The Wesleyan Pyramid

How do we know what is true?

 

Based on the teachings of theologian John Wesley, many Christians believe that our ability to understand truth is formed by four components, known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral:

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral holds that Scripture is the primary source of truth because it has been directly inspired by God. This prevents any individual or group from claiming special ownership of Christian truth, because it provides an ultimate, shared benchmark by which to judge all beliefs.

In accordance with Scripture, we can add to our understanding of truth through Tradition, Reason and Experience:

  • Tradition is the collective non-scriptural writings, sermons, rituals, rules, etc. produced by Christians since the beginning of the Church. The strength of Tradition is not necessarily its infallibility but its ability to stand the test of time. Traditions that survive changes of language, culture and technology are deemed most reliable and most true.  

  • Reason is the use of logic to separate fact from fiction. It is capable of discerning fallacies and contradictions in false doctrine, as well as deducing God’s role in nature through science. Reason seeks evidence, and it demands logical consistency. It produces skepticism, but it also stimulates curiosity about the natures of God and Man.

  • Experience is the sum total of a given person’s life: the people they meet, the things they see, the blessings and trials they encounter, their successes and failures. Experience is often called “personal truth” but it must always be interpreted in light of the other corners of the quadrilateral to give it perspective.

While the Quadrilateral makes no distinction between Experiences that are natural and those that are supernatural, Wesley clearly recognized the reality of divine inspiration  that does not rise to the level of scripture. To account for these supernatural encounters, we can add a fifth source of truth:

 

  • Revelation is the process of receiving visions, prophecies, callings, convictions, etc. from the Holy Spirit. It is the source of truth that cannot otherwise be explained through experience, reason, tradition or scripture. Revelation is sometimes referred to as intuition or inspiration. It is by nature mysterious and difficult to define.

Instead of a 2D Quadrilateral, we now have a 3D Pyramid, with Tradition, Reason, Experience and Revelation forming the base, and upholding the capstone of Scripture:

pyramid.PNG

Each corner of the Pyramid faces a different direction, or aspect. The term Aspect also refers to a particular facet of our personalities, as well as to a specific manifestation of God, as seen in the Tetramorph.