Wesley’s Way: A Comprehensive Hermeneutic #2

[Note: today I resume this series after lying dormant since 2013. I hope you will go back and read the earlier posts archived on the home page sidebar. They deal with important ideas related to Wesleyan spirituality that I will not repeat because I have already written about them. I am resuming the series particularly because I believe that Wesleyan spirituality (broadly understood) has insights for us as we live in this time of New Awakening, and because I believe it makes a particular contribution to the emerging re-formation of the new United Methodist Church. I am intentionally continuing the idea I began in the final post in 2013. Wesley’s comprehensive hermeneutic extends beyond the quadrilateral. I will explore some additional aspects of it, beginning in this post.]


The Wesleyan quadrilateral is not the product of John Wesley, although he would understand it, given his education for the priesthood in relation to the Anglican trilateral..[1] We are on solid ground in naming and using the quadrilateral as part of Wesley’s comprehensive hermeneutic. But we are also wise to see it in relation to things other than itself.


Howard Snyder has confirmed this by adding the creation into the Wesleyan picture. In fact, he now refers to the Wesleyan pentalateral. [2] He adds the fifth dimension for two reasons: to show that Wesley was a nondual theologian (especially in overcoming spirit/matter dualism) and declaring that creation care is that beyond which nothing else matters. If the planet becomes unliveable, everything else dies with it.

I agree. And as I resume this “Wesley’s Way” series, I want to include the creation in the picture of Wesleyan spirituality that I am painting, and I want to do so for the two main reasons Howard Snyder does so. [3] To interpret the spiritual life as John Wesley did, we will include creation, all that it reveals to us, and God’s call to to see that it thrives. I will write more about this in future posts.

[1] The trilateral included Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. In the previous post (back in 2013) I showed why it is accurate to say he emphasized a fourth dimension (experience) in keeping with Christianity’s appreciation for sapiential theology, which he variously termed a “a religion of the heart” and “living faith” and some other ways as well. He took his cue for this from the Wisdom/Mystical tradition in the Bible and Christian history. Experience, he believed, watered Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, keeping them from becoming “dead orthodoxy.”

[2] Howard Snyder, “Holistic Mission and the Wesleyan Pentalateral,” (2006). He developed this creation theology into his book, ‘Salvation Means Creation Healed’ (Cascade Books, 2011).

[3] I would also call your attention to Matthew Fox’s book, ‘Original Blessing’ in which he develops the creation spirituality for which he is well known. He includes John Wesley on the family tree of creation theologians.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 43 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
This entry was posted in Wesley's Way. Bookmark the permalink.