Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

The Wesley Quadrilateral

Colossians 2:8

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

profileIn the United Methodist Church we use something called the Wesley Quadrilateral to help us understand Scripture.  Very simply put that means that we view God’s truth primarily through Scripture using the lens of tradition (the world’s experiences) – reason (our thinking) – and experience (our story).  What we need to be careful of is trying to superimpose the later three into a primary role rather than allowing Scripture to remain primary.  Scripture – according to the Orthodox Christian Church – is inspired by God and its authors were driven and led by the Holy Spirit in recording the very words of God.  Paul wrote these words about Scripture – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Continuing with this thought about the Wesley Quadrilateral – one could turn to today’s passage in partial context as a warning if someone tried to superimpose the later three elements (tradition – reason – and experience) or any combination of them over and above Scripture. Colossians 2:6-8 – 6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. Any view of Scripture as less than primary is a hollow and deceptive philosophy.

According to the Bible – God’s perfect creation – since the fall of Adam and Eve – has been impacted by sin.  We read in Romans 3:23 – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Sin has corrupted God’s perfect plan for His creation in numerous ways.  One way that sin has corrupted creation is that sin has entered the reproductive process and human genetics have been altered from God’s perfect design.  We see genetic fall-out all over the place as a result of the fall.  Children born with an extra chromosome are not in God’s perfect order or plan but rather a breakdown of God’s perfect design (as much as we love them they are not made this way because of God’s design).  It may be natural for that child – their birth circumstance – but that doesn’t make it part of God’s perfect design or plan.  Children born without a completed body are not born this way as part of God’s perfect design.  Persons born with a chemical dependency to drugs are not born this way as part of God’s perfect design.  A pedophile – born with a desire within them that many have said they cannot control – doesn’t make that part of God’s perfect design. Biology doesn’t equate with God’s perfect design.  One can say God made me this way all they want but if their desires or choices do not line up with God’s design – God’s Word – they cannot claim God’s approval – no matter how they feel.  What I’m suggesting is that the brokenness of humanity is a result of the sin of humanity – our separation from God’s perfect design.  I’m not suggesting that God cannot bring good out of our brokenness.  What I am saying is that we cannot point to God and say – because I was born a certain way means that God approves of how I am and even made me this way.  Sin has indeed impacted the perfect plan of God and the result is an imperfect creation.  We see all around us sinful humanity trying so hard to blame God for the desires of sin in our lives.  We must turn to Scripture for the truth and not to our experiences – our thoughts – or the experiences of a sinful humanity.  They might help but they are not where truth can be found.  Truth can only be found in the person of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures – our primary source of understanding God.

Just something to think about today as you go on your way!

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November 11, 2013 - Posted by | Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Holy Spirit, Marriage, Outreach, Personal, Sermons, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. The message of the Bible is that things are going to get worse because of sin, but God will win in the end. In the meantime, we need to stand up for righteousness, as Jesus encourages us in his teaching, to follow the narrow way. Good one, Ray!

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    Comment by Favorite Son | November 12, 2013 | Reply

    • Thanks! The Word of God is timeless and for all generations. Things will get worse – as time comes to a close for sure.

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      Comment by raymcdonald | November 13, 2013 | Reply

  2. Ray, I would argue that 2 Timothy 3:16-17 was not intended (by St. Paul) to convince (Timothy) of the primacy/sufficiency of Scripture; in fact, that is clear when the passage is placed in context by adding verses 14 and 15–and we see that verse 14 gives (Sacred) Tradition a good deal of weight–perhaps equal to Sacred Scripture: “14But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the Sacred Writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (IGNATIUS PRESS (2009-08-12). The Ignatius Bible (Kindle Locations 57955-57957). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.) And as St. Paul penned that letter, the Sacred Tradition given to Timothy may have had “primacy” (why?) because the scripture St. Paul referred to in 16-17 was the Old Testament, and Timothy learned the Gospels–which had yet to be written–through Apostolic Tradition.

    I like your explanation of how sin corrupted God’s perfect creation. How timely, then, was today’s first (Mass) reading from the Book of Wisdom of Solomon (2:23-24) “23for God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, 24but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it.”

    IGNATIUS PRESS (2009-08-12). The Ignatius Bible (Kindle Locations 30071-30075). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.

    Blessings, Mike Woodruff

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    Comment by Michael Woodruff | November 13, 2013 | Reply

    • Mike, I believe that Paul was writing about the Scriptures and about the teachings of Jesus (which would later be written down and become the New Testament). I believe that Paul might not have understood the whole of what we have today as Scripture but he refers to the scriptures (for him the Old Testament) and the teachings he has shared (the teachings of the Apostles which would become Scripture). I do not think that tradition has an equal footing with Scripture – not at all. The teachings of the church cannot be equated with scripture. The tradition of the church since the Scriptures is a part and separate IMHO.

      2 Timothy 3:10-17 – 10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings — what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

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      Comment by raymcdonald | November 13, 2013 | Reply

  3. Ray, the Church discerned, via apostolic Tradition, the writings that were inspired–and that would therefore be included in the the New Testament Canon of Scripture. (Source: Catechism of the Catholic Church, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__PR.HTM). If not for Tradition, the New Testament might have contained works like “The Gospel of Thomas,” “The Gospel of Peter,” and the hugely popular “Shepherd of Hermas.”

    Scripture doesn’t claim to be a complete transmission of the Faith, and there’s plenty of evidence of that in the New Testament: a couple of passages follow:

    John 20-30-31: “30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”

    2 John 12: “12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink, but I hope to come to see you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

    1 Thess 2:13: “13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”

    2 Thess 2:15 “15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.”

    IGNATIUS PRESS (2009-08-12). The Ignatius Bible (Kindle Edition)

    Blessings,
    Mike

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    Comment by Michael Woodruff | November 19, 2013 | Reply


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