I’ve been thinking about the framing of the so-called Wesleyan Quadrilateral in the Book of Discipline.
Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason.
Scripture is primary, revealing the Word of God “so far as it is necessary for our salvation.” Therefore, our theological task, in both its critical and constructive aspects, focuses on disciplined study of the Bible.
To aid his study of the Bible and deepen his understanding of faith, Wesley drew on Christian tradition, in particular the Patristic writings, the ecumenical creeds, the teachings of the Reformers, and the literature of contemporary spirituality.
Thus, tradition provides both a source and a measure of authentic Christian witness, though its authority derives from its faithfulness to the biblical message.
What’s interesting about this is that it essentially reverses the role of scripture during the period of canonization. Scripture was used to teach the faith of the church, a faith one could locate in various forms of the Rule of Faith. So, in that setting, the Rule of Faith (tradition) was primary, and Scripture illumined the doctrinal claims one found in the Rule of Faith. Works that were thought useful for teaching the faith of the Church in Christian liturgy were eventually canonized. Works that did not teach of the faith of the Church did not make it into the canon.
I don’t dispute that the above statement from the Discipline captures Wesley’s perspective, but did Wesley have it right? Would it be right to say that our faith is revealed in tradition and illumined by scripture? And if Wesley didn’t have it right, can we dispense with the Quadrilateral?