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A STUDY OF THE HISTORICAL

WESLEYAN QUADRILATERAL MODEL & ITS VALUE


FOR DEVELOPING A PENTECOSTAL-CHARISMATIC
THEOLOGY:
AN ECUMENICAL-EVANGELCIAL PERSPECTIVE

BY
TIMOTHY LIM TECK NGERN

A PAPER SUBMITTED AS PARTIAL FULFILLMENT FOR


THE MODULE RTCH 711 CHURCH HISTORY IN
PNEUMATOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE 1

7th AUGUST 2008

TABLE OF CONTENTS
PAGE
1. INTRODUCTION ... 3
2. THE WESLEYAN MODEL IN AN ECUMENICAL-EVANGELICAL
PERSPECTIVE ... 5
2.1. Why the Wesleyan Model?
2.2. Whither an Evangelical-Ecumenical Orientation?
3. THE WESLEYAN QUADRILATERAL MODEL: OVERVIEW & ITS
HISTORICAL CONTRIBUTIONS ... 11
3.1. An Overview of the Method
3.2. The Wesleyan Contribution in the Historical Development of
a Christian Theological Method
4. A GLANCE AT RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN PENTECOSTAL
THEOLOGY & THEOLOGICAL METHOD(S) . 19
Yongs Quadrilateral Experiential Theological Method
Macchias Eschatological Spirit Baptism Experiential Model
Archers Pentecostal Hermeneutical Filter as an Interpretive Key
McDonnells Power Analogy of the Spirit
Preliminary Findings on the Construction of a Pentecostal Theological Method
5. THE POSTULATE OF THE WESLEYAN QUADRILATERAL METHOD AND ITS
ADEQUACY FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF A PENTECOSTAL THEOLOGICAL
METHOD(S) .... 33
5.1.
5.2.
5.3.

The Postulate of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral for Pentecostal Theology


Examining the Grounds for the Construction of Theology from Experience
The Adequacy of the Wesleyan Model for Pentecostal Theology Revisited

6. CONCLUSION .. 41
7. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY .. 42

1.Introduction
The primacy of an appropriately designed theological method cannot be
underestimated in the construct of a theology, Pentecostal or non-Pentecostal.1 Its
methodology defines the scope and resources for its perceived task. This presents
immense potential as scholars seek to reinvigorate Pentecostal theological constructs.2
Implicit in the invitation is for the community to re-examine its faith articulation in the
light of its own theological method after considering other methods in the theological
gestalt. As a Pentecostal theological method takes shape, so would its theology
authentically reflect a Pentecostal contribution to the Christian theological traditioning as
its output.3
This paper seeks to contribute to the present discussion on the chiseling of a
Pentecostal theological method. Without undermining the value of other approaches, this
paper hopes to explore the suitability of the Wesleyan theological method for its
appropriation in Pentecostal-Charismatic theology from an ecumenical-evangelical
1

The importance of an appropriate theological method for theological reflection is well explained in
writings such as David K. Clark, To Know and Love God: Method for Theology. Foundations of
Evangelical Theology Series, John S. Feinberg, General Editor (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2003).
2
Pentecostal theology is in the process of deepening its faiths articulation. Yong (2005) demonstrates how
an extensive model for ploughing the depths of a Renewal/Pentecostal theological articulation. This is more
than Archers calls for Pentecostals to embark upon a journey of hermeneutical self-understanding (Cf.
Archer, 2004, 2). It must be remembered though that the call for self-understanding is not simply an
invitation to seek an understanding of ones faiths articulation. Viewed in this light, the explicit invitation
for the development of Pentecostal theology and/or theologies has an even more important implicit
summon for those interested in contributing to Pentecostal-Charismatic / Renewal scholarship.
3
This paper takes Walter J. Hollenwegers definition of the movement as its authority. Cf. idem,
Pentecostalism: Origins and Developments Worldwide (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1997). Criticism to Allen
Andersons recent work, Introduction to Pentecostalism (2004) as well as Andersons response in Journal
of Pentecostal Theology 16:1 (2007) as well as PNEUMA 28:2 (2006) have highlighted the difficulties that
presented in grouping the various strands of the movement together. Whilst I am mindful of the distinction,
I do not make any clear distinction between classical Pentecostals, Neo-Pentecostals, Charismatics (Thirdwaver), and the other independent churches and bodies that have similar spirit experience which is not
traceable directly to Classical Pentecostalism that has sprouted in recent decades outside of the United
States. In principle, this is not in conflict with my thesis. The particularities of the outworking of todays
respective trajectories from the historic classical Pentecostalism would have to draw specific points from
my reflection and make their own modifications for its applicability and appropriation.

vantage point. Where appropriate, the investigation would draw on the historical context
from which Wesley develops his method so as to shed light on the contemporary context
for the re-conceiving of a Pentecostal theological method. Central to my thesis is that the
renewal movements will find the Wesleyan theological method inadequate as a resource
for the shaping of a Pentecostal/ Charismatic theology. This is primarily because the
method is restricted by its methodological vision: it is unable to consider a wide range of
present and future possibilities in the forward-moving direction of a global and everexpansive vision of Pentecostal theology. The goal of advancing both the depth and
horizons of renewal theology for the global body of Christ cannot be realized through the
use of the Wesleyan method. The conclusion of this paper is that the capacity of a
Pentecostal theological unearthing awaits another model(s) so as to facilitate the chiseling
of the task of writing a pneumatic theology.
A three-pronged approach will guide this investigation. The paper begins with
some preliminaries so as to explain the reasons for the selection of the Wesleyan method
undergirded by an ecumenical-evangelical orientation for our study. This is followed by
short reviews on the quadrilateral, the historical context that gave rise to Wesleys
approach, and how the Wesleyan method has contributed historically to the development
of a method for Christian theologizing. Thereafter, we will consider the present
Pentecostal theological landscape in which I would argue for the necessity of a more
comprehensive theological method for the task of developing Pentecostal theology today.
A review of the recent discussions bearing in mind issues that relate to its adequacy for
the Pentecostal theology will roundup this study.

2. The Wesleyan Model in an Ecumenical-Evangelical Perspective


2.1. Why the Wesleyan Model?
The Wesleyan method is selected on the grounds of its affinity to the purpose of
my investigation. Firstly, the Pentecostal movement and its faith-articulation is in many
sense an extension of the Wesleyan Holiness movement.4 The juxtaposing of the two
movements is not improbable in view of the historical relationship they bear with each
other one is the extension of the other. Even the religion of the heart as experienced by
John Wesley at Ashgate closely resembles an archetype of a Pentecostals search for a
method that is true to the Word and that would remain open in bearing witness to the
ongoing transformative work of the Spirit in the life of a believer.
Secondly, the chiseling of a Pentecostal theology would want to follow as closely
as possible to the classical and historic faith traditioning of Christianity. This is because
Pentecostalism with all its diversity is properly located as a part of evangelicalism.5 The
4

Notwithstanding that the origins of classical Pentecostalism in North America have typically been traced
to two historic events: the manifestation of speaking in tongues by several students in Charles F. Parhams
Bible School in Topeka, Kansas (1900-1901) and the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles led by Black
Holiness preacher, William Seymour. The relationship of Pentecostalism and its Wesleyan origins is evident
in the affiliation of Parham (Methodist/Holiness) and Seymour (Holiness). Both Parham and Seymour were
part of the Wesleyan Holiness movement even though it is more proper to speak of these preachers as
affiliated with a movement that grew from the Oberlin perfectionism and Keswick Higher Life
movements. This has been established in Winfield Bevins, Wesley and the Pentecostals, Pneuma Review
8:3 (Summer 2006) 6-17. See also Hollenweger, Pentecostalism, 1997; and Donald Dayton, The
Theological Roots of Pentecostalism (Peabody, M.A.: Hendrickson, 1987). Otherwise, see Richard B.
Steele, ed., Heart Religion in the Methodist Tradition and Related Movements, Pietist and Wesleyan
Studies, No. 12 (Lanham, Maryland / London: The Scarecrow Press, 2001). On the Holiness movements
appropriation of the Wesleyan quadrilateral, see Leon O. Hynson, The Wesleyan Quadrilateral in the
American Holiness Tradition, Wesleyan Theological Journal 20:1 (Spring 1985) 19-33.
5
While Pentecostalism is a part of evangelicalism as seen in its participation with the National Associations
of Evangelicals, it must however be noted that Pentecostalism is in a unique situation where its affiliation is
both with the evangelicals and at the same time it stands outside of the movement. While its affinity with
the hallmarks of evangelicalism preconditioned its affiliation with this movement, its ecumenicity in
another sense separates it from mainstream evangelicalism. The complexity of the relationship between the
two entities are examined in Amos Yong, The Word and the Spirit or The Spirit and the Word: Exploring
the Boundaries of Evangelicalism in Relationship to Modern Pentecostalism, Trinity Journal 23 NS
(2002) 235-252. Perhaps, it is these difficulties that Smith laments that Pentecostals and Evangelicals
cannot be conjoined without difficulty. See James K.A. Smith, The Closing of the Book: Pentecostals,

