Jesus was often asked by the religious leaders of his day “By whose authority” do you teach, preach, heal, forgive, whatever? This leads me to the question “By whose authority” do I speak, act, believe, know?
Wesleyan or Methodist theology relies on the Quadrilateral of scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. Others refer to as a tricycle with a front wheel of experience balanced by tradition and scripture. Where do you get your authority?
Martin Luther taught that the Christian should use “Sola Scriptura” (Latin for the “Scripture alone”) to guide his or her spiritual life. Scripture alone can be a bit of a problem because we will find early on many passages give very conflicting and even opposite images of God. Even Jesus seemed to use scripture selectively. Yet scripture is a leading if not primary source of our understanding.
Tradition gives us the witness of other Christians, church, family. Wesley said tradition, experience and reason are subject to scripture, which is primary. Truth, if true must be vivified in the personal experience of Christians (overall, not individually).
And then there is experience, the knowing we receive from being in the presence of God. Thomas Merton asked how do we become so convinced by that which we have not seen? “There are some things we have to simply accept as true or we go crazy inside. They are the very things we are unable to explain to anyone, including ourselves.”
Dan Walsh, who taught medieval metaphysics at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky says , “I know what I know, that I know that I know, but the trouble is, it’s I who know that I know it. And when I try to tell you what it is that I know, I don’t know what to say. But that for which I can find no words is that of which I am certain.” As James Finley reflects on Thersa of Avila in the podcast “Turning to the Mystics” says “So, the certainty then is a graced certainty. It’s not a certainty of an assertion but the certainty of a humble submission to an inner clarity, or a certainty that you were in God and God was in you as the granting of an explainable certainty within your heart.”
Father God, lead us to know you that we may live with the knowing of unknowing. In Jesus name, Amen.