Obeying the Bible

b&w bibleYesterday 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.

4 thoughts on “Obeying the Bible

  1. Vern

    A voice of reason. I’ve had people tell me with a straight face that they read the Bible without interpretation. Yeah right.

  2. David Cabe

    Closely connected with the voices of experience and reason is the voice of culture. The restoration movement out of which the Church of Christ emerged is a child of the “Age of Reason” and America’s individualism, and this American culture influenced, for almost two centuries, the way we approached matters of faith. It lead to our scientific-like approach to the Bible – the CEI (command, example, inference) approach – and our claim that, by applying this approach, any man or woman will easily will come to the same understanding of Scripture. Although CEI has good points (who can deny that we shouldn’t apply logic and reason to our reading of the Bible?), reliance on a narrow, formulaic approach to the BIble causes us to downplay the value of the wisdom and tradition handed down to church during the 1800 years that proceeded our movement and to forget how the voices of devout and sincere men and women of faith throughout the ages help make it possible for us today to not have to reinvent the wheel. Among other things, we are in debt to them, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, for the recognition of the books that are part of our canon and for our beliefs about baptism, salvation, and the nature of the God and Christ.

  3. Guy


    Once we acknowledge this set of additional operators in our interaction with Scripture, not only can we acknowledge their nature and number, but we can start to compare the additional operators of others to our own. Why Campbell’s set instead of Wesley’s? Why Wesley’s instead of Luther’s? Why Luther’s instead of Chrysostom’s?


  4. Pingback: Culture: The Uninvited Guest | Tim Archer's Kitchen of Half-Baked Thoughts

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