method selected would then have to keep pace with the essential hallmarks of classical
evangelicalism, or what Oden calls, Christian Orthodoxy.6 Accordingly, the Wesleyan
model is most appropriate. It follows to a large extent the historic paradigm on reliable
religious authority namely, the use of tradition, reason and experience in relations to
Scripture as Wesley had drawn from his Anglican tradition, which he believed to have
closely followed the Reformers methodology.7 The only variation of Wesleys approach
from his predecessors model is that Wesley amplified the need to hold the heart and the
mind together in the derivation of theology. Still, the Wesleyan model remains integral
to and in is consistent with the method inherited from classical Christian orthodoxy.8
Thirdly, the Wesleyan method represents what I would consider a reasonable
attempt at maintaining an evangelical model that simultaneously makes room for
engaging the diversity in the Church. This evangelical and yet ecumenical orientation
Evangelicals, and the Sacred Writings, Journal of Pentecostal Theology 11 (1997) 49-71 note however
that Smiths conception is radical (cf. his footnote 55). Similarly, Mark Noll remarked that the WesleyanHoliness movement and Pentecostal movement do not represent in any way the heart of the evangelical
movement. Cf. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapid, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1994) 142, 219.
However, Terry L. Cross has made a solid case for re-configuring Pentecostals within Evangelicalism. Cf.
his A Proposal to Break the Ice: What Can Pentecostal Theology Offer Evangelical Theology? Journal of
Pentecostal Theology 10:2 (2002) 44-73.
6
The author uses the term Orthodoxy or Orthodox Christianity with reference to the ancient faiths
articulation. This is distinguished from the Orthodox tradition of Christianity. See Thomas C. Oden, The
Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity (San Francisco: HarperSanFranciso, 2003).
7
It was believed that the Anglican espoused a threefold-source methodology of scripture, tradition and
reason. How this eventually came to take a fourfold schema is discussed later in this paper. Neither the
earlier nor the later methods seek to do away with the Reformers programmatic proposal, nor did the
Reformers principle of Sola Scriptura seek to eradicate the historic claims of religious authority. As
Thorsen explains, The Reformers emphasis on sola Scriptura represented an important foil to abuses of
church authority in sixteenth-century Roman Catholicism. But the Reformers themselves appealed to more
than Scripture in formulating theology, recognizing the need to present their beliefs in a well-reasoned
fashion that reflected the ecumenical creeds of the patristic church; yet emphasis on sola Scriptura served
to uplift the Protestant concern to make Scripture the rule and ultimate standard of faith. Cf. Don Thorsen,
The Wesleyan Quadrilateral: Scripture, Tradition, Reason & Experience as a Model of Evangelical
Theology (Lexington, Kentucky: Emeth Press, 1990, reprinted, 2005) 6.
8
How the Wesleyan Quadrilateral stands in line with Reformation Christianitys dictum, Sola Scriptura has
been argued in Don Thorsens Sola Scriptura and The Wesleyan Quadrilateral, Wesleyan Theological
Journal 41:2 (Fall 2006) 7-27. Though Thorsens thesis is that the quadrilateral complements the
Reformers promulgation, from Thorsens analysis of the historical setting and the Reformers articulation,
there is no contradiction between the two conceptions.

may can be seen in the flexibility this model has for considering an ecumenically diverse
body of interpretation(s).9 Wesleys grounding in classical orthodoxy as well as his
ecumenical posture enables him to maintain his piety as he engages in controversial
debates. The An inclusivistic emphasis on unity and catholicity rather than an extreme
exclusivity characterizes his theological method.10 Outler defines Wesleys method as
essentially evangelical in substance and irenic/catholic in its temper/spirit.11 The
pastor-theologian chooses for the most part a paradigm that distinguishes essentials from
the divisive opinions in his articulation of the Christian faith.12 Independently, both Outler
and Bevins observe the same spirit of ecumenicity in the Wesleyan model. 13 The model is
thus selected because it corresponds with the ethos of what I am striving to do in this
investigation.14

This is a point established by a number of scholars. Steven B. Sherman observes that postconservative
scholars are increasingly finding appeals to the Wesleyan model for their contemporary theological
reflection in view of the quadrilaterals posture towards ecumenism and evangelicalism. See his
Revitalizing Theological Epistemology: Holistic Evangelical Approaches to the Knowledge of God.
Princetone Theological Monograph Series (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications, 2008) 144-202.
10
Thorsen, 2005, 8.
11
Albert C. Outler, The Wesleyan Quadrilateral In John Wesley, Wesleyan Theological Journal 20:1
(Spring 1985) 9.
12
Outler writes that Wesley displayed a skilful balance of the essential from the adiaphora that allows
Wesley to escape both the rigidities of dogmatism and the flabbiness of indifferentism. Ibid.,13.
13
See Winfield H. Bevins, A Pentecostal Appropriation of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, Journal of
Pentecostal Theology 14:2 (2006) 229-246, 230; and Oulter, The Wesleyan Quadrilateral, 1985, 8, 9, 13,
17. Ted Campbell finds fault with contemporary scholarship on Wesleyan themes as anachronistic and
laden with the investigators agenda (i.e., the myth of modern construct). See Ted Campbell, The
Wesleyan-Quadrilateral: The Story of a Modern Methodhist Myth, in Thomas A. Langford, ed. Doctrine
& Theology in The United Methodist Church (Nashville: Kingswood Book, 1991) 154-161. However, a
proper reading of Wesley does in fact reveal that the pastor-theologian truly embraces a catholic spirit in
relating with other branches of Christianity of his time such as the Roman Catholics. As such,
contemporary Wesleyan study is not thoroughly flawed in anachronism as perceived by Campbell.
14
In that sense, my choice of the Wesleyan method stands on Thorsens argument that the Wesleyan
quadrilateral meets the need for catholicity as a model of evangelical theology. cf. Thorsen, The Wesleyan
Quadrilateral, 2005, p.10. It is also a point reflected in Thomas A. Langfords Practical Divinity: Theology
in the Wesleyan Tradition ((Nashville: Abingdon, 1983, reprinted, 1988).

2.2. Whither an Evangelical-Ecumenical Orientation?


I also take as my starting point an ecumenical-evangelical orientation.15 The
choice of conceiving an ecumenical-evangelical position may be read as an oxymoronic
position since it is nearly impossible to be an evangelical (i.e., dogmatically conservative
in its doctrinal position) and at the same time espouse a spirit of ecumenism (which gives
room for a plurality of interpretations of scripture for the purpose of doctrinal
understanding in the formulation of dogmas). It is, however, also not the purpose of this
paper to situate Pentecostalism as foremost a member of the evangelical community
before its affiliation with ecumenicalism, and/or vice versa. Rather, it is inherent potential
of conceiving a confluence of evangelicalism and ecumenicalism for the shaping of a
Pentecostal theology that grounds the selection of this vantage point. In other words, I am
suggesting that this dialectic vantage point is indeed beneficial for re-conceiving
Pentecostal theology. It is my position here that Pentecostalism as a movement with its
multi-variegated denominations is integrally related to evangelicalism and ecumenism at
the same time.16
15

The term evangelical and ecumenism has been considered together in recent scholarship on
ecclesiology. Cf. Timothy George, Evangelical Ecumenism (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academics,
2004), and his editorial, Pilgrims on the Sawdust Trail: Evangelical Ecumenism and the Quest for
Christian Identity (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2004). I am aware of no other scholarship
employing this framework as a possible paradigm for conceiving theological method. Gabriel Fackres
Restoring the Center: Essay on Evangelical & Ecumenical Ecclesiology (Downer Groves, Illinois:
InterVarsity Press, 1998) and Ecumenical Faith in Evangelical Perspective (Grand Rapids, Michigan:
Eerdmans, 1993) may be considered the closest to this paradigm but it remains a paradigm used in a
dialogue on ecclesiology rather than as a paradigm for conceiving theological method. Buschart provides a
review of the theological methods as conceived by major Protestant traditions (Lutheran, Anabaptist,
Reformed, Anglican, Baptist, Wesleyan, Dispensational, and Pentecostal Christianity). See W. David
Buschart, Exploring Protestant Traditions: An Invitation to Theological Hospitality (Downer Groves,
Illinois: IVP Academic, 2006).
16
Stanley M. Burgess, and Eduard M. van der Maas, eds. The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal
and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002) describes Pentecostalism/
Charismaticism as a movement that had evolved into innumerable streams. There are in fact thousands of
Pentecostal/Charismatic denominations just in America alone. This paper however is not concerned with
arguing for the precise number of denominations that represents the movement. Risking my
oversimplification and over-generalization, this paper will then deal with Pentecostalism/Charismaticism as
a single movement and denomination.

Firstly, Pentecostalism builds upon the foundations of its evangelical heritage


even though it is not in absolute alignment with evangelicalism.17 It is commonly
recognized that Pentecostals hold different positions on issues related to the baptism of
the Spirit, the initial evidence of tongues, the gifts and operations of the Spirit, etc.18
Regardless of how evangelicalism is defined, either in a broad or a narrow way,19
Pentecostal beliefs follow in principle the five core characteristics of evangelicalism as
defined by Bebbington, McGrath, George, et al.20 The only probable major departure is a
strand of Pentecostalism known as the Oneness Pentecostalism, which holds a nonetriune doctrine of God while affirming the divinity of Christ. Otherwise, Pentecostals
(notwithstanding its rich diversity) would stand in the league with contemporary
evangelicalism.21
Secondly, the potential of Pentecostals functioning as ecumenical ambassadors to
[the] evangelical movements and among the historic churches on the one hand and yet
able to share in the fellowship of Christ through the manifest presence of the Spirit on the
17

Besides Yongs paper (cf. footnote 5), the challenges in negotiating Pentecostalism as part of, and
contributing to Evangelicalism may also be seen in Cross, A Proposal to Break the Ice, 2002, 44-73.
18
See Chad Owen Brand, ed., Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: Five Views (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman
& Holman Publishers, 2004).
19
This is seen in Thorsens summary of key shapers who have sough to describe who are the evangelicals
and what defines evangelicalism. The broader and more inclusive stream includes the works by William
Abraham, Donald Bloesch, and Gabriel Fackre. While Thorsen did not list the representatives of the more
specific evangelicals, it would not be far-off to include Timothy George, David Wells, and others within
this group. More recently, Olson considers in broad sweep the category of postconservative evangelicals in
his book, Reformed and Always Reforming (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2007). See also
John R. Franke, The Character of Theology: A Postconservative Evangelical Approach (Grand Rapids,
Michigan: Baker Academic, 2005).
20
David Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989). See also George
Marsdens edited work, Evangelicalism and Modern America (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1984);
Donald W. Dayton and Robert K. Johnston, eds., The Variety of American Evangelicalism (Downer Groves,
Illinois: IVP, 1991); George, ed., Pilgrims on the Sawdust Trail, 2004; Mark A. Noll, American Evangelical
Christianity (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000); Mark Noll, and Ronald F. Thiemann, ed., Where Shall My
Wondring Soul Begin? The Landscape of Evangelical Piety and Thought (Grand Rapids, Michigan:
Eerdmans, 2000); and Mark A. Noll, David W. Bebbington and George A. Rawlyk, ed., Evangelicalism
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994).
21
Gary B. McGree, More Than Evangelical: The Challenge of the Evolving Theological Identity of the
Assemblies of God, PNEUMA 25, no. 2 (2003): 289-300.

other hand, as Yong has aptly commented,22 is to become an important and defining
character for the contribution that Pentecostalism may bring to the Body of Christ. Its
willingness to become an ecumenical bridge-builder for enriching the Churchs
appreciation of the work of the Spirit across what has traditionally been rejected by
conservative evangelicals as standing on precarious grounds for conservative evangelical
theologians (e.g., the position of John MacArthur) is truly commendable. As the global
and non-uniformed nature of its movement embraces an inclusive orientation in
mediating its diversity within its methodology, so will it contribute to the maturation of
evangelicalism. This is to become more prominent as evangelicalism today gradually
shifts from a bounded-set theology to a centered-set articulation (cf. a postconservative
evangelical paradigm).23 The need to dialogue with the wider Body of Christ is to become
significantly more important.
The task of theological reflection for our present generation and beyond would
have to explore a paradigm that takes seriously its historic evangelical heritage, and at the
same time, consider the other Peoples of the Spirit. To dichotomize the two is to restrict
its theological vision, and consequently to limit the comprehensiveness of its theological
articulation. Therein lies the potential of Pentecostalism as a mediating agent. As TanChow argues in her dissertation, the potential of Pentecostalism is its capacity to become
a peaceful harbinger of pluralism (i.e., ecumenism) for evangelicalism.24 Having
considered the ecumenical tradition and the hermeneutical proposals put forth in

22

Amos Yong, Pentecostalism and the Theological Academy in Theology Today 64 (2007), 245.
Olson, Reformed and Reforming, 2007.
24
Tan-Chow May Ling, Pentecostal Theology for the Twenty-First Century: Engaging with Multi-Faith
Singapore, Ashgate New Critical Thinking in Religion, Theology & Biblical Studies Series (Aldershot:
England, 2007).
23

10

Pentecostalism, Yong also affirms the ecumenical potential of this movement.25 A


theological method perceived from this vantage point, which fittingly describes
Pentecostalism (as Evangelical and Ecumenical)26 in juxtaposing with the potentials of
the Wesleyan model27 is thereby deemed as most appropriate paradigm for this
investigation.

3. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral Model: Overview & Its Historical


Contributions
3.1. An Overview of the Method
Thorsen defines the Wesleyan quadrilateral as a paradigm, or model, of how
Wesley conceived of the task of theology as it is understood by later generation of
scholars who reflected on the theology in Wesleys writings.28 Wesley did not set out to
write a comprehensive and innovative systematic theology per se. Any study of Wesleys
theology is for the most part, a consolidated analysis from the fragmentary collection of
his writings, sermons and treatises/monographs. Neither did Wesley coined nor used the
term, quadrilateral. The metaphorical four-element syndrome was Outlers reading of
Wesley when Outler served on the Commission on Doctrine and Doctrinal Standards of

25

Yong, The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh, 167-202.


Jeffrey Gros cites approvingly Hollenweger that Pentecostal churches and Charismatic movements are
not just a subdivision of Evangelicalism on fire. [They are] inherently an ecumenical movement. See his
Toward A Dialogue of Conversion: The Pentecostal, Evangelical and Conciliar Moments, PNEUMA 17:2
(Fall 1995) 189-201, 198.
27
While the study is limited to a study of Wesleyan theological method, it does not in anyway negate other
contributions of Wesley for the theological endeavor. One could think immediately of Wesleys astute
soteriological contribution in his debate with the predestination of Calvinism, his contribution to pastoral
care, evangelism, church renewal, methodical approach to church governance, etc.
28
Thorsen, 2005, 5. Outlers article presents an overview of Wesleys writings that reflects the pastortheologians theological method. See footnote 11.
26

11

the United Methodist Church in the 1960s.29 Nonetheless, a distilled reading of Wesleys
writings would in some ways reveal what the pastor-theologian regards as paramount for
his derivation of the practical truth of the Christian faith.30 As this paper is not set out to
defend the veracity of the Quadrilateral as a close approximation of Wesleyan conception,
suffice it here to overview this theological method to begin our exploration.31
Essentially, the Wesleyan quadrilateral as a method for theological articulation and
doctrinal formulation (or reformulation) weighs heavily on the authority of Scripture,
with tradition, reason and experience each playing an important role (cf. Oden, 1994;
Thorsen, 2005). As Outler puts it,
It was intended as a metaphor for a four-element syndrome, including the fourfold guidelines of authority in Wesleys theological method. In such a quaternity
[sic] Holy Scripture is clearly unique. But this in turn is illuminated by the
collective Christian wisdom of other ages and cultures between the Apostolic
Age and our own. It also allows for the rescue of the Gospel from obscurantism
by means of the disciplines of critical reason. But always, Biblical revelation
must be received in the heart by faith: this is the requirement of experience. 32

29

Outler, The Wesleyan Quadrilateral, 1985, 7-18. See also his The Wesleyan Quadrilateral in John
Wesley in Thomas A. Langford, Doctrine and Theology in the United Methodist Church Doctrine and
theology in the United Methodist Church (Nashville, Tennessee: Kingswood Books, 1991) 75-88.
30
Wesley did not see the core of his task as that of writing a systematic reflection on the Christian faith.
The theology articulated by the Anglicans and the previous generations collated in the Complete Body of
Practical Divine of the Church of England in the sixteenth and seventeenth century is sufficient in his
view. What is crucial for him is to relate the faith practically and organizationally for encouraging the
practice of Christian disciplines, and including evangelism, renewal, etc., as a recourse against the tide of
seventeenth century modernism in England that seeks to encroach on the relevance of the Christian faith.
This has been established in Thorsen, 2005; Langford, 1988; and in a cursory manner, idem, John Wesley
and Theological Method, 1998.
31
Besides Outlers article published in 1985, Thomas Odens John Wesleys Scriptural Christianity: A
Plain Exposition of His Teaching in Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994) 55100 have neatly summarized the works of Wesley as it relates to the Quadrilateral. See also my footnotes
10, 44.
32
Ibid. Quoted in Thorsen, 2005, 6.

12

The brilliance of Wesleys conception lies not in the innovativeness of his


theological method. To read the Wesleyan method (the quadrilateral) as making an
original contribution in his era is to misrepresent the mans intention and work. Wesleys
approach is not uniquely creative when read alongside that of his predecessors. He drew
heavily from the methods he had inherited from the Anglican, the Reformed, the
Medieval as well as from the Early Church, and amplified what he believed was assumed
in the thoughts of his predecessors concerning the necessity of experience as a means for
confirming ones theological reflection. The contribution of Wesleys theological method
would beis clarified when examined under the rubric of a broader historical study.
3.2. The Wesleyan Contribution in the Historical Development of a Theological Method
Risking oversimplification and over-generalization in my treatment, a short
contour of the historical development of Christian theological method(s) would set the
broad context for appreciating why Wesley set forth as his approach. It will also show
how Wesleys work properly contributes to the development of sources for doctrinal
derivation.33
In the Patristic period, especially after the establishment of the canon, Irenaeus,
Cyprian, Origen, Tertullian, and other ecclesiastical writers have emphasized the

33

The snap-short in this section is modified from Thorsens overview on The Background of Theological
Method as set forth in his The Wesleyan Quadrilateral (2005) 11-32. Several other works s have
investigated more carefully the historical background leading to Wesleys approach as well as his
contributions. See Don Thorsen Sola Scriptura and The Wesleyan Quadrilateral, 2006, 7-27; Outler, The
Wesleyan Quadrilateral, 1985, 7-18. Also, Thomas A. Langfords Practical Divinity: Theology in the
Wesleyan Tradition (Nashville: Abingdon, 1983, 3rd edition, 1988) has highlighted pertinent scholars who
furthered the ideas of Wesley. For a more thorough review of the historical context of Wesleys life and
ministry, see John Munsey Turner, John Wesley: The Evangelical Revival & the Rise of Methodism in
England (Peterborough: Epworth Press, 2002); and John Kent, Wesley and the Wesleyan (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2002).

13

necessity of reading Scripture within the ecclesial tradition.34 The first ecumenical
councils, and including the Council of Chalcedon saw the Church as the guardian and
authoritative interpreter of Scripture.35 Reason came into the picture when Anselm
articulated the need for a faith seeking understanding.36 The scholastic attempt by
Thomas Aquinas to integrate faith and reason with the philosophical and principal science
he was working on brought a culmination of the various methods.37 The programmatic
contribution of Luther and the Continental Reformers rests in their reaction against the
abuses of ecclesiastical authority of the Church at that time. Calvin subsequently
corrected what Luther had unwittingly done in the supplanting of tradition as an authority
for theological reflection in his promulgation of Sola Scriptura. Calvins recategorization of the Reformers conception of Christian theological method cannot be
underemphasized. Calvins perceived priority of Scripture as the primary source,
34

Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian
Church, 4 vols, particularly vol. 1 The Biblical Period, vol. 2, The Patristic Age, and vol. 3 The Medieval
Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1998-2005).
35
The authoritative office of the church as interpreter of scripture may be seen in the quote, The First
Canon of the Fourth Ecumenical Council, Chalcedon, reads as follows: "We have judged it right that the
canons of the Holy Fathers made in every synod even until now, should remain in force. Cf. Philip Schaff,
ed., The Seven Ecumenical Councils, vol. XIV of A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers
of the Christian Church, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, Public Domain) http://www.ccel.org/download.html?
url=/ccel/schaff/npnf214.txt, accessed on 25th July 2008.
36
Saint Anselm, Basic Writings. Trans. S. W. [sic] Deane, 2nd Edition (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court
Publishing, 1962). Anselms Proslogium, or Discourse on the Existence of God and in particular, his
Monologium explains the validity of using the mind for conceiving truth/the Divine. The text is also
available on http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/anselm-proslogium.html, and
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/anselm-monologium.html, accessed on 20th July 2008. Elsewhere,
Anselm has also set forth the reasonableness of the faith (with careful reasoning) in his Cur Deus Homo.
Trans. by John Grant. The Ancient and Modern Library of Theological Literature Series. (Edinburgh:
1909). See ibid., Book 1.2-5.
37
Aquinas theological method may be seen in St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae: Latin Text and
English Translation, Introductions, Notes, Appendices and Glossaries, 60 vols. (Cambridge: Blackfriars /
London: Eyre & Spottiswoode / New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1963). See especially the
subsection Prima Pars on Theology, in vol. 1.1a Christian Theology and vol. 2. Ia on Existence and
Nature of God from the same eedition. See also St. Thomas Aquinas, Theological Texts (London, New
York: Oxford University Press, 1955); Anton C. Pegis, ed., Basic Writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, vol. 2,
11th Edition (New York: Random House, 1945); as well as a material which I was not able to review in
detail, Timothy L. Smith, Thomas Aquinas Trinitarian Theology: A Study in Theological Method
(Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2003).

