a quick follow up to the post earlier this week

 I wanted to thank everyone who gave feedback on the Four Locations of Theology in the 21st century post from earlier this week. I appreciate the comments here, on facebook, and the emails.  It has given me a lot to think about and I wanted to clarify three themes that have emerged.

Three clarifications:

  • Reason seems to be the suspicious quadrant. Every time I bring up quadrilateral, more than half of the conversation will be centered on reason. This week was no exception. Reason draws the most concern – which is funny to me because tradition is the one that I find most suspect.

Here is the thing I would want to clarify: the other 3 themes of Scripture, Tradition and Experience all have reason woven into them. Those who wrote the scriptures, those who established the tradition and even our won experience are all saturated with reason. It is inescapable. The scriptures did not fall from the sky! They passed through the author’s minds and were processed with reason. Same with tradition. The creeds were not divined in some sort of supernatural ceremony. The were constructed and reasoned. Our experiences are interpreted utilizing our filters, frameworks and lenses.

 It seems important then to clarify that those three are not independent of reason but are dynamically intertwined with it. It would be useless to take out reason (as some have suggested) because it interlinked and inescapable. 

  •  It may be that the quad needs something else. Some suggested replacing one of the 4 elements with an alternative. My favorite idea came from my friend Raphael who said

 “I suggest we add a fifth source for the practice of theology in the 21st century: Imagination!”

Admittedly, it would no longer be a quad! but I think that the tradeoff is that you would get adventure and zest incorporated and not just a static, conserving, or historical product.

  •  There are no guarantees. Even if we could all agree to utilize the quad for the theological endeavor, there is no guarantee that we would all come up with some thing or come out with the same conclusions. This seems to be a major concern – that we can not ensure the outcome of such an endeavor.

I am surprised at the conserving nature of such mentalities! People are ok to ‘go on the journey’ as long as we predictably end up basically where we started.

Think all you want. Explore new thoughts and incorporate science … just don’t stray too far from the foundations of antiquity!  Integrate new realities and account for ongoing historical developments … just make sure that you end up with the same thing we started with.

I have not overstated this hesitancy and resistance. But the reality is that there are no guarantees. You may start out an Evangelical and end up being an Emergent type working in a Mainline church with Process theology as your main conversation partner!  (for instance)

 In summary: 

  1. You can’t get rid of reason, it is already present in the other three. Scripture, Tradition and Experience are inextricably laced with it.
  2. The quad may need a little something extra. The 21st century may require some zest, adventure and imagination
  3. There are no guarantees. While we want to honor the historical expression and provide continuity with the trajectory … it might look a little different and think a little different than it did in the 3rd or 17th century.


Thanks for all your feedback, thoughts, and concerns. I appreciate the conversation.