4) The United Methodist Church holds that Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason are sources and norms for belief and practice but that the Bible is primary among them. What is your understanding of this theological position of the Church?
The Bible is the primary source for our Christian beliefs and practices. In its books, we find our own story, the narrative of humanity. We read of God creating; we read of people seeking and hiding and running from and to God; we encounter Jesus, hear him teaching, and witness his love for least, lost, and last. In the scriptures, we are challenged to be disciples, challenged to be Christ-followers. In God’s Word, we find our Christian identity.
The scriptures are tied, inextricably, to tradition, reason, and experience. Indeed, I don’t believe we could or should try to separate them or take one without the others. How can we hear God’s word and not take into consideration the early church tradition, or our Wesleyan heritage? Tradition shapes us, even when we are not aware of its doing so. How could we read God’s Word, and not bring with us to our reading our reason – the gifts of our mind and logic and rationale with which God has created us, and why would we not bring our reason with us? It would be equally impossible for us not to bring to our study of scripture our individual and collective experience. Who we are shapes how we read and hear God’s word.
Our tradition, our reason, our experience – these are gifts that are permanently tied to our interaction with the Bible. Without these tools, or lenses, the words of scripture are in danger of remaining on the page. With these tools, the Bible is the Living Word of God, as who we are informs our reading, and our reading informs who we are. We need all – Bible, tradition, reason, experience – and are blessed by all as we make decisions, seek to live morally and ethically informed lives, and discern God’s presence and God’s call for us.