14

confirmed by the exposition of historical antecedents (which is believed to be grounded


upon Scripture), with the aid of the use of the reasonableness of the faith set in motion the
re-appropriation of tradition as a necessary and important source for theology.38 The value
of church tradition is thereby reestablished in some measure after it was somewhat
overthrown by Luther. Outside of the Roman Catholic Church (especially after the
Council of Trent, 1545-1563), while the weight of tradition as a source for theology after
Calvin is no longer conceived as possessing independent and unconditional autonomy, it
is still authoritative in a mediated sense. The teachings of Scripture as conceived by
ecclesial tradition is either to be accepted or rejected in light of the only reliable source of
authority, the Holy Scripture.
The Reformers in England continued to respect the Anglican divines established
by the Church of England even though they did not cohere with the methods
recommended by Calvinism and/or Roman Catholicism. Thomas Cranmer and Richard
Hooker, who became leaders of the new Anglicanism, took a middle path to avoid the
prevalent extremeistic positions in the then- theologically pluralistic environment of
38

In Book One, Chapter VI Calvin reflects on the place of Scripture; in Chapter VII, on the role of the
Spirit, tradition, experience, and in Chapter VIII on human reason. See John Calvin, Institutes of the
Christian Religion, 2 vols. In The Library of Christian Classics Series, vol. 20., ed., John T. McNeill. Trans.
Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960) 1.62-99. J.K.S. Reids editorial of Calvin:
Theological Treatises. The Library of Christian Classics: Ichthus Edition (Philadelphia: Westminster Press,
n.d.) suggests that Calvin is thoroughly in line with Luthers Reformation and thus would not have
conceived of any other authority for theology except Scripture. But, a reading of Calvin suggests otherwise.
This is notwithstanding that Calvin saw the necessity of upholding the Genevan Confession (1536), which
maintained Scripture alone as the rule of faith and religion, without mixing with it any other thing which
might be devised by the opinion of men apart from the Word of God Ibid., 26. See Calvins The
Interim, or Declaration of Religion of His Imperial Majesty Charles V, wherein Chapter XI Of the
Authority and Power of the Church he wrote: And as the Church always had power and authority in his
matter [i.e., the authority of distinguishing between true and spurious Scriptures belonged to the Church],
so had it also of interpreting, and so of exploring and extracting, doctrines from the same Scriptures. As she
never is without the Holy Spirit to lead her into all truth, as Christ himself hath promised. The Church,
besides, has traditions brought down from Christ and his Apostles by the hands of the Bishops, even to our
own times Therefore, that the authority of Councils is most salutary no man ought to doubt. See John
Calvin, Tracts and Treatises In Defense of the Reformed Faith. Trans. Henry Beveridge, Historical Notes
edition by Thomas F. Torrance. Vol. III (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1958) 190-239, and especially
pp.206-207.

15

England. They saw their ecumenical orientation as a way to circumvent the divisive
tendency in re-conceiving theological method in the seventeenth century.39 Hookers
argument for a threefold test of intrinsic reasonableness in Laws of Ecclesiastical
Polity (1594) is an example of this revision that expanded available resources for the task
of theology.40 To the primacy of Scripture and the doctrines developed from Church
antiquity, the use of reason unaided by Scripture and tradition is perceived as having
intrinsic value for confirming all truth in theological reflection. Since then, the sources
for theologizing expanded from an exclusive reliance on the historic twofold methods of
scripture and tradition, to include reason. This phenomenon persisted through the
eighteenth century such as evident in the writings of John Pearson, Jeremy Taylor and
William Law.
While it is not uncommon to think of Wesleys experimentation or experiential
approach as an addition to the threefold articulation of Anglican method of theology, it
must be said that Wesley did not see himself as trying to innovate the then contemporary
authoritative model for doing theology. Rather, eExperience is a tacit resource that the
Anglican divines believed to complement the task of theological exploration. The role of
experience is to confirm and elaborate on the Christian truths established by scripture,
tradition and reason, so Thorsen explains the positions of Hooker, and Taylor.41 Olson
makes a similar point claiming that these fourfold sources (Scripture, tradition, reason

39

See Henry R. McAdoo, The Spirit of Anglicanism: A Survey of Anglican Theological Method in the
Eighteenth Century (NY: Scribners, 1965) - a work cited by Thorsen, Sola Scriptura and The Wesleyan
Quadrilateral, 2006, 8.
40
Richard Hookers approach is set out in Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity Book V, The Folger
Library Edition of the Works of Richard Hooker, ed. W. Speed Hill, 3 vols. (Cambridge, Massachusetts:
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1977) 2:289-292.
41
Thorsen, 2005, 21, 2.

16

and experience) held together is the approach of the ancient Church.42 Wesleys
experiential dimension is however to be distinguished from John Lockes analysis of
human experience, particularly, the extravagance found in the devotional life of
individuals.43 In fact, Wesley vigorously defended himself against the claims that he is an
enthusiast on grounds that his belief was derived from a reasoned interpretation of
scripture and the best of Christian antiquity.44 Nevertheless, it is reasonable to follow
Outlers proposition that Wesley sought to integrate his Ashgate Aldersgate experience
into his theological procedure. It is also not wrong to postulate that Wesley was also
seeking to bridge the gap between philosophy, science and theology in his approach
after all, Wesley was well acquainted with English philosophy and empiricism. Thus, his
fragmentary writings reveal the fourfold method that explicitly distinguishes the tacit
dimension of experience perceived by Christian antiquity as an authority by itself.45
Returning now to the contemporary scene, since Outlers first use of the term
Wesleyan Quadrilateral, the model has been read in a number of ways. One of the more
dominant misconstruals of Outlers usage is how the metaphorical model has been read
geometrically. Outler lamented that this equilateral reading is a misrepresentation of
Wesleys method.46 A geometrical/equilateral reading states that each of the sources is
42

Roger Olson, The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity & Diversity (Downer Groves,
Illinois: InterVarsity Press / Leicester, England: Apollos, 2002) 57. It must however be remembered that
there is no theological method being developed or set forth until the time of the Reformation, though
discernible approaches are evident in the writings of the patristic fathers and medieval theologians. See
Clark, To Know and Love God, 2003, 34.
43
cf. John Locke, Of Enthusiasm in his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 2 vols. (1690;
reprinted, New York: Dover, 1959) 2:428-441.
44
Cf. Robert E. Cushman, John Wesleys Experimental Divinity (Nashville: Abingdon, 1989). For an
analysis of the relationship between Wesleyan and Lockeans conception, see Richard E. Brantley, Locke,
Wesley, and the Method of English Romanticism (Gainesville, Florida: University of Florida Press, 1984).
45
This is notwithstanding that Oden argues that the quadrilateral was implicitly employed by ancient
ecumenical teachers even though the relations of experience and reason to Scripture and tradition were not
clarified before the Reformation and the modern periods. Cf. Oden, The Living God, 1:332.
46
Outler, The Wesleyan Quadrilateral, 1985, 16.

17

equally important in its contribution to the task of theology. This however does not
represent Wesleys approach. In a number of Wesleys writings, he emphatically taught
the primacy of scripture as the main source with all other sources functioning as only
secondary materials used to guide the theologian in the conception of Christian doctrine.47
The overview gives us an understanding that Wesley saw his approach not as
breaking away from the norms established at that time. The theologians fourfold
methodological quest for true, scriptural religion (to use Wesleys phraseology) is not
conceived as though each of these sources are equilaterally weighted for use in the
development of doctrine. The Bible is, to use the words of Olson, norma momans, the
norming norm, and the most important source for determining right belief in all matters
of the Christian faith and practice. 48 Tradition is the norma normata, or normed norm,
and it carries with it the purpose of guiding the theologians reflection in consistent with
the rule of scripture. Tradition is conceived along with reason or the rules of logic
(coherence and consistency) in the theologians task as supplementary sources without
having any veto power to control or steer the outcome of the theologians theological
reflection. The witnessing experience of the community of faith (past, present and future)
merely confirms the truth explored and discovered. In Wesleys appeal to the
47

In a letter Thoughts Upon Methodism, Wesley clarified in the beginning of his statement on their
fundamental doctrine the supremacy of Scripture. He wrote, That the Bible is the whole and sole rule both
of Christian faith and practice. See John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, 3rd Edition, Complete and
Unabridged, vol. XIII Letters (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1991) 258. He also wrote,
We believe the written word of God to be the only and sufficient rule both of Christian faith and
practice cf. John Wesley, The Character of a Methodist, The Works of John Wesley, vol. VIII (Grand
Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, n.d.) 8.340. Wesleys resolveute to keep to the word is
also seen in a number of his other works. For instance, in The Principles of a Methodist from the same
volume, vol. VIII, he wrote, If there be anything unscriptural in these words, anything wild or extravagant,
anything contrary to the analogy of faith, or the experience of adult Christians, let them smite me friendly
and reprove me; let them impart to me of the clearer light God has given them. Ibid., 365. The
Complete edition was originally printed from London, England: Wesleyan Conference Office, England,
1872. See also Wesleys account Plea for Impartial Judgment of His Teaching in his A Plain Account of
Christian Perfection (Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1966) 116-118.
48
Olson, Mosaic of Christian Beliefs, 2002, 66-68.

18

complementary source of tradition, reason and experience, the supremacy of scriptural


authority is never questioned. Its influence stretches even to the conceiving of
theological method today (which is beyond of the scope of this paper).49

4. A Glance at Recent Developments in Pentecostal Theology


& Theological Method(s)
The deliberation of whether there is, categorically speaking, a Pentecostal
theology is not the focus in this paper.50 Rather, our interest is to investigate if there has
been any extensive or substantial enunciation of a Pentecostal theological method. A
preliminary survey of landmark publications that articulate a Pentecostal systematic
theology shows that there is indeed a set of norming standards for Pentecostal theology,
albeit in an incipient way. How each relates to Wesleyan quadrilateral would will be
considered where appropriate.51
Pentecostal systematic theology or theologies have been appearing in recent
decades. Pinnocks Flame of Love (1996), Yongs The Spirit Poured Out On All Flesh
(2005), and Macchias Baptized in the Spirit (2006) are three excellent examples.52
49

See Thorsen, The Wesleyan Quadrilateral in Contemporary American Theology, in Festchrift for Lane
Scott, ed., John Park (Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 2006), which I had not been able to
consult for this paper.
50
See Dale M. Coulter, What Meaneth This? Pentecostals and Theological Inquiry, Journal of
Pentecostal Theology 10:1 (2001) 38-64; and Matthew S. Clark, What is Distinctive About Pentecostal
Theology? (Pretorial: University of South Africa, 1983, reprinted 1991).
51
This section/paper does not offer a critique of the theological proposals, except to summarize their
theological method or methodology and where appropriate to highlight conceptual difficulties of their
method for conceiving a Pentecostal theology.
52
Clark Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (1996); Amos Yongs The Spirit Poured
Out On All Flesh: Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker
Academic, 2005); Frank D. Macchias Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology (Grand
Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2006). Macchia has qualified that his work is not a systematic theology. But,
the fact that he has make a case for the conceiving of Spirit baptism as a lens in dialogue with certain
theological loci, albeit incipient or to use his words, a testing of the waters as to how it might relate to
certain prominent theological loci (p.17) suggests that he has in some fuzzy way followed a theological

