The Wesleyan Quadrilateral

John C. Rankin (2013)

Based on the self-evident primacy of the Bible, rooted in only Genesis, there is a needful reality to define. John Wesley, the great Anglican minister, hymn writer and abolitionist, after whom Methodism was posthumously founded, spoke of what we call the Wesleyan quadrilateral.

Namely, our first and complete authority for knowing the will of God is the written Word – the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament. Then follows church tradition, as governed by the Bible as to where the church has been faithful to the Word, and where it has not. Then follows the gift of human reason, as set free by the foundation of the Word to explore any and all realities and questions we find in creation. And finally is human experience – where the purpose of the Word is for us to relate to God and one another in creative joy. But for such experience to be healthy, it needs the prior foundation. To graph it:

The order of creation, in worshiping the Creator, leads to:

Scripture, tradition, reason, experience.

The reversal of the order of creation, in yielding to idolatry, leads to:

Experience, reason, tradition, Scripture.

“Idolatry” is backward to reality, worshiping the good creation, perverting it, instead of the Creator who makes it good. Thus, we note the assumptions of creation, sin and redemption, the God, life, choice, sex paradigm, the ten positives of only Genesis; and the Wesleyan quadrilateral.


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House of Lords 17 October 2017

Text of John Rankin’s address on the occasion of the 500th annive5rsary of the Reformation.