Comment of the Day

Rev Dave writes,

“Keep rocking the quadrilateral” Ha! +1 tripp!

As a transplanted Methodist, I had a similar thought (and we were just this week teaching the quad to our Confirmation class).

Though I wasn’t brought up in that tradition, it seems to me that
the quadrilateral is the most honest depiction of how we determine our
beliefs. The four exist in tension, and all are needed. As much as some
would like to believe otherwise, it is just not possible to base our
beliefs on scripture alone. We always filter what we read through these
other lenses. Even when we don’t know we’re doing so.

Anyway, I appreciate Tony’s thoughts here on experience. I won’t
bore with extensive details, but my mind and heart were completely
changed by an experience I had (in a seminary classroom no less!). In a
pastoral care class I met several gay men. As they talked about their
faith, one said – and I hope I never forget this – “This is what I know
for sure: I am 100% a man, 100% a Christian, and 100% gay.”

It was, in the ineffable way of such times, a holy moment; an intrusion
of God’s Spirit on my entire being. I gained a new understanding of
what it means to follow Jesus that day, and I’m a completely different
person, a completely different disciple, a completely different pastor,
because of it.

I say it would be inhuman not to include experience in this
discussion. For experience is a valid, important, age-old (you might

even call it traditional!) teacher.

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  • Thanks for the +1. I agree the necessity to include experience as a source of theology. It really is important that in doing so it isn’t just our own experience, but that of others – especially those who are marginalized.

  • There was a point earlier where Tony asked what the difference between conservative and liberal people are. I think, upon reflection, what I would say it is is that conservatives are more likely to hold a belief that they realize is too extreme when they meet the people they are judging and liberals are more likely to hold a belief that they realize is too extreme when they meet the One who will judge them.
    For as much as people are saying, “If you really met a 100% gay person you wouldn’t feel that way,” I just wonder what would happen if they had to defend their beliefs in front of the 100% God? At the end of the day, if I have to choose between offending men or offending God, this isn’t even a contest, though I’m not so certain I could say the same for everyone else here.

  • Jason

    If Rev. Dave is reading, I would like to tell him that no matter how real or genuine or passionate experience may seem, it can and will deceive.
    Here’s a verse that is especially pertinent: “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26 ESV).
    As a former charismatic, my experience told me that the modern occurences of speaking in tongues were real and from God, that strong believers possessed special miraculous gifts from God, and that modern occurences of prophecy were legitimate. No one could convince me otherwise. However, when I began to take the Bible at face value, and I began to evaluate my experiences in the clear light of Scripture, I found that my community was mistaken, and my experience deceived me. The Lord delivered me, and I am ever so grateful to Him for that.
    Do not rely upon experience; rely upon the plain interpretation of the Scriptures.

  • I’m not sure the point of the comment is that we “should rely” upon epxerience, but rather it is an acknowledgement that human beings are incapable of divorcing their experiential understanding of the world from how they interpret their faith. It’s simply ONE of the filters that are held in tension. Language is another tha perhaps the quadrilateral misses in my opinion. The vocabulary we have access to greatly influence our ability to wrap our mind around concepts.
    As for a “plain interpretation” of scripture, I’ve seen this point rasied by everyone who has a differing view of what scripture is teaching/ explaining/ doing. I would suggets that scripture has no plain reading, and therefore no plain interpretation. Paul’s exdposition on the “Glossalalia” is a classic case-in-poin.
    We must be humble enough to recognise the role that discernment has played (and continues to play) in how the ancient texts are read.

  • “We must be humble enough to recognise the role that discernment has played (and continues to play) in how the ancient texts are read.”
    I agree with you on this. The rub comes, I believe, when we look at what we are discerning the text in regards to. If we are discerning it with regards to the whole of Scripture and the narrative that it is telling about redemption through Christ then that is one thing. But, as I see most people on this blog trying to do, we try and discern Scriptures in regards to our own context, completely divorced from the greater biblical narrative, then this is when we start stepping off into theological liberalism, and in my opinion, into false beliefs/teachings.

