Although I tend to be a lectionary preacher, every once in a while I like to do a sermon series to touch on relevant topics. And so, for the four Sundays of March I'm going to engage in a series of sermons that carry the title: “How do you hear the voice of God? Four Ways.”
These four ways or sources are Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience, which form what is known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral takes its name from John Wesley the 18th century founder of what is today Methodism. It serves as a response to the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). Like many other Anglicans of his day, Wesley recognized that even if we believe that God speaks to us through Scripture, we need other tools that will help us understand and apply this word to our lives. So, he added Experience to Tradition and Reason (the Anglican tools). It's important to note that Wesley never saw these four sources as having equal authority. Scripture always had primacy, with Tradition, Experience, and Reason, providing context and guidance to interpretation and application.
The Disciples of Christ tradition, of which I am a participant, took to heart the Reformation ideal of sola scriptura, even taking it one step further, making the New Testament the highest authority for the church. These Disciple forebearers were of a mind common at the time that the Scriptures had a clarity that was self-evident. They came to believe that if Christians stuck to scripture alone, ridding themselves of unhelpful traditions, they could join together as one people. They tended to see the Bible as the church's Constitution.
As time went by, we discovered that by limiting ourselves to just one avenue by which to hear the voice of God, we had left ourselves spiritually impoverished. Therefore, today many Disciples have turned to Wesley's Quadrilateral for help.
Over the course of this four week series we'll talk about each of these voices: Scripture (March 4), Tradition (March 11), Reason (March 18), and Experience (March 25). Although many will try to pick one voice at the expense of the others, I‟ll be suggesting that we're best served when we allow God to speak to us using all four of these voices, though with Wesley I do believe Scripture still has primacy.
So, the questions set before us are: How do you listen for the voice of God? And, after asking this question, consider another: How do you know if this is the voice of God?
The answers are important, because we have before us important issues, even life and death issues, to discuss as church. If we're to have a public voice, we'll need to answer the question -- how do we know what God is saying in this time and place?