Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lenses of Faith

Belief is a personal experience that varies from person to person. The diversity of beliefs are a bold declaration, and reflection, of our own human diversity. But as much as it should be a strictly personal issue, a component of our diverse characteristics, why then is Belief such a divisive topic? Why must our differing beliefs keep us from embracing universal brotherhood?

I happen to stumble upon a very interesting methodology for theological reflection recently that arose from within the Methodist movement, the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. In a nutshell, the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, credited to John Wesley, was used to form his views on theology and is a method that can be used by any faith to form their own views of theology. John Wesley used these four sources to come to his theological conclusion:
  • Scripture - the Holy Bible (Old and New Testaments)
  • Tradition - the two millennia history of the Christian Church
  • Reason - rational thinking and sensible interpretation
  • Experience - a Christian's personal and communal journey in Christ
The United Methodist Church asserts that "Wesley believed that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in Scripture, illumined by tradition, vivified in personal experience, and confirmed by reason. Scripture [however] is primary, revealing the Word of God 'so far as it is necessary for our salvation." (Wikipedia)

I believe that by tweaking this method one can easily see where, how, and what their theology is based upon by moving through the four sources. For example, a Muslim would use the Qu'ran as their scripture, the Hadith, a school of jurisprudence, and Islamic history as their tradition, their personal reasoning, and their personal experience as a Muslim. Rather quickly one can see that scripture and tradition are both external sources which are counterbalanced by the internal sources of reason and experience. But, where I differ from the mainstream view of Christianity is that I view ALL four sources as originating from the fallible hands, lips, and mind of man. In each of the four categories are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of possible avenues that can be taken which results in a diverse array of beliefs. The core concept that we must remember is that each of the four categories must first be examined, and later accepted or rejected, by the human mind.

John Wesley saw the Holy Bible as the ONLY source of Truth and used Tradition, Reason, and Experience as different lens to reveal and decode truth so that it may be implemented into our daily walk with Christ. Atheists on the other hand might use Reason as their source and use evidence (scripture), scientific method and community (tradition), and their personal experiences as an Atheist ( Ex. The fact that Atheist can be just as moral as Christians, or even more so, can be used as a personal experiences to support their reasoning for being an Atheist). Insert Belief System here and you can see how that system is accepted or rejected by the individual. One individual can not (although they sure try!) say to another that they have the wrong belief because each person may be using a different lens to peer into the Divine. They might not see what you see even after you explain it to them for a variety of reasons. We may share the same faith but our beliefs and experiences found on our individual journeys are as unique as fingerprints.

I believe there are Universal Truths but as humans we are unable to express it in human words although some of us may come to personally experience it firsthand. Our diversity in describing the Divine should not hinder us from sitting at the same table as our brothers. Jesus walked, talked, and ate with the impurest people in regards to the Jewish purity system of his day. So why is it so difficult for us to even accept that our brother's faith (a sin) is different from ours? Growing up in the Christian church I heard that we are to love the sinner but hate the sin. I do not regard diversity of faith as a sin but as creative human outlet which seeks in expressing and defining the Infinite.


Don said...

Thanks for this post. What you have to say here will help me to deal with my eldest son's fundamentalism (without trying to change his ideas to mine...very difficult for a father to do). I have been there (where he is) and find it difficult to refrain from "warning" him about the pitfalls of his fundamentalism. I must remember that we are all on our own path and on our own schedule. He is NOT me, and I, not him.

Eruesso said...

I believe I've come across as trying to change the beliefs of friends and family whenever I first discovered that I was begining to depart from the mainstream views of Christianity. I was filled with excitement so I began sharing these views with everyone (as bold inerrant facts at times) without realizing the cracks in relationships that were begining to form because of my sharing. I am the only person (outside of Rabbi Rami who teaches at MTSU) I know locally who has these belief. It can be incredibly lonesome at times when everyone you know is on a different path, and all you want to do is share while knowing that sharing may cause permanent divisions.

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