Thesis 18: Venn

This post is part of a series of meditations on each of Luther's "95 Theses." You can view all posts in the series here.
18. It seems unproved, either by reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of merit, that is to say, of increasing love.
Scripture and reason would come to be very closely intertwined much later during the Enlightenment with philosophers like John Locke.

(Ok, maybe not that John Locke. But that John Locke did spawn my new favorite internet meme I'd never heard of.)

In the Wesleyan tradition, reason and scripture are two lenses for discernment for Christians, along with tradition and experience.

I like to think of this Wesleyan quadrilateral as a Venn diagram with four circles, so that not only do we have the central field of overlap, but many different individual and shared fields to explore. Something like this:
If we view these different lenses as overlapping circles, we're free to think about how just two or just three of the different parts of the quadrilateral overlap. Do they all have equal weight? Should I trust tradition more than scripture? Should I focus my vision more heavily through reason than my own lived experience? These are questions which are valid for probably each different case rather than for creating hard and fast rules of interpretation. Yes, this relativizing may be annoying when we're looking for clear answers, but it also taps into the joy of exercising our free will. It allows us to be happy out of a sense of freedom and not of blind action like Sisyphus.

In the American UMC today, we are drunk on our own reason.

We have set up our annual conferences so that they build attractional/extractional model churches in order to keep our annual conferences financially afloat. We are worried about listening too closely to the Spirit or to our contemporary prophets to experiment with new forms of ministry and church that will not make us money. We've profited from a capitalist approach in every nook and cranny of our culture. Why should we rationally expect church to be any different?

There is scant evidence in scripture of the type of American churches we admire. Our Methodist traditions point to small groups of disciples committing to each other in deeply accountable alternative or add-on to the experience of the church-writ-large. Tapping into our experience is a bit more difficult and, of course, individualized. Here again, though, we must understand our experience in our cultural context, one that exalts the individual above the community. 

Another thought: Venn himself was ordained an Anglican priest (like John Wesley) in 1859. What would a triple Venn diagram be like when mapping the Trinity, the different dynamics, the changing ebbs and flows over time of how we experience the Godhead?

So many more ways of looking at this blackbird of church besides the one we focus on. What other views do the quadruple Venn suggest to you?


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