I have been having a series of tense theological discussions. I know for some of you that sounds terrible, but I love them. Maybe it’s why I do what I do. Anyway…
I have always been a John Wesley fan (founder of the Methodist movement), but particularly his whole “Quadrilateral” thing, the method he used to sort, think, and teach theologically. It breaks down our Christian development into flowing from four sources: Scripture, Tradition, Reason & Experience. He was not the first to develop a metaphor for discerning what God is saying/has said, and he is not the last. Another metaphor from another one of my favorite theologians, Richard Rohr, is the “Tricycle,” the idea that our faith moves forward on three good wheels: Scripture, Tradition & Experience.
As I’m having these conversations I am trying to listen well. Not only listen to what others are saying or learning, but also listen to how they are arriving at those thoughts. Meanwhile also listening to how I am feeling and thinking, and why I think I might feel or think the way I do. And one thing am considering is how personality fits into these metaphors/methods.
Some of us are wired to put experience as the front/big wheel on our tricycle. Others, such as John Wesley, lean his quadrilateral on the scripture corner, laying that as the sole foundation the other points must serve alongside. I could talk for hours about how I seek to discern God’s movement, and why I build my tricycle or geometric shape how I do, but really I’m more wondering if we are aware that our experiences and therefore, our personalities, will have us gravitate toward one wheel or aspect more than an other.
Some of us thrive on experience. Others need solid footed logic. Many of us are comforted and guided by tradition. And I would imagine that a handful of us have memorized passages and reference scripture often – so many Hobby Lobby products come to mind.
Theologians have debated for centuries on how we should and should not use certain aspects of our understanding of God to discern God’s opinion. The writers of the scriptures debated this across their own texts. This is not my goal in this short piece. (would be thrilled if anyone wants to chat through this kind of stuff…theological nerds unite!) I’m just wondering if there is benefit to considering how we build our theological tricycle/shape. And if in that exploration, might there be humility for ourselves through a recognition we do not hold all the rites to rationale, and grace for others as they pedal on their journey. What if God uniquely designed us and in that uniqueness we can lean in certain directions? Not a proclamation for or against, but just a recognition that we think and experience life differently. Slow down your frustration. Get curious about your own beliefs. And, if you are interested, journey with others through theirs.
What is the most important aspect of your understanding of God? What source do you tend to reference, rely upon, and use to guide your decisions?
Do you know what drives your theology?