In this series, I want to discuss the various sources that inform our theology – that is, our understanding of God. For an outline, I will use John Wesley’s Quadrilateral: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. I realize that this is not new information for many of my readers. However, perhaps we can all help ourselves think about this important topic.
Everyone thinks theologically. Whether a person believes in one god, multiple gods, or no gods, they think theologically. This series of posts is intended to help all of us think theologically. Specifically, I hope we are able to think about the sources of our understanding of God.
Wesley (and others) suggested that people generally develop their understanding of God through four sources: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. According to Wesley, Scripture must be our primary source. In fact, he said that Scripture is our only true source, while Tradition, Reason, and Experience work to help us understand Scripture.
In this series, I’ll comment briefly about how each “source” is related to theology in general, I will primarily focus on Christian theology. Of course, focussing on sources for Christian theology does not mean that this will be a simple task. Unfortunately, there is no single understanding among Christian concerning how to develop a theology. Different followers of Jesus – different “Orthodox” followers of Jesus – think differently about God.
While it would be simple and perhaps expedient to suggest that my way of thinking about God is right, and all other ways are wrong, it would also be prideful and arrogant, and it would say more about ourselves than about God himself. Therefore, I think it would be beneficial for all of us to think seriously about our understanding of God, and specifically why we understand God the way that we do.
By the way, these theological sources affect more than our theology proper – that is, our thinking about God. These sources affect our thinking about salvation, mankind, sin, even the church. In fact, it is common for Christians to use the sources in different ways and in different proportions for different aspects of their theology. Perhaps we will be able to discuss some of these differences as well.
I hope that more people than myself are interested in this topic. I’m hoping for a great discussion in the comment concerning each theological “source”. This is one area in particular where I think we can learn from one another.
Here are a few questions to help all of us think about these various theological sources and to kick-off our discussion:
1) Do you think that Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience inform our theology? Are there other theological sources besides these four?
2) Do you think theological sources work independently of one another, or do you think there is interaction between the different sources?
3) What happens when different people place different emphases on different theological sources?