  • “completely divorced from the greater biblical narrative”
    Todd, in most respects I agree with you. However, we always find ourselves coming up against potentially ambiguous yardsticks, as is this “greater narrative”. How much detail (doctrine, tradition etc) we tack on to the “great narrative” is the question.
    I believe discernment comes from the Holy Spirit, but interpretation comes from the mind, this is where the quadrilateral sits. Discernment should guide (and trump?) interpretation, but in the absence of discernment interpretation is all we have. Additionally we must be aware that the mind will also interpret discernment. So perhaps we are stuck in a reinforcing loop (Peter Senge would have a field day here).
    The solution for me is always to be prepared to dialogue. Prepared to change my point.
    If we define all ‘liberal theology’ as wrong, then of course, anything we deem to be ‘liberal theology’ we will instantly see as false. If, however, we concede that God can share a fraction of Himself with whomever he chooses (even a Christian killing murderer like Saul) then we must concede that even “liberal theologians” have some gems to share.

  • phil_style,
    I agree with your point that we “must concede that even ‘liberal theologians’ have some gems to share.” What makes me weary is the amount of discernment we allow into the equation. I just got finished reading Scot McKnight’s “The Blue Parakeet,” which I believe most people here would find extremely beneficial, and all I could finally come up with was that McKnight’s whole philosophy for “discernment” was, “Let me do what’s right for me in my day and then try and make that consistent with the Bible somehow.” That, to me, is dangerous.
    If our initial frame of reference is ourselves, people who are sick, maybe even dead with depravity, then all of our interpretation will be flavored by what we want it to say. This is why I think we should use discernment as a finisher to our theology, smoothing out the difficulties that remain from just handling the text, and not as a starter, setting the path with which we encounter the text on in the first place.

  • Rev Dave

    First, I’m not sure of the etiquette of this. Is it unseemly for me to comment on a post about my comment?
    Next, Tony, when naming a comment of the day, I wonder if it would be helpful to tell what thread the comment was from? It might help provide context for the comment – and stave off rehashing what the comment was about (and what it wasn’t about!).
    Jason, thanks for sharing what comes across as a heart-felt and sincere cautionary tale. Will you allow me to push back a little? Nowhere in my comment did I posit that experience should be the only (or even the main) determining factor in understanding one’s beliefs. That comment was in response to Tony asking “What Role Experience?” I was trying to say – and show – that experience is an important part of the equation; but it is not the whole equation (as phil_style rightly suggests above).
    I find the Proverb you share, um, interesting. Isn’t learning from our experience (and that of others) a huge part of how we “walk in wisdom”? The proverb does bring up for me the importance of community. My experience needs to be in conversation with that of others so as not to become overvalued. This is, I think, one of the roles of the church.
    Finally, I can’t help but find it ironic that you caution me not to rely on experience…by sharing one of your experiences!
    As for “plain interpretation”, It seems like we’ve been over and over this throughout the various threads of this blogalogue (and phil_s does so again above) and yet…here we are again. There is no such thing as “plain interpretation.” All reading is interpretation and all interpretation involves, at least in part, experience.

  • uday

    I read the above posts and thought I would put forward a few questions which I hope will be profitable to think upon.
    Is God only a concept a belief system that I beleive in?
    Is the bible truly the word of God?
    Is God soverign enough and in control?
    It is one thing to nod our head in confirmation, yet another when we have a personal relationship with God.
    If God lives, why do I need to break my head trying to interpret things. Cant I ask Him to open the scriptures to my heart.
    I also read the quote on the 100% gay thing and the question that pops up is – Is Romans chapter 1 God’s word or not. There is no two way about it. Even in Lots time, where he lived they must have surely come to justify their lifestyle just as in this age. God is still the same and He says heaven and earth will pass, but His word will not.
    I have nothing to prove. I pray that neither me nor you will be found wanting when we stand before Jesus on the day of the Lord.
    A link I hope will benefit you
    God bless you all