Introduction, Clarifications, and a Potential Apology
In my family, and I assume in many of yours, there are certain stories that have been passed down over the years, and in being passed down, have become imbued with that peculiar quality of traditional wisdom: truth. If like me, you grew up in a Christian household, you might have (as I did) conflated these socially inherited truths with those found in the Bible. One such instance of this saw me looking through the Scripture again and again, trying to find the adage “God helps those who helps themselves.” I had heard it said often enough, and now I was going to look for it. To my chagrin, God never said that. Just grandpa.
I learned something from this though: the Bible can be wholly true without containing the whole of truth. Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, as they are sometimes called, really are just that: Basic. That is not to say the Scriptures do not contain all that is needed for a full relationship with God, because they do, and that is immense. It is another blessing of their structure, however, that they are not exhaustively prescriptive. While applicable to all areas of our life, the truth of Scripture must be instantiated into the fabric of our daily lives 2,000 years later. We have the duty and the honor of trying to know God not only through Scripture, but also through experience and reason. Furthermore, we always have the wisdom of those who came before us to fall back on. Reason, experience, tradition, and above all, Scripture, are our most powerful tools for understanding how to live in a more Christ-like way.
When I began writing today, I wanted to speak about a fifth aspect. For those familiar with Wesleyanism, the four modes I’ve just recited are the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral”. (Scripture is the longest side by the way, reflecting its prime position). And in beginning to write I planned to speak of a fifth aspect very much in the language of that Quadrilateral. However, it would be difficult to visualize a “Somewhat Squat Pentagon,” so let’s build a new quadrilateral. The other, and arguably more legitimate reason, for this decision is as follows: the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is four modes. The Will Quadrilateral (as made up by me, Will) is comprised of four aspects. Modes are interpretive; aspects in this context are actualizing. That is, the Will Quadrilateral speaks of how to actualize the Wesleyan Quadrilateral in your life.
A few matters of clarification are necessary at this point. If you are not familiar with John Wesley’s thought, that doesn’t matter. I’ll explain as we go along. If you don’t agree with John Wesley’s thought, or my brief addendum thereupon, that does matter I suppose, as it is what I’m talking about; however, it remains my sincere hope you can learn something from this, in its observations, if not in its conclusions. Also, I realize the ego involved in naming a new theological Quadrilateral after myself. I just liked the alliteration is all.