Today is Palm Sunday - a day in the life of the church to recall Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. It also kicks off the themes for Holy Week as Christians everywhere walk with Jesus to the cross of Calvary, ultimately celebrating his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
I love this time of year. Always have. As I've written before, I know there is a great deal of tradition and experience that I bring to that understanding. The tradition is of course from my parents and the things we did to observe these high and holy days. The experience is the direct result of those events and the meaning that they have given me. But there are two other things which are pretty important here as well. There is reason and Scripture. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, called this the Quadrilateral: Scripture, reason, tradition, experience.
What I really like about Wesley's thought here is how the four are connected. Let me paint the picture of how I understand these to be working together. Imagine you are a painter and you are getting ready to paint a picture. You need the easel, canvas, brushes, paints, and other supplies. You also bring to the picture a sense of how color and shapes go together. Whether you are an novice or a professional doesn't matter all that much, but those who have done this a time or two seem more proficient at it.
With that image in mind, here is how I see the Quadrilateral working together. Scripture is the primary source and standard for the Christian - it is the canvas upon which we paint our faith lives. Tradition is the witness of development of the faith through the past centuries and in many nations and cultures. Experience is the Christ follower's understanding and appropriating of the faith in the light of his or her own life. Through reason the individual Christian brings to bear on the Christian faith discernment. The last three only make sense if they are within the context of Scripture. Anything that is beyond that doesn't belong on the canvas of life.
That being said, I generally don't sit down and analyze if each of these are present in my decision making (although I could) - it happens more as a framework of who I hope to be. Now, I don't always get it right. Don't make the assumption that just because I think I have this way of being that I don't make mistakes. I do - more than I care to admit. But I really do try to filter everything through these four dynamics.
Perhaps this works for you as well. Or maybe you haven't really given this any thought. Let me encourage you to consider what it means to grow in Christ through these four points.
That would be my prayer for you as well.