for other blogs to discuss. The aim here is to apply the principle to Christian life.
The quadrilateral is pretty simple. It discusses the different sources that we have for formulating theology—scripture, reason, tradition, and experience. Whether we realize it or not, these are all at play any time we make a statement about what God is like or how the Christian should think about life. Our theology ultimately should flow from the Biblical text. But how do you understand the text? Many say that we can come to the Scripture neutrally. But is that true? Our experience will impact how we see and sit under the text. Our tradition will shape the way we read the text. Our reason will harmonize and nuance the text.
How Does the Quadrilateral Relate to the Corona Virus?
This situation we are now in forces us to think about the same things in a new way. What does it look like to trust God? What does it look like to love our neighbor? Each of these questions must start and have their foundation in Scripture. They cannot leave the firm foundation, yet our perspectives can become jaded. We can read into Scripture what we want it to say. It can reflect 21st Century America more than what the Bible is actually communicating. When things are shaken up, it gives opportunity to test traditions, to go back to the text, and make sure our experience wasn’t running the show.
What Does that Mean for Us?
It means that we should follow the example of the reformers and post-reformation voices. They were “always reforming” according to the text of Scripture. Sola Scriptura, meaning Scripture alone, does not mean that there are no other influences in theology. But it does mean that Scripture is the ultimate test and foundation for what is right in theology. The experience we are in now can allow us to make sure that is the case. It can give us new eyes to look at the text freshly, making sure our glasses are clean and not blurred with the fog of the age.