Now for part 3!
There is one little tool I learned about in school that has stuck with me to this day. A simple methodology for theological reflection is called Wesley’s Quadrilateral. According to John Wesley (an Anglican minister credited with founding the Methodist church as well as influencing the Holiness movement and Pentecostalism), our four sources of theology and thought are: Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.
Wesley considered the Bible to be the foundation of the Christian faith and life. But he also knew that the church needed to keep in line with historical theology, therefore he considered “tradition” important as well. However, faith does include the aspect of experience, so experience needed to be given a role to play. And like many smart people before and after him, Wesley knew we should never divorce faith from reason. Thus, his quadrilateral was formed.
Tradition, reason, and experience are always subject to Scripture, but they are useful in helping us to understand what we’re reading. Keeping this method in mind as we read the Bible, we can avoid common errors like taking things too literally (see part 2 for an example), not recognizing the context of a verse, and even cherry picking verses or even sections of verses that we like while ignoring the others.
As you read, consider what the Bible seems to be saying. Reflect on your personal experience – is it different or the same as what you’re reading? What does your church tradition historically say about this passage? And what do you think it logically means?
The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian. –AW. Tozer
Be encouraged to continue reading your Bible and seeking to understand what God is saying.
Check out this article on common mistakes people make when reading the Bible:
Simple and straightforward book to better understand the Bible: