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A Pentecostal Appropriation of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral

Experience in the Pentecostal tradition can be summed up in the teaching of the Five-fold Gospel or the Full Gospel, which was normative at the inception of the movement.62  The Full Gospel was experientially and relationally understood as an extension of ones salvific relationship with the Triune God.63  The five experiential doctrines are: 1. Justification by faith. 2. Sanctification by faith as a second definite work of grace. 3. Healing of the body as provided for all in the atonement. 4. The premillenial return of Christ. 5. The baptism in the Holy Ghost evidenced by speaking in tongues. The experiential doctrines of the Full Gospel represent the heart of Pentecostal experience.

There is a need to pass on the Pentecostal faith and experience to the next generation. Wesley gives a sober warning for both Wesleyans and Pentecostals:

I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast, both to the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.64

Simon Chan also warns that without effective traditioning Pentecostals cannot ensure that what they have experienced will be faithfully handed down to the next generation.65 The experiential doctrines of the Five-fold Gospel; Jesus as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Spirit baptizer must be taught in order to continue to perpetuate the Pentecostal experience in North America and around the world.

Pentecostals should be free to explore and appreciate the various Christian traditions. Whether we realize it or not Pentecostalism is the direct result of many contributing tributaries, which have helped form and inform us as a movement. We should be open to the freedom of the Spirit and respect His work in Church tradition. The Eastern Orthodox Church believes that Tradition is the witness of the Spirit.66  Whether it is Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal, or Pentecostal, each tradition should not be separated from the work of the Spirit. With this in mind, Christians should practice fellowship across the traditions, because the Holy Spirit has been with all God’s people in all traditions in all centuries.67  Thus tradition can and should inform our theology past, present, and future.

As Pentecostals we need to be aware that our roots are much deeper than the hills of North Carolina or a mission in Los Angeles. We are a part of a larger tradition, which includes our Wesleyan brothers and sisters. Wesley can help us better understand our own heritage and place within the Body of Christ. No one Christian group has a perfect system of doing theology. We can and should learn from one another. Yes, Arminians can even learn from the Calvinists. The evangelical community needs both George Whitfield and John Wesley to achieve the beauty of balance.68  With this in mind, Wesley becomes a good dialogue partner for embarking on a pilgrimage in theological method because he was not afraid to look to the larger Christian family for help along the journey.

In conclusion, there is much that we can learn from one another.69  Both Wesleyans and Pentecostals can benefit from revisiting the Wesleyan quadrilateral. Pentecostals can become a more holistic tradition by developing a distinctive version of the Wesleyan quadrilateral.70  We will also better understand our own heritage and place within the overall Body of Christ. Wesleyans can benefit from reexamining the quadrilateral through new lenses, which focus on the role of the Holy Spirit in theological method. Revisiting the Wesleyan quadrilateral will help each tradition appreciate the uniqueness that they can offer one another as well as create a unified vision to spread scriptural Christianity over the land and around the world.

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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). Amazon Author Page Facebook Twitter: @winfieldbevins

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