One of the things I love about the Bible is how every time I read from it, God’s word has something new to teach me. I can read a passage at one time, and then the next time I read it in a different way and learn something new from it. I read the very same words, the very same story, but I come across something I had never noticed about it before.
This phenomenon is proof to me that God is active and alive, speaking to us still through the words of Holy Scripture. And if the Bible says something differently to me at this point in my life than it did at another, it only makes sense that it says something different to one person than it does to another, also.
John Wesley thought that the Bible was the only source necessary for spiritual growth. But he did not read the Bible in a vacuum. The United Methodist Book of Discipline points out that Wesley read the Bible “illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason.” Scripture was primary, but not isolated.
These four aspects – scripture, tradition, experience, and reason – are often referred to as the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral.” This term was coined by Wesley scholar Albert Outler in 1964. The term is misleading, though, because it implies that the four are equal resources for spiritual growth, and Wesley would certainly not have considered them so.
I think of it more like a jazz combo. The Bible is the solo instrument, and the rhythm section (the piano, bass, and drums) are tradition, reason, and experience. The trumpet plays the melody, and the others provide the groove. All four play together, but you don’t know what the song is without the Bible taking that primary role.
This week in worship, we’ll talk some more about the “Wesleyan Jazz Combo” – a resource for spiritual growth, as we continue with “A People Called Methodist.”
I’ll see you in church,