19

Pinnocks work will, however, not be investigated in this paper.53 Likewise, the
systematic theologies developed by Penteostal/Charismatic scholars a decade ago will not
be considered in any considerable length in this paper: this is because categorically
speaking, these proposals do not offer any systemic glimpse on the making of a
Pentecostal/Charismatic theological method.54 There are other proposals that demonstrate
more potential for a re-making of a Pentecostal theological method(s). This would
include the works of New Testament scholars, Stronstads Spirit, Scripture & Theology
(1995), Menzies and Menziess Spirit and Power (2000). McDonnells The Other Hand
of God (2003), and Archers Pentecostal Hermeneutic for the Twenty-First Century
(2004).55 We would will make reference to some of these pieces of scholarships as well as
other articles on Pentecostal method(s) where appropriate. Regrettably though, this paper
model/method for his investigation. Hence, it is adequate to consider him along with the other systematic
reflections.
53
The weight of Pinnocks contribution itself deserves a separate investigation in view of his prominence
and provocation proposals to evangelical theology, particularly on the doctrine of God and on
pneumatology since the 19690s. This is notwithstanding that in the last decade he seemed to have devoted
much effort on pneumatology after his Spirit-baptism experience, and so ranks him among Pentecostal
theologians. I am not investigating Pinnocks method for a remaking of Pentecostal theology and
Pentecostal theological method because it would not do justice to his treatment. Shermans Revitalzing
Theological Epistemology (2008) has 2 summary chapters that may provide readers a glimpse of Pinnock
for the time being.
54
This would include the works of Stanley M. Horton, Systematic Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective
(Springfield, MO.: Logion Press, 1994); French L. Arrington, Christian Doctrine: A Pentecostal
Perspective (Cleveland, Tenn.: Pathway, 1994); and J. Rodman Williams on Renewal Theology: Systematic
Theology from a Charismatic Perspective, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1988-1992). Even
though these appears to locate a systematic theology in integration with the respective authors
Charismatic/Pentecostal roots, the product is in the main, keeping with traditional loci parameters with
limited inputs from a Pentecostal/Charismatic theological perspective. One reviewer Terry L. Cross cites
approvingly of Williams publications but acknowledges that the material is more a biblical theology than
a systematic theology. [cf. Terry L Cross, Toward A Theology of the Word and Spirit: A Review of J.
Rodman Williamss Renewal Theology, in Journal of Pentecostal Theology 3 (1993) 113-135; cf. p.118.]
55
Roger Stronstad, Spirit, Scripture & Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective (Baguio City, Philippines: Asia
Pacific Theological Seminary Press, 1995); William W. Menzies and Robert P. Menzies, Spirit and Power:
Foundations of Pentecostal Experience: A Call to Evangelical Dialogue (Grand Rapids, Michigan:
Zondervan, 2000); Amos Yongs Spirit, Word Community: Theological Hermeneutics in Trinitarian
Perspective. New Critical Thinking in Theology and Biblical Studies (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2002);
Kilian McDonnell, The Other Hand of God: The Holy Spirit as the Universal Touch and Goal
(Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2003); and Kenneth Archers Pentecostal Hermeneutic for the Twenty-First
Century: Spirit, Word and Community (2004).

20

is unable to review all of the major literature on the subject, as writings on Pentecostalism
and its theology have expanded sizably at the turn of the century.56
4.1. Yongs Quadrilateral Experiential Theological Method
In The Spirit Poured Out on All Flesh, Yong attempts to provide an overview on
the possibility of articulation a theology for the global Pentecostal movement. While the
task may seem overwhelming, his method is clearly evident. Yong recommends contends
in this 2005 publication that, a distinctive pentecostal perspective (i.e., a global/world
Pentecostal theology) would highlight a Lukan hermeneutical approach, a
pneumatological framework and orientation, and [a/an] experiential base. (p.27).
Yongs proposal has several methodological-theological characteristics. First, it
peruses scripture through a Luke-Acts lens, not just exegetically and historically but with
an eye to see its relevance today the Lukan-Acts narrative is, for him, an invitation to
people of God of every age to enter into the ongoing work of the Spirit. Second, the
theological gird and confessional stance that guide his interpretation is reflective of a
body of received truth/doctrines called tradition. As he explains, the dynamic experience
of the Holy Spirit is what orientates this theology even as Christology is the center of
this form of theology (p.28). This reflects the intra-relationship between Word and Spirit,
Truth and Experience as resources for his theological enterprise. Viewed in this light,
thirdly, its confessional dimension may categorically be considered experientialce since it
56

To consider the works of Bernard Cooke, Power and the Holy Spirit: Toward an Experience-Based
Pneumatology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) and Kirsteen Kim, The Holy Spirit in the World: A
Global Conversation (London: SPCK/Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2007) for instance, would be expand
this paper beyond its reasonable scope. A treatment of their work would have to be left for another
occasion. In addition, Steven J. Lands Pentecostal Spirituality: A Passion for the Kingdom (Sheffield:
Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), and Simon Chan, Pentecostal Theology and Christian Spirituality
(Sheffield, Sheffield Academic Press, 2003) will not be examined in this section as it may be more
appropriate to receive their writings in juxtaposing Pentecostal Theology and Spirituality rather than in any
direct relation to theological method.

21

gives room for testimonies from the ground on the experience of the Spirit to shape its
faith articulation. Fourthly, the method assumes a need to find coherence with the wide
pneumatic dimension of the world he sees as the playground of the Spirit.57 To do so,
Yong chooses to engage a much broader spectrum than the scope of traditional
theological methods. There is in principle an attempt to integrate all branches of
knowledge and truth in its reflection. He has in mind in his methodological quest the
various academic disciplines both in the hard sciences and the humanities in a selfcritical and dialogical manner (p.29). So, reason and reasonableness becomes a slice in
his methodological quest. Yong accentuates that his conception is an experiential
systematic theology.58 The review shows that Yongs model does in some way resemble
the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Yet, a familiarity with the Quadrilateral and what Yong calls
for in his method would show that Yong had in minddesires a far more encompassing
model, which we would will examine shortly.
Juxtaposing the method put forth in his Spirit Poured Out On All Flesh (2005)
with the trialectical paradigm of his Spirit-Word-Community (2002), one wonders if there
are two methods in his conception? If so, how would he reconcile the two approaches? To
be fair, Yongs earlier monograph (2002) is not explicitly a work on Pentecostal
theological hermeneutics per se , even though he acknowledges his Pentecostal starting
point. Still, it is helpful for understanding how the theologians broad philosophical57

Even though the phrase the world as the Spirits playground is not used in Yongs articulation, it would
not conflict with his view. In Yongs understanding, the world is the ground/place in which the Spirit is
operative multi-dimensionally. The sSpirit of the work is complex precisely because the Spirit does not
work in any predictable and homogeneous manner.
58
He writes, This book concerns not only Pentecostal theology but also, as the subtitle indicates, what, if
anything, pentecostalism can contribute to a Christian theology for the world of the twenty-first century.
Since Azusa Street, Pentecostalism has contributed an experience; here I not only reflect on the
theological content of the experience but also attempt to rethink entirely the Christian theological enterprise
from that perspective. The result, I hope, is a new type of systematic theology that also furthers the
conversation in the theological academy. Ibid., 9.

22

theological-hermeneutical framework has affected his theological treatise for different


contexts.59 In Yongs conceptioning, tThe Community entails past, present, future interrelationships, and at times, includes communities outside of Christianity, and how these
would affect the interpretation of the tText. Word is akin to the hHoly Scriptures, which
demands reasonable interpretation(s). Spirit used exclusively with reference to the Spirit
of God, and/or the Spirit of Christ can hardly be mistaken which cannot fit nicely when
juxtaposed with the Wesleys quadrilateral. The quadrilateral would conceives of the
soteriological/sanctificational experiences of the community as a work of the Spirit
without the Spirit being consciously named as a source for theology. Unlike the
Quadrilateral, Yongs publication in 2002 makes a clear and explicit case for his
trialectical approach as a method of theologizing for a broader context, and in his 2005
publication, he seems to propound a more extensive four-fold approach for considering
experiences of the Spirit as a broad paradigm for developing a global and yet localized
Pentecostal theology. The clarity of his theological method both for his audience is thus
seen.
Yongs paradigm did does not set out to revise the Wesleyans quadrilateral. Or, at
least he did not claim to do so. What is clear, though, is the scholarshis dissatisfaction
with existing methods of theology. His chagrin is that these methods do not adequately
bring out the pneumatic-trinitarian dimensions as a necessary outcome of any theological
articulations that seeks to present God and thoughts after Him. It is obvious that there
appears to be major shifting of priorities and categories in Yongs articulation when
juxtaposing his model with the Wesleyan model. The method he puts forth extends
59

See also Amos Yong, The Hermeneutical Trialectic: Notes Toward A Consensual Hermeneutic and
Theological Method, HejJ XLV (2004) 22-39.

