Letter to the Editor: Reverend Jackson and the Wesleyan Quadrilateral

I will now give the framework concept by which I’m judging Jackson’s criterion in relation to Wesleyan theology. Wesleyan tradition holds that claims regarding Christian Interpretation are to be analyzed by four concepts: Scripture, reason, experience, and tradition. Thus, I will go through each of the four of these concepts and argue that the criterion for being a Christian as proposed by Jackson does not match up with any of these four concepts and thereby show Jackson’s criterion is not based on Wesleyan theology. I will begin with Scripture.

Reverend Jackson argued for this criterion using a couple of verses. Now, I hope the reader will forgive me seeing as how I do not recall the specific verses he used (and thus I might be making a Straw man argument) but it was one that had a similar meaning to 1 John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” From such a verse, he argued that if you are the light (as insinuated by such verses as 1 Peter 2:9 and Matthew 5:14-16), then those who are around you will no longer desire to sin. By a simple logical maneuver, we can rephrase this to get the claim “if those around you still desire to sin, then you are not being the light of the world.” And by the same logical maneuver, one can take “if you are a Christian, then you are being the light of the world” and rephrase it as “if you are not being the light of the world, then you are not a Christian.” Thus, Jackson’s criterion is merely a synthesis of the two which gives us “If those around you are sinning, then you are not a Christian.” So if there are no more concrete counterexamples to this, then Jackson is spot on biblically.

But let’s look at the rest of the Bible. When Jesus was around people, did they desire to sin? For the most part no. But recall the Pharisees always trying to enter into a debate with with  Jesus, trying to trap him in blasphemy with Sophist games based around questions of ethics (Matthew 12:1-14 is an example). It’s hard to say they were acting without sin, and yet we would not claim that Jesus was not being light to the world in this instance. Another example is when Jesus avoided Judea because they were trying to kill him (John 7:1). Jesus was still being the light of the world, and thus it would seem people around him wouldn’t want to sin, but desiring to kill him would probably register as a sin to most of us.

Another example could be when Satan decided to tempt Jesus. In this story, the metaphor is almost literalized, with Satan not understanding why Jesus would not sin. But note that Satan is not suddenly desiring not to sin (as would be implied by Jackson’s use of the metaphor), but rather trying to get Jesus to sin and not understanding why Jesus won’t.

But perhaps it’s unfair to say Jesus was a Christian, seeing as how Jesus being a Christ follower makes little grammatical sense. We can then turn to the stoning of Stephen. According to scriptural tradition, Stephen was so full of God’s spirit that he saw Heaven open up, and the Sanhedrin still killed him. Here we have someone seeing God and yet people still sin, not just around him, but against  him. Under Jackson’s criterion, Stephen should probably not be a considered a Christian at that moment since the people he was around are still sinning. Right after the stoning of Stephen, we get a nice reference to Saul of Taurus. Saul didn’t just desire to persecute one or two Christians, but all of them. Are we to conclude, as we must if we take Jackson’s criterion seriously, that none of the Christians in that time were really Christians? No, we cannot conclude that. Scripture makes little sense in that light and this is only scratching the surface. I think I’ve shown there is enough evidence to doubt whether this is scriptural, and thus the ruling must be inconclusive (if not just failing) on the scripture component of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

The second concept to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is reason.

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