Friends, if I have to tell you why scripture is the most important part of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, then I feel that we are in deeper trouble in our denomination than we realize.
However, I would like to say this, while scripture is the most important part of reason, tradition, and experience, we are not people of the BOOK but people of God. What do I mean by this?
I recently ran into someone who saw me reading the Bible and he stopped by to have a conversation.
He was glad to see such a “young person reading the Bible thoroughly. It’s good to see teenagers grounded in the word.”
First of all, I told him that I wasn’t a teenager and secondly, that I was a pastor. What I really wanted to say was “Don’t assume or you’ll look like an ass.” I already had a feeling that this conversation was something that I did not want to engage in.
He started to talk about his church and how he was a member for 20 some years. He reads the Bible, then he reads the Bible “to his wife, to further our relationship in Christ and to really take my role as the head of the household.” I was taken a back by this a bit, because for me, it sounded like he was belittling his wife a tad bit…
He then adamantly said “You and I need to read the Bible because that’s the only way that God speaks to us!” I asked him to elaborate on the only part. “We can pray sure. But when we pray, we talk to God. When we want to listen to God, we read the Bible.”
“Well, what about people that feel God is talking to them through other people? Or have an experience of God’s voice through the beauty and power of nature?” I asked.
“No. They don’t need to do all that as long as they read the Bible. Everything God wants them to know is in the Bible.”
Then, I felt a bit daring and asked “Well, that’s great that you read the Bible so much! Believe me, our denomination could use people a bit more Bible literate. But, what do you personally do after you read the Bible?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, what is your reactions or actions after you read the Bible?”
“I go to church.”
“Do you engage in any other ministries outside of church and reading your bible?”
“I go to church faithfully every Sunday with my kids. And then when we go to our vacation home up in the lake a couple times out of the year, I make sure we all bring our own bible to have family bible time.”
“That’s amazing. But do you engage in anything to help outside of the church and your family in the name of God?”
“Sure, I do. I like to hand out Bibles to people. Especially homosexuals! If they read the Bible and God cuts to their heart, they’ll stop being homosexual.”
(Oops. I pressed too hard. Someone get me out of here…
“Well, what do you mean by that?”
“It’s a disgusting and immoral sin, homosexuality! We need to really teach them that that’s the wrong way to live and really open them up to the Bible and what the Bible says!”
“Now, with all due respect, I’m going to ask you this question… who cares? Why is it our job to change their ways?”
“Because God says so through the Bible!”
“Then why not let God deal with it?”
“We can’t let that happen! I don’t want my kids growing up in the presence of homosexuals!”
“Well, okay, I get you, but don’t you think that God and the Bible have bigger fish to fry than hetero-izing the homosexuals?”
“Well, sir, what about poverty and caring for the poor? There maybe a few verses and chapters in the Bible about homosexuality, but there are over 2000 verses in the Bible about the poor and the need for Christians to take care of the poor and those in need. Particularly, the orphans, the widows, and if you look in Deuteronomy 24, God adds the “aliens” or the foreigners. Don’t you think that we as Christians should tackle the issue of homeless and end poverty, at least within our community, just like the early church did in Acts chapter 2 and 4?”
And I kid you not, as soon as I said that he said:
“You know, it was good talking to you. I wish I could stay longer, but I’m in a hurry. Hopefully I’ll run into you again.”
“Hey, thanks for your time. Blessings to you and your family.”
Maybe he really had to go. Or maybe he finally did what I was wanting to do: get out of the conversation.
But, I know a lot of Christians brothers and sisters who dive deep into the word, and bless them for that! But they remain in the book. They read and read and read and read and they believe and believe and believe, but they only stay within their bubble. They rarely engage people outside of their church and faith community. Often times, they’re more afraid of people that are different and non-Christians.
We are people of God not the people of the Bible.
We need to immerse, drench and surround ourselves in the Word and then GO into the world to live out God’s Word faithfully, boldly and loudly and in a way that honors and blesses God’s name (not our name and our agendas.)
This is why the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is important and helps us become the good seed that falls on the good soil. With scripture being the most important, we need to incorporate tradition, reason and experience in our faith journey (and even in our churches) so that we can remain fruitful and faithful so that we bless and honor God (and again, not us or our agendas.)