23

beyond the quadrilateral in the sense that his datum for reflection is categorically broader
than Wesley would allow. Wesley in alignment with his Anglican predecessors conceives
of experience as the experiential life in the church. On the other hand, Yong perceives
that experience must entail the drawing of resources from all facets of life. It is not
restricted to the testimonies of the ecclesial. As the Spirit is active in all of life, and
including the life of unbelievers, so a theological method for the development of a
theology for a global context would entails the act of discerning the voice and presence of
the Spirit in the world as well. Viewed in the same light, Yongs datum would not only
includes the experiences of the un-regenerated people who knowingly and unwittingly
bear the image of God, but it would also includes a shifting of the central authority for
controlling/guiding the theologians task. The world is to be a ground for receiving truth
and revelation (contra strict natural theology, or contra scripture alone principle) since the
Spirit is also active in all of life. And in that sense, Yongs method follows an experiential
theological method.
4.2. Macchias Eschatological Spirit Baptism Experiences
Macchia (2006) makes the case for an eschatological interpretation of Spirit
baptism as a framework to overcome the false dichotomy and neatly compartmentalized
categories of conceiving pneumatology between a Pauline soteriological mindset and a
Lukan charismatic approach of the work of the Spirit in the life of a believer (p.15-17).
The product may be regarded summarily as a theology of glossolalia with the charismata
set within a broader ecumenical, pneumatological, and Trinitarian framework. The
highest description of this baptism is, for Macchia, found in the outpouring of divine

24

love. This eschatological framework of Spirit baptism (of divine love) is the Swiss
schooled theologians method from which Pentecostal theology is to be conceived.
In an arbitrary manner, a reconstruction of the authors theological method from
his Baptized in the Spirit shows a near-to-affinity with the Wesleyan quadrilateral,
although there are with some striking differences (note, Macchia did not claim as such).
There is an exegetical view of scripture, particularly from the Luke-Acts narrative that he
draws his experiential support of his faiths articulation. This then becomes for him the
key to the other biblical pericopes. The experiential dimension, particularly, the
experience of believers in the Spirit, is valued highly in his work. In fact he laments at the
shift in recent Pentecostal theologians works, which perceives Spirit baptism as a
distinctive feature of Pentecostal theology rather than as the defining character of this
theology. Here, we see his efforts in trying to chisel an experiential theology of the Spirit,
with an interest to correct the pneumatic neglect and fragmentary discourses he observes
in Pentecostal/Charismatic theologies.
Macchias method as he reconceives it in his Baptized Spirit follows an
interlocking between a Word-Tradition-Experience, and/or an Eschatological Future-andEschatological Present Experiential paradigms.60 Macchia follows Hollenweger in
arguing for a Pentecostal theological method conceived by means of oral, narrative, and
dramatic expressions from the local Pentecostal communities (e.g., dreams, visions,
dances, etc.,). He also cites with approval Wainwrights observation that the Protestant
theological method from which Pentecostal theology draws its roots rests on the rule of

60

See also Frank D. Macchia, Christian Experience and Authority in the World: A Pentecostal Viewpoint,
Ecumenical Trends 31:8 (December 2002) 122-126.

25

prayer (Lex orandi).61 In that sense, (historical) tradition is not a prominent part in his
conception. He confirms this in an earlier review of Michael Welkers God the Spirit
(1994) where he explains, a contextual engagement with the Scriptures involves us in
issues that provoke an interaction with the corporate memories of the people of God in
their diverse and common theological heritage.62 Here again, we see a repeated interplay
of sources to focus on the experiential dimension of scripture as the norm and tradition as
a norm for theology.
4.3. Archers Pentecostal Hermeneutical Filter as an Interpretive Key
As we move on to New Testament scholarship, we get a similar drift on the
predominant method in the crafting of a Pentecostal theology: the experiential dimension
of the faith.
Essential to Archers proposal is that Pentecostal identity, stories, beliefs and
practices are the hermeneutical filter through which one may interpret Scripture and do
theology for its community.63 At no point in Archers writing does he claim to reject the
Biblical message. He explicitly states that his aim is to read the biblical trans-historically,
trans-culturally, and trans-contextually. The text of scripture is to have any relevant way
to the contemporary readers if the hermeneutical gird will cohere with the priorities of the
contemporary audience. For Pentecostal theology, the Pentecostal story of initial and
ongoing encounter with/by Spirit, the central doctrinal convictions and concerns of the
community would be the worldview by which Scripture may be read and understood by
61

cf. Macchia, 2006, p.27, 49-58. See also Geoffrey Wainwright, Doxology: The Praise of God in Worship,
Doctrine and Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980) 218-250.
62
Frank D. Macchia, Discerning the Spirit in Life: A Review of God the Spirit by Michael Welker,
Journal of Pentecostal Theology 10 (1997) 3-28; cf. p.9.
63
See also, Kenneth J. Archer, Pentecostal Story: The Hermeneutical Filter for the Making of Meaning,
PNUEMA 26:1 (Fall 2004), 36-59.

26

Pentecostals (p.67). The central importance of reading scripture in the light of the
Pentecostal social context and the communitys narrative tradition and convictions
(p.133, 144-145, 147, 152) would reinterprets Scripture. Archer sought seeks to anchor
his distinctive Pentecostal hermeneutic on grounds that the method takes seriously the
ongoing work of God in history precisely because it is not careless with exegeting the
world of the Bible. As he posits, the same Spirit of Scripture is the same Spirit who
makes available to human beings living in any era the life described in the scriptures. His
opinion is that a Pentecostal interpretive method is appropriate to encounter the living
Spirit of Christ in the world today.
My critiquec of Archers method is that while he had in principle honored the
supremacy of Scripture, his methodology had the effect of shifting the importance of
scripture. While Archer honors the preeminent place of Scripture for the theological task,
he hasd, however, maintained that the value of the present and the future context for
traditioning seats co-jointly in its significance with scripture. Notwithstanding that while
Archer did not attempt a theology, his hermeneutical lens has already given his readers a
glimpse of a theological method that is to follow from his articulation.
It would appear that Archers approach bears little resemblance with the
quadrilateral as in his usage of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience in his
task of interpretation has taken on nuances far-remote from the Wesleyan conception.
Overall, Archers approach is, as I perceive it, thoroughly experiential, or contextual.
4.4. McDonnells Power Analogy of the Spirit
McDonnell attempts to articulate a conception of power in various dimensions of
life as an en-route to consider the Spirit. While he acknowledges with reluctance that

27

religious experience is often the starting point of theological reflection, he really wanted
to make a case that however important other classical sources of theology are, their role is
in casting normative light on the experience of a believing
community. (p.5) This would include the classical sourcesScripture,
patristic thought, conciliar creeds and other ecclesiastical documents,
magisterial theological texts. (p.5). Therein the overarching approach
of his proposal is explicitly articulated.
Of tradition, he writes, Inevitably, then, any pneumatological reflection
today must build upon and draw from the pneumatology of the past. This goes beyond
harvesting the insights planted by theologians of previous generations. If todays
theologian is part of the same community of faith and memory as those previous thinkers,
his/her faith must at some level coincide with their faith and to some extent interiorize
and appropriate their theological insights. (p.9). He writes also, If one is to attempt
some understanding of the reality referred to as the Holy Spirit, there are certain
presuppositions that establish the parameters within which the attempt can legitimately
and profitably occur. Obviously, the search for a deepened knowledge of Gods Spirit can
occur only within the context of faith; it is fides quaeren intellectum, and the intellectum
(understanding), when it occurs, is not the conclusion of careful reasoning but an insight
that extends beyond justifying explanation (p.7).
McDonnell did not dismiss the necessity of reason. He writes,
Reason can, however, dictate the path one must walk in striving for an understanding of
God. The truly transcendent reality we name God is by definition beyond human
words or human thoughts, and consequently, only analogy and metaphor can provide a
springboard for the intellectual leap into mystery. This has been acknowledged for
millennia and is currently reflected in the widespread interest in and use of models in
theological discourse. This is not the place to undertake an analysis of the way in which

28

metaphorical understanding works; but it should be clear that grasping the nature,
contribution, and limitations of metaphor is intrinsic to understanding and evaluating the
process of theologizing before proposing a metaphorical approach to understanding
(p.179-180).
On these counts, while we see the interplay of tradition, experience, and reason at
work in McDonnells promulgation (cf. p.7), his proposal closely resembles the other
Pentecostal theological methods considered in this paper. Experience is not only featured
as a source of theology; it . Experience is considered a primary source along with all
other resources the Pentecostal theologian would rely on in his theological task. This is
not withstanding that McDonnell as well as others have expressed credence to the
importance of Scripture in their conceptions. However, the weight these theologians have
placed on the experiential dimension as a source in relations to their use of other sources
such as Scripture have already betrayed their stated supposition on the primacy of
scripture. For McDonnell, it would not be far-fetched to posit that experience is a
paradigm by which he enters into the articulation of an epiphytical theology (via media to
apophatic theology). This is a dimension unattainable if he follows a philosophical,
scientific, and humanistic mode of conceiving and articulating the Christian faith. In that
sense, the richness of experience as a source for theology is that this source potentially
carries the experiences of the global pragmatic workings of the Spirit.
4.5. Preliminary Findings on The Construction of a Pentecostal Theological Method
From these scholarships, several points may be said on the nascent development of
a Pentecostal theological method. Firstly, Yongs analysis on the essence of Pentecostal
theological approach is right on target. He writes, the difference might be that
fundamentalist interpretation is directed toward the text, while Pentecostal interpretation

29

is directed toward the experience of the Spirit recorded in the text.64 Several other
scholars have also observed this experiential-pneumatic-theological and hermeneutical
method.65 This dynamic interplay of experience and Spirit on the interpretation of text is,
as Coulter explains, the Spirits ongoing revelation occurs in the midst of an intertwining
of an individuals spiritual experience and the narrative of the text.66 The Pentecostal
experiential theological method we have perused so far is not one that disregards
Scripture. As Macchia states, the Bible is the sole dialogue partner for faith and
praxis.67 These theologians employ a canon within the canon approach to Scripture
wherein the Lukan-Acts pneumatic narrative plays up repeatedly as the central motif that
frames their interpretation of the rest of Scripture. It is also this same grid by which they
appropriate the value of tradition for their task. The transforming work of the Spirit, the
universality of the Spirits work, and eschatology are three important motifs in their
articulation.68 These are the contemporary Pentecostal readers attempts to correlate their

64

See Yongs article The Word and the Spirit or The Spirit and the Word, 2002, 239.
See J.A.B. Jongeneel, ed., Experiences in the Spirit (Bern: Peter Lang, 1989). Even Welkers God the
Spirit (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994)s argument and the use of a hermeneutical lens to look-out for
the immanence of the Spirit in life/creation for liberational and redemptive purposes is a form of
experiential theology and theological method. Roger in his Spirit, Scripture & Theology (1995) makes a
similar point on the spirit dimension to reconceiving meaning in Scripture. Coulter offers a view that
adumbrates a similar nuance. He says that the experience of the Spirit leads to a different starting point or
source for theology (cf. p.47) along with various elements and sources that helps define Pentecostal
theology. See Coulters What Meaneth This? 2001, 50, 56, 63.
66
Coulter, What Meaneth This? 2001, 61.
67
Macchia, Discerning the Spirit in Life, 1997, 9. Note however that Smith (who is Smith? Where is his
citation?) produces a different concept concerning the authority of Scripture and tradition. Smith claims
unlike others that The Spirit of Christ (rather than the collection of writings) ought to be the norm as the
Spirit stands in authority over both Scripture and prophecy. thus he argues for a canon of the Spirit that
operates with the discernment of the community (p.68). He is in effect arguing for an authority apart from
texts since text is for him witness/testimony of Gods Spirit in action. He writes, Scripture itself is the
product of a tradition or better, a plurality of traditions If Scripture itself is part of the tradition, then it
must also be normed by a criterion of tradition, namely, the Spirit of the living Christ as he resides and
abides within the community of the faithful. See Smith, The Closing of the Book, 1997, footnotes 68 in
pp.68-69.
68
Christopher A. Stephenson, The Rule of Spirituality and the Rule of Doctrine: A Necessary Relationship
in Theological Method, Journal of Pentecostal Theology 15:1 (2006) 83-105.
65

