Photo credit: Ryan Klinck

Photo credit: Ryan Klinck

Does This Make Sense?
The Wesleyan Quadrilateral, Week 9
by Andrea Lingle

There is a petition going around Facebook in my area. A power company has been cited for excessive disgustingness at their coal plant, and they are being required to clean up. To defray the cost of said clean up, they have proposed an upcharge to their customers. 

And the customers are protesting.

“Sign this petition if you think The Power Company should clean up their own mess.”

The only problem is…

All of those customers who do not want to pay for the clean-up knew that their power came from a coal powered plant. And anyone who thinks that coal power isn’t dirty from beginning to end isn’t thinking about it.

Coal dust has filled the lungs of miners and confined them to perpetual night and poverty. Their songs and stories have brought tears to our eyes even as we burn the coal that has cost them their health. 

The sludge of coal power has filled the air around our city and, apparently, the ground for years. And we charge our devices with coal-powered electricity to petition against paying for our mess.

The quadrilateral is a structure that gives the individual and the community a way to understand how to live in the world. We have talked about scripture, tradition, and experience. 

God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28

Our scripture tells us that there is something sacred about nature.

My family and I attend a Methodist church, and at the end of every communion service my kids race to the altar to eat the leftover bread. Because that bread cannot be thrown away. Once they slump over in a carb-coma, the remaining bread must be returned to nature. 

Our tradition tells us that there is something sacred about nature. 

My grandfather and thousands of others helped build the Blue Ridge Parkway—a roadway woven along the ridges of the mountains of Western North Carolina. It doesn’t really go anywhere and it is anything but the shortest distance between two points, but it is infested with motorists most of the time. 

Our experience tells us that there is something sacred about nature.

Reason is the fourth corner of the quadrilateral. It forces us to ask the question: “Does this make sense?” Reason cannot be the only thing we use to decide our way forward, but it also can’t be overlooked. There are portions of scripture that are steeped in a culture we do not live in, so to insist that scripture must be taken at face value without asking what the context was is to ignore reason. There are traditions that have persisted throughout time that need to be discarded, and reason gives us a way to evaluate them.

And reason asks:

Does it make sense make a mess and refuse to clean it up? 

Does it make sense to participate in systems of harm without owning our part in it? Because this isn’t really about our local coal plant. That is just an example. 

Reason begs us to face the systems within which we all operate and ask:

Does this make sense?
Does this help the world love God and neighbor?
Does this system tend toward kindness and courage?

And if not…

Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:

  • What is reason showing you?
  • How is the Divine prompting you to act?
  • Who can go with you?

How To Connect: The Wesleyan Quadrilateral

In the liturgical calendar, Advent, the four Sundays before Christmas, marks the start of a new year. A new cycle. A new incarnation of what it means to be living in a world with the human and the Divine. Again, this year, a new liturgical journey begins with Advent, a season of preparation, and the Missional Wisdom Foundation would like for you to join us on an exploration into who and what the incarnate Christ is and was: Advent Incarnate.

There will be a few ways to engage in this journey.

  • Read the MWF newsletter. Each week The Wisdom for the Way will explore the theology of incarnation.
  • Enroll in the Advent Incarnate Journey Course. This course will be an asynchronous (meaning you can take it at your own pace) four-module course designed to give the participant more resources on incarnational theology and a chance to discuss and reflect. This free course will open for registration in mid-November.
  • Join me on Facebook Live. I will be doing Facebook Live discussions with Luke Lingle on each week’s Wisdom for the Way writings. These will be Thursdays at 9:00 pm (Eastern) each week of Advent. I will be chatting from my writer’s page: Andrea Lingle. Just search for @alingle from within Facebook.
  • Form an in-person or Incarnational Group. This Incarnational Group Guide will have four liturgies to follow, will guide the group through setting an intention of service, and will work well for children, adults, or a mix of both. If you have a group who would like to use this study this Advent, please go to our store for the free download.

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