Thoughts from Methodist Bishop William R. Cannon—Receiving the Scripture

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From here:
God’s revelation of himself and the deeds he performed are narrated in the Bible, which is the single source of our Christian faith. The so-called Wesleyan quadrilateral is not Wesleyan at all. It ought to be named the Albert Outler quadrilateral, naming as it does the source of our religion as the Bible, reason, tradition, and experience. The latter three are really interpretive tools to help us understand the contents of the Bible. They supply no revelatory material themselves. John Wesley, in the preface to his sermons, said that God gave us a book which provides us with his plan for our salvation. The Bible tells us all we need to know, indeed, can possibly know about how to be saved and win a place in heaven. He, therefore, called himself a man of one book.

The Bible then is God’s gift to us, not a book humans have composed for themselves and given to themselves for their own edification. It is his chart for their happiness and satisfaction here, and their blessedness in heaven. Therefore, to change one jot or one tittle of it, to try to make it conform to some human interest, concern, or cause is to risk damnation. We are to receive it as it is written, with open hearts and eager minds, and through it to be instructed in the ways of God. To attempt to rewrite it or in any way modify it from a racist, feminist, liberationist, liberal, conservative, or any other perspective not its own is the most dangerous of all heresies and an abomination of desolation too awful to conceive.

It is time we heed Saint Augustine’s warning against the juggling and misuse of Scripture to suit our own predisposition. “If you believe what you like in the Gospel and reject what you dislike, it is not the Gospel you believe but yourselves.”

–Bishop William R. Cannon served from 1968 to 1984 as a UM Bishop of the Raleigh, Richmond (Virginia) and Atlanta Areas.


Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch History* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesMethodist* TheologyTheology: Scripture

3 Comments
Posted May 4, 2012 at 8:20 am

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1. Ryan Danker wrote:

This is a wonderful quote! Bishop Cannon’s words are just as true now as they were then he wrote them. Even with the revisions of the so-called “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” the formula has never been able to capture Wesley’s dynamic, scriptural theology. David Hempton, newly appointed Dean of Harvard Divinity School, said it best when he wrote that the “attempt to boil Wesley’s theology down to a simple formula, such as the much-peddled quadrilateral of scripture, reason, tradition, and experience, spectacularly misses the point. A forensic appeal to geometrical precision, of all the approaches to Wesley’s theology, is the one least likely to capture its essence. If Wesley’s theology must be reduced to a model, one that offers better explanatory power than the quadrilateral is to see it more as a moving vortex, fueled by scripture and divine love, shaped by experience, reason and tradition, and moving dynamically toward holiness or Christian perfection. Any model that lacks dynamic movement toward holiness and its growth within individuals and its dissemination through the world is clearly inadequate.” (David N. Hempton, Methodism: Empire of the Spirit (Yale:2005), pg. 57) Both Hempton and Cannon much better represent the “experiential divinity” of John Wesley grounded in scripture and driven by a desire for a transforming relationship with God. Thank you, Kendall, for posting Cannon’s quote. It’s quite apropos as the Methodists conclude their General Conference and we look to our own General Convention in July.

May 4, 10:47 am | [comment link]
2. Yebonoma wrote:

Well, it’s been a sorry slide in the Virginia annual conference from this gentlemen to Charlene Kammerer, the current occupant, who is thoroughly revisionist in her theology, or lack thereof, and ruthless in her drive to expunge anyone who does not meet her definition of being totally inclusive.  Just ask pastor Ed Johnson.

She is, however, taking retirement for unspecified medical reasons.  Please pray for her healing and that the Virginia annual conference can somehow manage to get a bishop that harkens back to Bishop Cannon.

May 4, 11:35 am | [comment link]
3. QohelethDC wrote:

New commenter moderated by elf.

May 4, 5:45 pm | [comment link]


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