30

respective reflective experiences of the Spirit as a means to inform and to aid in the
chiseling of a Pentecostal theological method.
Secondly, the fruits of recent Pentecostal theological constructions suggest that
the movements theological reflection have matured substantially. There are attempts to
reverse earlier problems in the conceptionsiving of Pentecostal theology. In similar
regard, attempts have been made to correct earlier Pentecostal theological method. The
historically anti-tradition, and anti-intellectual ethos and methods of earlier Pentecostal
reflections as reported in Burgesss Cut the Tape-root is gradually fading away. There
comes is a new generation of Pentecostal scholarship that is characterized by an
appreciation for philosophical musings and a careful reading/appropriation of history and
traditions.69 Stephensons reminder has been corrective for Pentecostal theological
method at this point the validity of a tradition and/or a practice as a source for theology
does not mean that it is to be received uncritically.70 The pneumatic-experiential lens is
believed by these scholars as having the purpose of re-aligning the inadequacies of
previous methods conceived. In that sense, there is a quest for the reversal of cutting the
taproot to a rediscovery of the value of historical grounds wherewith the Spirit had once
blazed the trail for all to know. Coulters earlier proposal that Pentecostal theology
should look at drawing from (?) more remote theological traditions as a resource for a
Pentecostal theology has been the ongoing project of Pentecostal theological
development.71 Certain Pentecostal theologians have also begun to dialogue with other
69

Stanley Burgess, Cut the Tap-root: The Modern Pentecostal Movement and Its Tradition, in Rodman J.
Williams ed., Spirit and Renewal: Essays in honor of J. Rodman Willams (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic,
1994). Burgess reports the causes of the severance of the relationship of Pentecostalism from its WesleyanHoliness and Higher Life movements, and the resultant effect of it.
70
Stephenson, The Rule of Spirituality and the Rule of Doctrine, 2006, 88.
71
Coulter, What Meaneth This? 2001, 51.

31

traditions, such as evident in Finnish Pentecostal theologian, Veli-Matti Karkainnens


ecumenical reflection with Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity to
ecumenically conceive of the Spirits prior and present operations.72
Thirdly, there is a further broadening of the playgrounds for theological
engagement by Pentecostal theologians. Besides engaging other Christian traditions,
recent Pentecostal promulgations have expanded their research horizons to conceive the
possibility of the Spirits operation beyond traditional theological loci. Kims The Holy
Spirit in the World (2007), Yongs Theology and Down Syndrome (2007), and idem,
Beyond the Impasse: Toward a Pneumatological Theology of Religions (2001) are three
recent titles on examples of pneumatological and theological exploration beyond
traditional Christian conception of the Spirits playground. The nature of theology as
multi-dimensional and its dealing with conflicting and pluralistic truth-claims to reality is
increasingly being recognized as important for the theological task. Hence, the works of
these theologians have in many ways give shape to the changing face of Pentecostal
theologizing. It is in this sense that these have contributed to furthering discussions on the
re-conception of theological method(s).

5. The Postulate of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral Method for the Pentecostals


Theological Agenda & Its Adequacy for the Development of a Pentecostal
Theological Method(s)

72

Veli-Matti Krkkinen, Toward a Pneumatological Theology: Pentecostal and Ecumenical Perspective


on Ecclesiology, Soteriology and Theology of Mission (Lanhma, MD.: University of America, 2002); idem,
Spiritus ubi vult spirat: Pneumatology in Roman Catholic-Pentecostal Dialogue (1972-1989), (Helsinki:
Luther-Agricola-Society, 1998). The authors appreciation for tradition beyond his own denominational
lines may also be seen in how he engages trans-denominational biblical-historical-and-trans-contextual
theological investigation in his other collection of writings in introducing major loci of the Christian faith.

32

Earliery in this paper, I have established the value of conceiving a dialectical


Pentecostal theology that is both evangelical and ecumenical. The thrust is that
Pentecostal theology with its ethos and heritage is probably well poised to represent such
a conceptual theological framework. The investigation then proceededs to consider the
historical contribution of Wesley as well as a review of recent Pentecostal theological
promulgations on the chiseling of a Christian theological method. The study culminated
ins this point: to examine the postulation of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral for the
development of a Pentecostal theological method.
In this section, I would argue that while contemporary Pentecostal theological
method hasve matured substantially, and have in many ways learned and adapted its
approach from the quadrilateral, the possibility of a groundbreaking paradigm(s) for
conceiving an ecumenical-evangelical Pentecostal theology is still very much openended.73 What remains lacking is a method that is more appropriate for such an enterprise.
In other words, the viability of the Wesleyan quadrilateral as a method, though helpful, is
may not be the best model for conceiving Pentecostal theology.
5.1. The Postulate of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral Method for Pentecostal Theology
In Yongs analysis of the convergence and divergences of evangelicalism and
Pentecostalism, he remarks, Pentecostals who have begun to think about theological
method are more inclined to see theology as emerging from something like the Wesleyan
quadrilateral than from Reformers sola scriptura.74 The reason for this is that, as he
73

While the improvements made is in the process of reversing its damaged credibility in the eyes of the
previous generations a-emotive and a-experiential non-Pentecostal theologians, Pentecostal theologians
today are still laboring hard to eradicate the former ahistorical, atraditional, ainstitutionalized, antiintellectual and even a-exegetical tendencies found in earlier generations of Pentecostal theologians.
74
See Yong, The Word and the Spirit or The Spirit and the Word, 2002, 247.

33

conceives it, Pentecostals have been deeply affected by their experience of the Spirit they
cannot deny or overlook. The life-transforming nature of their initial and ongoing
encounters with the Spirit renders their approach closer in proximity with the Wesleyan
quadrilateral. This is also the summary finding of Steven Land in his Pentecostal
Spirituality (cf. Land, 220). Coulter even went goes as far as to suggest that the
Wesleyan-Quadrilateral is the means to hold in tension the various sources of their
theology and especially the experience of the Spirit with their theological quest.75 The
positive affirmation of the Wesleyan model as a method that epitomizes the theological
vision of Pentecostalism is really not surprising this may be compared with how recent
Pentecostal theological promulgation have employed methods that are essentially geared
towards the experiential dimension of the Christian life, particularly, life in the Spirit.
5.2. Examining the Grounds for Constructing Theology from Experience
A short detour at this point is necessary. As it is primarily the experiential
dimension of the Quadrilateral that Pentecostal theologians find particularly appealing for
the re-appropriation of the model for the Pentecostal theological task, the grounds for
revisiting the suitability of the Wesleyan model for Pentecostalism can only be answered
after having considered two related issues. Firstly, the manner in which Pentecostals
exegete both experience and scripture will shed light in our subsequent examination on
how the Wesleyan model may or may not enrich Pentecostal theology. Secondly, the
validity of grounding theology in an experiential dimension will provide a preliminary
grid by which one may assess the viability of the construction of a theology under the
rubric of an experiential framework.
75

Coulter, What Meaneth This? 2001, 53.

34

The earlier survey of recent Pentecostal theology and the method(s) Pentecostal
theologians have employed in their tasks show that a common weakness pervades a
number of the proposals under review (cf. Macchia, Archer, McDonnell, et al). It is a
preliminary observation in this paper that while most of these theologians sincerely
believed that they are exegeting the text and allowing their experiences to inform their
exegesis, our my finding reveals a different framework. The weight these theologians
place on experience hasve so influenced their exegesis and interpretation that the method
they have employed cannot be said to stand irrefutably on the primacy of Scripture and
complemented by the other sources. Accordingly, a number of the Pentecostal theological
methods employed is are really nothing but an experiential theology seeking to find its
grounds in Scripture. Yongs caution on Pentecostals preferred paradigm of exegeting
their own experiences rather than the biblical text is a corrective for theologians from
these communities.76
Secondly, it must be said that the writer in this paper is not against the framing of
theology with the aid of experience. Following Jrgen Moltmanns Experiences in
Theology,77 few would disagree that experience is an important aspect contributing to the
development of ones faith articulation. This may be observed on three levels the
macro, the micro, as well as on a conceptual level.
On a macro-level, experience corrects the often non-experiential, non-emotive,
universal-propositional-truth-claims method of doing theology popularly conceived in the
modern era. This has been pointed out by a number of Pentecostal theologians who saw

76

See Yong, 2007, 241.


Jrgen Moltmann, Experiences in Theology: Ways and Forms of Christian Theology. Trans. Margaret
Kohl. Minneapolis: Minnesota: Fortress, 2000.
77

35

the chiseling of a Pentecostal hermeneutic as an alternative to the modernistic


interpretative methods.
Conceptually speaking, all theology is reflectively speaking integrally related to
the experiential dimension in some sense the articulation of ones theology may be seen
in the experience of, and/or the lack of opportunity to encounter with certain facets of
anothers claims. The reality of tongues of fire, supernatural miracles of healing, raising
of the dead, etc., would not mean much in a theologians articulation (albeit affirmed or
rejected otherwise by sound reason and/or profound philosophical-theological musings)
unless otherwise experienced and witnessed by the theologians. In that sense, the
experiential aspect of life in the Spirit is to have a major bearing in ones theological
conception, and it is here that these Pentecostal theologians are right in underscoring the
importance of experience for their theological formulation.
At a micro-level, the conception of a theology in relations to experience is that the
latter is properly speaking a raw data for theologizing. Viewed in this light, experience
may even be considered an unpolished form of theology in praxis. The contribution of
experience to theology and vice versa cannot be underestimate. Theology inhaled in a
soul will eventually give birth to the practice of its faiths articulation (be it at an
individual level and/or in the midst of a community of faith). Praxis will invigorate the
activity of theological reflection in the sense that questions from the ground (accumulated
from the juxtaposition of praxis and theory) may spurn interests in further theological
reflection so as to search out answers in response to questions raised in praxis which
earlier promulgations had not been able to resolve. This contribution of experience would
then lead to an updating of a dated theological reflection for the present time.

