Thoughts on Wesley’s Quadrilateral

Conscience alone. Sola Conscientium. Solely on the basis of conscience, scripture. The scripture is inerrant because in all respects it agrees with conscience. Furthermore conscience is the principle by which scripture must be read, it cannot be read by any other principle. It does not disagree with conscience, but if it did, then in whatever respect it did it would have to be abandoned. Scripture illuminates conscience as light illuminates the visible. This is the purpose of scripture: to serve in the interpretation of conscience.  Solely on the basis of scripture, orthodoxy. Not because scripture compels us to accept tradition whatever its conclusion, but because taken as a whole the most distinctive conclusions of Christians across history have largely been in agreement with scripture. If they did not agree with scripture, they would not be worth believing. Furthermore, the orthodoxy only agrees with scripture as a rule in the broadest possible sense. When in the immediate sense it contradicts scripture, it must be broken. But at its best orthodoxy illuminates scripture as scripture illuminates conscience. The purpose of the orthodoxy is to serve in the interpretation of scripture. And it is formed by close adherence to the scripture itself, it cannot be formed by any other principle.

The interpretation of scripture should not flatly contradict reason. Usually faith is neither confirmed nor denied by reason, as faith begins to speak where reason ceases to. But the attempt to apply reason to God is misguided, either to prove his existence or to understand his characteristics. The first endeavor results in the circular logic of assuming the validity of reason to demonstrate the existence of God, and extrapolating from the existence of God the validity of reason. This does not mean that reason actively denies the existence of God, but that the attempt to use reason to prove his existence is an attempt to acquire the confirmation of reason. The second leads to irresolvable paradoxes. This does not mean that God’s nature actively contradicts reason, but that the attempt to understand him by reason is an attempt to acquire the confirmation of reason.

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