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A Pentecostal Appropriation of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral



Having only been in existence for a little over one hundred years, Pentecostalism is still in its adolescence as a movement.1  As a result, biblical and theological scholarship has only belatedly begun to develop in Pentecostalism.2  More recently the movement has undergone several phases in which it has become less skeptical and more open to Pentecostal scholarship and education.3  Pentecostal scholarship is still in its adolescence; therefore it is hard to find a clearly articulated theological method in the writings of Pentecostal theologians. This makes the need for developing Pentecostal theological method all the more important. It is important for Pentecostals to reexamine the theological method of John Wesley, not to merely imitate what he has done, but to utilize his sources for developing a method that is contemporary, ecumenical, and Pentecostal.4

From the beginning, Pentecostals have always emphasized the importance of Scripture.

The contribution of John Wesley’s theological method for Pentecostals is not that it is exclusively Wesleyan, but that it is explicitly ecumenical. It does not point per se to Wesley himself but it brings us into dialogue with various other traditions that are both ancient and contemporary. Wesley points us away from himself to the church at large, the church of all ages, both then and now. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral forces us to hold in tension various theological loci from different Christian traditions. If Wesley were here today he would take into account both the historical and contemporary events that have taken place in the last three hundred years especially in regard to the trajectory of the Pentecostal movement.

This study will utilize the so-called Wesleyan Quadrilateral as a model for further theological dialogue between Wesleyan and Pentecostal traditions by demonstrating that there is a unique pneumatology in Wesley’s theological method. This article will examine the historiography of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, analyze the role of the Holy Spirit in each of the four areas (scripture, reason, tradition, experience), and then offer a Pentecostal appropriation of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

Wesleyan Quadrilateral

John Wesley (1703 – 1791)

Particularly important for this study is John Wesley’s pneumatology. His doctrine of the Holy Spirit was not just a category in his theology, but is intricately connected to his overall theology. Throughout the sermons, hymns, journals, and the Explanatory Note Upon the New Testament one can see an emphasis on the person and work of the Spirit.5

Pneumatology develops a sort of theme throughout the corpus and provides a ground-tone in Wesley’s version of the ordo salutis.6

Pneumatology in Wesleyan studies is still being developed, especially in regard to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Therefore, this study proposes to demonstrate that there is a distinct pneumatology in John Wesley’s theological method. A rediscovery of Wesley’s doctrine of the Holy Spirit can build a bridge between Wesleyan and Pentecostal movements as well as make a distinct contribution in the contemporary ecumenical movement.7

Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience are ways in which God continues to tell His story to man.8  Through them He speaks to us and lets us know that we are not alone, but that He is with us. The Holy Spirit is the initiator of this ethereal conversation between God and man.9  The Quadrilateral is a theological method that John Wesley used in order to understand the work and Word of God. The primary way this took place was through the role of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we must have the Spirit’s in our search for a more “Scriptural Christianity.”10

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About the Author: The Rev. Dr. Winfield H. Bevins serves as the Director of Asbury Seminary’s Church Planting Initiative. He is also the Canon for Church Planting for the Anglican Diocese of the Carolinas and an adjunct professor at Trinity School for Ministry. He is the author of Plant: A Sower’s Guide to Church Planting (Seedbed, 2016), Rediscovering John Wesley (Pathway Press, 2005), Our Common Prayer: A Field Guide to the Book of Common Prayer (Simeon Press, 2013), Creed: Connect to the Basic Essentials of Historic Christian Faith (NavPress, 2011), and Grow at Home: A Beginner’s Guide to Family Discipleship (Seedbed, 2016). WinfieldBevins.com Amazon Author Page Facebook Twitter: @winfieldbevins

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