36

Having said thus, experience should never be elevated to the status of eminency.
Experience, however genuine it may be for one person or for a group of believers, is
subjective and incomplete for the task of theologizing. Ones experience may not
necessarily be replicable. Others may have experiences that differed markedly from the
experienced reality of another. While both may enrich each other in the reflective sharing
of ones experiences in theological articulation, there is often the danger of considering
ones experienced reality as prescriptive while perceiving the others experience as
perhaps, erred and to-be-revised in the light of our own encounters. Such a conceiving of
experiential theology is then unhealthy for the task of constructing a Pentecostal theology
that seeks to be dialogical (past, present, and future) with both the Church and the wider
world. Furthermore, to base a theology on the foundation of experience (however it may
be justified through ones subjective reality) is to have the effect of weakening the
grounds of ones theological construct. The fluidity of arguing for the universality of an
experienced reality is a reason enough to showcase the weak foundation if theology is
constructed from this premise. It is here that we may return to the postulation of the
Quadrilateral for the constructing of a theological method for Pentecostalism.
5.3. The Adequacy of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral Method for Pentecostal Theology
Revisited
A consolidated finding of this paper will shows that the model is unsuitable for
Pentecostalism in view of the theological vision of Pentecostalism, the underlying
framework of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, as well as the implications of how Pentecostals
have appropriated the Quadrilateral.

37

Coulter aptly reminds his readers that there is a difference between finding a
historical heritage for Pentecostalism rooted in its Wesleyan-Holiness roots and the
suggestion that these influences do accurately and coherently provide the proper
theological framework with which any Pentecostal theology may flourish.78 Just because
the Wesleyan Quadrilateral offers a viable method for the re-conceiving of the
Pentecostal experiences of the Spirit as a data for theology does not mean that the
Quadrilateral is a good framework for the construction of a Pentecostal theology.
In the framing of experience and theology, one must remember that the Spirit is
sovereign and chooses to reveal to one and all the same truth in different degrees and in
gradient proportions all conceptions (and articulation of reflective experiences) are but
incomplete when measured against the weight of eternity even if one argues that it is the
Spirit who continues to reveal and extends beyond Scripture.79 To conceive of theology as
having an apophatic endeavor is to acknowledge that the frontiers of theology will never
be comprehensively explored and exhaustively articulated. This is notwithstanding the
use of experience (or Spirit-experience) as a vehicle for its conception. Although this has
nothing to do with whether the Wesleyan model is appropriate for the task (since all
theological method will fall short under this measure), it remains a factor not to be missed
is considering the most appropriate model.
What is more important is that a Pentecostal theology of the Spirit may function
as a helpful corrective to the maturing of theological reflection. The pneumatic potential
78

Coulter, What Meaneth This? 2001, 39.


Considered as such, I tend to be more reserved in following Smiths proposal for subjecting Scripture to
the Spirit (or really, hermeneutics experience of the Spirit) for just as the Spirit is right and free to
move/blow where He wills, mans hermeneutics may fallibly move into trajectories at mans choosing,
which may possibly be out of step with the Spirit (a subjective matter) however one is convinced that the
move is under the impulse of the Spirit. Coulters dynamic view of revelation is not justification for their
different handling of Scripture, (cf. Coulter, 2001, 54) however distinctive / core it may be considered by
Pentecostal theologians.
79

38

lies in the understanding that the Spirit is omnipresent, and thus omni-active in all the
dimensions of life, across all historical time-zones (past, present, and future), and with
people of all flesh and kind (regardless of their socio-political-economical-religious-anddenominational affiliations). The summary findings on the current trajectory of
Pentecostal theological method also affirms the recognition that the Spirit is present and
active in all of life, and not just within the church and amongst the fellowship and
evangelistic activities of believers! These are the multi-variegated ways of understanding
the Spirit poured out on all flesh. Accordingly, any revision to theological method for
developing the pneumatological dimension would not prematurely dismiss any data, but
takes seriously all possibilities (and including conflicting datum) into the interpretive and
reflective task of theologizing. To the degree that a Pentecostal theology does not embody
this in its methodological and theological quest is to the degree that the theology that is
developed is less than pneumatic in its eventual outcomes. Therein lies the potential of a
truly Pentecostal theology for becoming a harbinger of plurality.
Viewed in this light, the Wesleyan model is unable to attain such a lofty goal. The
adequacy of the Wesleyan quadrilateral needs no further justification. Shermans
investigation of the Quadrilateral in Revitalizing Theological Epistemology (2008) has
explained clearly the limitations of the Wesleyan model for the evangelical-ecumenical
theological task.80 Yong has also pointed out how restrictive and constrictive it is to
conceive the Spirit as operative only within the Church via a Salvific-Christological (cf.
Yong, Trialectical Hermeneutics). In light of his critique, it would be fair to say that
Yong would have most likely included the Wesleyan quadrilateral amongst those models
in need of revisions.
80

Sherman, Revitalizing Theological Epistemology, 2008.

39

The implicit experiential dimension of the classical theological method made


explicit in Wesleys approach had served as a corrective to the threefold approach of
earlier generations of Anglican and Reformed Traditional conceptions. But, it remains
rooted and perceived constrictively within the ecclesial. Seeking to confirm the truth of
Christianity via the media of recorded evidences/experiences of the Spirit rooted in the
life of the believer and in the church, the theologian John Wesley believes that therein the
ground(s) for discovering the work of the Spirit is established. But this is not what is
needed in the framing of a Pentecostal theological method.
Our review of the landscape of current Pentecostal theology and their theological
method from an ecumenical-evangelical perspective in juxtaposing with the
appropriateness of the Wesleyan paradigm will converge at this critical point. Pentecostal
theology has from its beginnings embodied the elements of confirming its testimonies of
the faithful through its piety, spontaneity, and spirit-led faith-expressions as a balance to
the doctrinal, liturgical and exegetical tasks of theology worked out in the academia for
the most part of the twentieth century. Yet, against the backdrop of global Pentecostal
theology, and against the articulation of a pneumatic theology that seeks to recognize the
Spirits involvement in multi-dimensions, and in innumerable ways in the universe (often
not confined within the church), the Wesleyan method is, as I have sought to argue, is
helpful but ultimately inadequate for Pentecostals vision toward the chiseling of a truly
pneumatic (and trinitarian) theology. The methodological vision of Wesleys approach
thus delimits the potential of it becoming the model for the development of a truly
authentic Pentecostal theological method.
6. Conclusion

40

Several scholars have sought to demonstrate the value of the Quadrilateral for
enriching Pentecostal hermeneutics. Further investigation into the heritage-contribution
of the Quadrilateral as well as the theological vision of a new generation of PentecostalCharismatic expression of the Spirit within the movements have demonstrated that the
Wesleyan model is helpful but inadequate for re-appropriation by theologians seeking to
push renewal theology onto the next frontier. The methodological vision of the
Quadrilateral is unable to consider a wide range of present and future possibilities,
thereby restrictings its potential for our intended goal of advancing both the depth and
horizons of renewal theologizing for the global body of Christ. My preliminary finding
concludes that the capacity of a Pentecostal theological unearthing awaits another
model(s) so as to facilitate the chiseling of the task of writing a pneumatic theology.

A little note: whe I was reading through your critique of the over-emphasis on
experience in current pentecostal theologies, I perceived an affinity toward the
quadrilateral in your writing. However, then you later attack the QUAd. Perhaps you
need to tighten this area up a little. And by the way, I completely and utterly disagree
with your conclusion!

41

7. Select Bibliography
Primary Sources
John Calvin. 1960. Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 vols. In The Library of Christian
Classics Series, vol. 20., ed., John T. McNeill. Trans. Ford Lewis Battles. Philadelphia:
Westminster Press.
John Calvin, 1958. Tracts and Treatises In Defense of the Reformed Faith. Trans. Henry
Beveridge, Historical Notes edition by Thomas F. Torrance. Vol. III. Grand Rapids,
Michigan: Eerdmans.
John Calvin. n.d. Theological Treatises. J.K.S. Reid, ed. The Library of Christian Classics
Series: Ichthus Edition. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.
John Wesley. n.d. The Works of John Wesley, 14 vols. Grand Rapids, Michigan:
Zondervan Publishing House. Originally printed from London, England: Wesleyan
Conference Office, England, 1872.
John Wesley. 1991. The Works of John Wesley, 3rd Edition, Complete and Unabridged,
vol. XIII. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House. Reprinted from the 1872 edition
issued by Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, London.
Richard Hooker, 1977. Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, The Folger Library Edition
of the Works of Richard Hooker, ed. W. Speed Hill, vols. 1-3. Cambridge, Massachusetts:
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Saint Anselm. 1962. Basic Writings. Trans. S. W. [sic] Deane, 2nd Edition. La Salle,
Illinois: Open Court Publishing.
_____________. 1909. Cur Deus Homo. Trans. by John Grant. The Ancient and Modern
Library of Theological Literature Series. Edinburgh.
St Thomas Aquinas. 1963. Summa Theologiae: Latin Text and English Translation,
Introductions, Notes, Appendices and Glossaries, 60 vols. Cambridge: Blackfriars /
London: Eyre & Spottiswoode / New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company.

Secondary & Other Sources


Archer, Kenneth. 2004. Pentecostal Hermeneutic for the Twenty-First Century: Spirit,
Word and Community. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic.

42

Archer, Kenneth J. Fall 2004. Pentecostal Story: The Hermeneutical Filter for the
Making of Meaning, PNUEMA 26:1, pp. 36-59.
Bevins, Winfield H. Summer 2006. Wesley and the Pentecostals, Pneuma Review 8:3,
pp. 6-17.
Bevins, Winfield H. 2006. A Pentecostal Appropriation of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral,
Journal of Pentecostal Theology 14:2, pp. 229-246
Brand, Chad Owen, ed. 2004. Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: Five Views. Nashville,
Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Brantley, Richard E. 1984. Locke, Wesley, and the Method of English Romanticism.
Gainesville, Florida: University of Florida Press.
Buschart, W. David. 2006. Exploring Protestant Traditions: An Invitation to Theological
Hospitality. Downer Groves, Illinois: IVP Academic.
Burgess, Stanley M. and Eduard M. van der Maas, eds. 2002. The New International
Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Grand Rapids, Michigan:
Zondervan.
Burgess, Stanley. 1994. Cut the Tap-root: The Modern Pentecostal Movement and Its
Tradition, in Rodman J. Williams ed., Spirit and Renewal: Essays in honor of J.
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