This is the first of three posts about what I call the Theological Hexagon. The Theological Hexagon is a prioritized visual representation of the sources one ought to use to arrive at the single, definite and fixed interpretation of a passage of Scripture. One can then use this correct interpretation of Scripture as the foundation to develop his or her correct theological principle(s). .
Dr. R. C. Sproul wrote a book entitled Everyone’s a Theologian. The Ligonier Ministries’ website describes [in part] the book (see https://www.ligonier.org/store/everyones-a-theologian-hardcover/ ):
Many people react negatively to the word theology, believing that it involves dry, fruitless arguments about minute points of doctrine. Yet as Dr. R.C. Sproul argues, everyone is a theologian. Any time we think about a teaching of the Bible and strive to understand it, we are engaging in theology
The Merrian-Webster Dictionary definition of the term “theology” (link: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theology) is:
the study of religious faith, practice, and experience especially : the study of God and of God’s relation to the world.
What Dr. Sproul writes is true – everyone is a theologian. Even though the level of study may be different, when we consider God (or even the nonexistence of God), we are theologians. Each of us needs to understand the sources of our theology and how we prioritize our sources. To leave out valid sources of theology or wrongly prioritize our sources can result in a theological disaster. Such a disaster may have eternity-changing consequences.
After considering the underlying principles of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral and the Stage of Truth, which I explain below, I developed what I call the “Theological Hexagon.” The Theological Hexagon uses the ideas of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral and the Stage of Truth to visually represent six sources of our theology and how we ought to prioritize them.
The origin of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is (link http://storage.cloversites.com/aldersgateunitedmethodistchurch3/documents/Wesleyan%20Quadrilateral.pdf ):
The Quadrilateral, derived by the Methodist scholar Albert Outler from Wesley’s works, views a fourpoint method of discerning God’s mind and heart, with Scripture, Tradition, Experience and Reason in dialogue.
One dictionary definition of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral reads:
Wesleyan quadrilateral. The four “sources” on which Wesleyan theology is often constructed and defended: Scripture, reason, tradition and experience. There is some debate today as to whether the Wesleyan quadrilateral actually dates to Wesley himself, although there is general agreement that it does represent Wesley’s own theological approach.
Grenz, S., Guretzki, D., & Nordling, C. F. (1999). In Pocket dictionary of theological terms (p. 121). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Another definition reads:
The quadrilateral consists in Scripture, tradition, reason and experience, with the first given priority. Scripture is said to be the ultimate source of religious authority and church tradition the abiding resource. Reason and experience are criteria that support the claims of Scripture and tradition.
Bloesch, D. G. (2005). A theology of word & spirit: authority & method in theology (pp. 208–209). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
The concept of the “Stage of Truth” comes from Session 8 of the Introduction to Theology course from The Theology Program by Credo House in Edmund, Oklahoma (link: https://credohouse.org/ ). Session 8 discusses the sources of our theology. The subtitle of Session 8 is: “Where do you go for truth?” Session 8, which spans pages 93-104 of the notebook for Introduction to Theology (Biblical Studies Press, LLC, Plano, Texas) [hereinafter “Notebook”], presents the concept of the “Stage of Truth,” which is a visual representation of how we prioritize our sources of theology. The “Stage of Truth” has a front corresponding to our most critical theological contributors and a rear corresponding to our least essential contributors. On page 94, the Notebook lists these six sources as follows: tradition, reason, experience, emotions, general revelation, and special revelation (i.e., Scripture).
The Theological Hexagon combines the geometric contribution of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral with the concept of prioritization from the State of Truth to accommodate our six sources of theology. Hence, the geometric term “hexagon.” In the following sections, I examine each one of the six sources in its order of importance. The bases for my examination comprise the definitions in the Notebook, my notes from the DVD materials from the Theology Program, and some materials about the Wesleyan Quadrilateral including the article by Jeffery S. Lamp entitled “The Wesleyan Quadrilateral: A Model for Evangelical Theology?”, Evangelical Theological Society paper E-4654 (1994), explanations from the United Method Church, including a statement from the UMC website (link: http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/wesleyan-quadrilateral), and my research.
In the next post, I will discuss the first three sources of theology – Scripture, reason, and tradition.
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