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How do we discover God?
Circle of Hope has its own take on the Wesleyan Quadrilateral:
The truth in and from Jesus is revealed in many ways: through the Bible, through the members of the body, through the creation, through the Holy Spirit.
A few precursors about the what and why before we get to the how. First of all, I believe there is a truth to be found in and from Jesus; it’s not just subject to interpretation, there is no essentializing or fundamentalizing it based on our own supposed priorities. A truth exists. There is right and wrong. Is knowing the whole truth salvific or necessary? Well, I’m not sure about that. But just because it may not be, doesn’t mean the truth could be relative. It is in fact universal and gracious, just like its revealer is. Truth takes on the characteristics of Christ. Jesus is so fundamental to the truth that the question is still more about Him than some objective truth that might exist outside of Him.
Let’s start with Jesus being revealed through the Bible. To some this might be the most “duh” moment for us, and for others it might be the opposite, the Scriptures might be the biggest hurdle we have.
I’m not much of an apologist. That is, I won’t really defend the faith and the Bible in some systematic, rational way. You’ll notice that “reason” for a postmodernist is such a non-argument especially compared to Wesley’s enlightened audience. So while apologetics might be a good argument for people in the 17th Century or even in different parts of the U.S., I’m not sure it works in our context as well.
For me, it’s all about relating. One of the reason that I choose to use the Bible as a primary source for revelation from God is because it was written by Christians, and it’s easily, especially Paul’s writings, the earliest literature we have from Christians, in general. They are most authoritative and best accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings—that fact alone has little debate.The Gospels are also very early (Mark is dated as early as 60 A.D., and some of Paul’s letters 45 A.D.)
But for someone whose experience defines everything about it, the Bible as one of the best revelations of God might be a hard sell. The fact that endless debate has occurred in regards to its proper interpretation makes it as a foundational pillar weaker. There needs to be more to the conversation. Sola scriptura and even prima scriptura can’t possibly rely solely or even primarily on the Bible, something else gets in there—could be reason (our own prejudices) or tradition (the prejudices of those who have come before us).
It seems like it’s a major step of faith to use the scriptures as your “primary source” of revelation, and for me, the others are equally important. Because in the postmodern era the Scripture can be easily deconstructed, we need to have more things pointing to God.
The Scriptures themselves have impacted so many Christians over thousands of years, that to ignore them and to follow Jesus just seems like nonsense. Ignoring the cloud of witnesses is arrogant and ignorant.
Certainly the earliest writers aren’t the only ones that we should be honoring. In fact, we just put out a calendar that highlights many modern day prophets that influence us quite a bit. We limited it to the 19th and 20th centuries because the can of worms we open. They’re just too many.
I’m a relater, so Wesley’s tradition and experience, in some sense, is incorporated into the idea that the truth from and in Jesus is revealed in the Body of Christ. For me that includes the writers of the Scripture, Saints in the canon (and otherwise), contemporary writers, thinkers, and authors, and moreover, the people today, with whom I am explicitly relating, loving, and committed to. That’s you. You matter a lot to the process and, at the very least, it’s polite to listen, respond, and test your ideas too.
We’re doing it together. We are discerning something together, it’s a group process (we’ll get into the group project of reading the Bible later on this month), and I think it needs to be done together. It needs to be done in community.
But what about those who don’t have access to the Bible, don’t have Christians around them, and don’t have access to literature about the cloud of witnesses. How else can God be revealed? How else can we learn?
Paul says that through creation we can see God’s invisible qualities.
Paul focusses so much on sin and God’s wrath against it. Of course, he is talking to Christians that are in an evil, militaristic, slavery-supporting empire (sound familiar?), he wants to let them know that even if they haven’t been evangelized too their actions are still no excuse.
But the message he gives to us, is that you can see God in the creation around you. I even extend it further, and say I can see God in all things. His creations have created and the image He has put in them is also in their creations. The creator compels us and we reveal him, even inadvertently.
Having eyes to see the Creator through his creation takes time in such a busy world as ours. It takes simplicity. But to those who don’t have as many distractions, whether it’s by virtue or circumstance, seeing God in nature might be a little easier.
Redemption isn’t about getting it all right. The Holy Spirit helps us. This might be the pillar on which I place all of truth. You’ve gotta be working with the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, I think the body won’t much. The Scripture can be deconstructed. And certainly creation can be frames in chaos and not harmony.
Give it a shot. Have faith. I think God can get through whatever your ears are itching to hear, but it’s hard if you heart is hard. Let the Holy Spirit soften you, be open to something new.
The pursuit of the truth in and from Jesus together is a complicated thing. The implication that there is one truth is hard because when it comes to the relationships that we have, we might have the iron axe of truth on our side ready to cut everyone off. We need to frame the truth in a new way.
Like the foundation of any good marriage, the accountability we hold with each other, the truth we choose to exercise is based on agreements. The truth is always the same, but how its’ “enforced” matters only in what we’ve agreed to.
That might look like hypocrisy to some, but the better world for it is grace. Here’s Jesus being gracious in a complex passage in the Sermon on the Mount as Matthew records it.
I like what Jesus is bringing here. His central idea is idea is that we need to “judge” each other with some sense. We actually need to determine who we’re talking to and relate to them in an agreed upon away.
Furthermore, if truth is on your side, you don’t need to show it to people that’ll just ignore you. So often our corrective addresses are more about us than the other person. But in the event that we have an agreement, then we need to be accountable, obviously.
We take accountability serious around here, but it’s always done in ways that we have mutually agreed upon. Our words of wisdom and knowledge are given in many ways, but always within accountable relationships.
For me, that’s what is so crucial about the church. We need to have a connections with each other that make not only the exploration of the truth relevant, but applicable. The center of our anxiety around the truth is about judgment, hate, being cast off. But the agreements that we made are rooted in love with each other, I think that’s what Jesus is saying. I hope that ends up being why you stay connected.