Yesterday I pointed to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral as an interesting way of looking at theological reflection. This system puts Scripture at the top, then gives room for three other voices: Experience, Reason, and Tradition. I want to take some time to look at those four voices and how they speak to us on theological matters.
I think most of us believe that we put more emphasis on Scripture than we actually do. A strict, literal reading of the Bible leads us to some strange places. When someone practices self-mutilation based on Matthew 5:29-30, we don’t applaud them for their literalism; we place them in a psychiatric hospital. Even though 2 Timothy 4:13 is one of the clearest instructions in the New Testament, yet few of us feel the need to travel to Troas to look for Paul’s cloak, scrolls, and parchments.
So we read Scripture through filters, like the three mentioned above: Experience, Reason, and Tradition. Some may say, “We just read the Bible and do what it says,” but that’ just not true. There are other voices in the discussion; the questions we have to decide are which voices deserve to be heard, in what way should we hear them, and how much weight should we give them.