I just finished a book that I wish I had read before writing my ordination papers: Wesley and the Quadrilateral: Renewing the Conversation. This book has essays by Wesley scholars W. Stephen Gunter, Scott J. Jones, Ted A. Campbell, Rebekah L. Miles, and Randy L. Maddox. Gunter is the editor with Jones writing about Scripture, Campbell tradition, Miles reason, and Maddox experience. If you have not read this book and you are a Methodist pastor you need to read this book. If you have heard the phrase “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” and wondered what the heck it meant, you need to read this book. If you already think you know what the Quadrilateral is all about, you still need to read this book.
Here are a few quick quotes from the conclusion:
There is an underlying premise in our chapter on Scripture, and it would read like this: If United Methodists generally speaking have interpreted The Book of Discipline to mean the Scripture are our foundational and primary authority in theology, faith, and practice, we have not done a very good job of making this clear to our constituencies (131).
The temptation to total skepticism that is implied when we recognize the “conditionedness” of our knowledge through experience is usually avoided for a very practical reason: it is not viable to be a total skeptic. What is common among us is to invoke the perspectival nature of mediated experience as a preemptive shield: “That is only your perspective. I am entitled to my own!” While Wesley did not hear this particular modern response in his day, he does potentially provide a way through the impasse — he continually exhorted the early Methodists about the importance of “Christian conference,” specifically for nurturing the lives of holiness and for deciding debated issues in theology. No one person’s perspective was to be privileged over another’s, and the collective perspective of all gave the advantage of a mutually arrived at conclusion. (137-138)
These are just some quotes that spoke to things I have been thinking about. But this book does an excellent job of explaining what Wesley would have meant by Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience; and how Methodists ought to use these tools today. Simply a wonderful book.
Andrew Conard said:
Kevin – Thanks for the review and encouragement. This is on my shelf yet to be read, but will move up the list now. Thanks!
Kevin Watson said:
Andrew – That is funny, because it sat on my shelf for awhile before I got around to reading it too! But it was definitely worth the read.
Craig L. Adams said:
I think the attractiveness of the Quadrilateral is partly the fact that people feel free to use / interprete it however they wish.
It has a kind of intuitive appeal – when we first hear it we feel “Yeah, that’s what I’m doing” – but the details of this theological method remain unclear.
And, instead of being one theological method, it is actually several.
Kevin Watson said:
Craig – Thank you for your comment. I think you are right, many people sort of see what they want to see when it comes to the Quadrilateral. One of the major strengths of Wesley and the Quadrilateral: Renewing the Conversation is that the authors reign some of these tendencies, giving some very solid articulations of how Wesley, at least, would have understood Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience as tools for the study of theology.