Letter to the Editor: Reverend Jackson and the Wesleyan Quadrilateral

Now, I will say that I’ve left tradition as well as experience for the two last categories because they’re the ones I’m least comfortable with. I’m a little out of my depth here as I’m a philosophy major and not a theology major, so the entire concept of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral might be escaping my grasp. Thus, if I misinterpret what is meant by these two categories, I humbly apologize. It is not out of malice intent but rather ignorance on my part.

It seems difficult for me to believe that church history supports Jackson’s criterion for one reason. If Jackson’s criterion is correct, then there can be no such things as martyrs as it is commonly used. As I understand it,  martyrs are typically defined as Christians who are killed because of their faith. But if we accept the criterion that Jackson laid out, this is impossible. According to Jackson, if one is really living as a Christian, then those around the Christian do not desire to sin anymore, and thus would not try to kill the Christian. I think this goes against the church’s tradition of martyrs. As with my example of Stephen, according to tradition a majority of Jesus’ original disciples were killed and their deaths are not recorded in scripture. Church tradition holds that these people really were following Christ, that they were being the salt and light to the earth, and they were killed because of it. And thus I’ve provided more people to insert for the variable X (as explained in the logic section) to show that Jackson’s criterion is false, and thus Jackson’s criterion on the tradition category of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is false.

And finally, the final category of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is experience. This is the category that I cannot prove to you because this category relies on your own experience. But perhaps I can make an argument that will get your intuition pumped to think this criterion goes against your experiences.

Let’s presuppose Jackson is right. Let’s presuppose that if you are a Christian, then the people you are around don’t sin. And let’s suppose again, that you are a Christian. Thus, the people you hang around don’t sin. They don’t cuss, they don’t drink, they don’t make lewd jokes about the opposite sex. Does this not override free will? If we take Jackson seriously, then it has to. Either the people you’re around are going to sin or they’re not. But we’ve presupposed Jackson’s criterion and we’ve presupposed you’re a Christian. Thus, they can’t sin. It leads to a contradiction under Jackson’s criterion to say you are a Christian and the people you hang around are sinning. They don’t have a choice in the matter. Using Jackson’s criterion, your beliefs are so powerful that unbelievers do not have a choice of whether they wish to sin or not, and thus they do not have free will.

But this is absurd. And that’s my point.

In logic, this type of proof is known as a reductio ad absurdum. You follow a statement to it’s logical conclusion, you show the conclusion leads to a contradiction with a previously held claim, and thus you have to deny the statement that led you to this logical conclusion. We presupposed two statements though: 1) Jackson’s criterion, and 2) you are a Christian. One of these has to be false to avoid the absurdity. If you have a belief in free will and you have a statement that logically entails a denial of free will, then you have a contradiction and one of the previously accepted statements must be denied. All this to say, if your experiences lead you to believe in free will, then your experiences must deny Jackson’s criterion. I know, for me at least, that Jackson’s criterion fails when tested against my experiences, and thus, at least for me, Jackson’s criterion fails every one of the categories in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, and therefore, it seems Jackson’s criterion is not founded on Wesleyan theology.

I would like to make one note before ending. All that I have written is not guaranteed truth, and I readily accept counter-arguments that are well-reasoned. I tried to acknowledge all the times where I felt I might be incorrect or uninformed in matters, and if it turns out I am incorrect, then it might be possible this entire argument falls by the wayside. However, I will end with this: contrary to popular assessments of my personality, I am not one to stir up controversy for fun, but really, I’m merely a human being trying to find some truth in the world.

I would like to thank all those that read the article and made notes on how to improve it before hand.

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What do you think?