Foundational Issues

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Foundational Issues: The Wesleyan Quadrilateral
The Wesleyan Quadrilateral, Week 1
by Adam White

We all need foundations to build upon. This exists physically for the construction and repair of houses and buildings, emotionally for establishing relationships with each other, and spiritually for our faith.

Now, I know very little about foundations in the structural sense. My father is a retired structural engineer. I gave up following in my father’s footsteps the minute I realized how much math hurt my brain in unforgiving ways.

When my father was in a structural engineering course while earning his Master’s degree, a professor proposed the following question to all of the students:

“What is the progression for these two rows of letters and how do they differ from each other?”


Immediately, my father and the other students considered a range of progression possibilities that involved numerical theories and equations, analyzing every letter carefully.

After about an hour of the class working tirelessly on the question and getting nowhere the professor finally explained that the answer was simple, “The progression of the top row is TVW XYZ. The bottom row is RSU. The top row has letters with only straight lines, the bottom row only has letters with straight and curved lines…that’s it.”

The exercise was used to emphasize how not to overthink a situation, but to look for the obvious, and trust the wisdom that could be revealed right before them.

The same extends to our spirituality when we consider how belief and practice relate to our faith. We don’t need to over analyze or overcomplicate things theologically, but trust in the obvious wisdom of God’s revelation being made known to us, right before us, as we build foundations of faith.

There are many different types of foundational systems that can hold our faith. For the next eight weeks we will be exploring one of those foundations that is known as the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral.” If we think about the four structural “posts” that are involved in this system we will find (1) scripture, (2) tradition, (3) reason, and (4) experience. Together these posts create a base from which we can grow. This foundation serves a simple purpose, it serves as a model that can help us engage in practicing our beliefs as we pursue living out the great commandment; to love God with all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our minds as we look to loving each other as ourselves (Matthew 22).

As we explore these different structural posts of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, we are invited into the simplicity of God’s presence being revealed to each of us, right before our very eyes. 

Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:

  • What are the structural posts of your faith?

  • What is God inviting you to observe that is right in front of you?