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Religious experience, Scripture, Reason and Tradition


Christian theology has been defined as the research whereby theologians examine the Christian practices and beliefs. Many theologians have used primarily the biblical exegesis, arguments and analysis in interpreting both the old and new testaments alongside the Christian historical traditions (Buschart, 2006). Theological studies help people to better understand the doctrines of Christianity thus drawing comparisons between Christianity and other faiths while defending the Christian faith therefore one can even initiate reforms. During the 1700s, the leader of the Methodist movement John Wesley came up with a method on which to reflect theology that has usually been dubbed the ‘Wesleyan Quadrilateral’. The Wesleyan method has drawn from four different sources namely; experience, reason, tradition and then scripture. The paper analyses the relationship between religious experience, scripture, reason and tradition. The council of Trent will be also analyzed to tray and get a more in-depth analysis on the relationships.


Relationship between Experience and Reason

This relationship is said to go hand in hand with the way we receive and understand revelations. According to McGrath, (2016), revelations could be better understood as the activities through which God manifests himself to humans. To add on, God can reveal Himself to man through the experiences which are perceived by the church, or either through the personal experiences people encounter. He can also manifest through any of the sensory experiences. Once a revelation has been received through man experiences, human the use their reason in interpreting the experience. Theologians have often disagreed on whether interpreting the experiences would require a deep pondering about the experience or it is simply reflecting as well as realizing if the experience did actually happen. They (theologian) have however, agreed that something will only be experienced by humans with intelligence and who have the ability of perceiving what they call ‘one’s self’ and their ability to understand themselves. This has led to the agreement that reason is the ability to one thinking rationally, analytically and logically. Therefore, theological studies require revelations, and the revelations ought to be experienced (Lewis & Travis, 2012). However, we only experience the revelations fully via our reason whereby the reason allows us in both accepting and developing an understanding of the experiences.

Scripture and experience

The 16th century protestant reformation was originally grounded on the hermeneutical sola scriptura principle meaning the exclusiveness of the scripture. There was more emphasis being placed on the grammatical-historical biblical text meaning. The other religious knowledge like tradition, experience and reason were being regarded as acceptable if only they were in harmony with what they understood as God’s word teaching. However, the approach by the Protestants lost much of its power as the influence of philosophical existentialism, Pentecostalism, encounter theology and the beginning of post-modernism. Today, most of the Christians are relying more on their own subjective experience as opposed to the objective scripture teachings (Taliaferro, Draper, & Quinn, 2010). The seventh day Adventists on the contrary have viewed themselves as the special prophetic movement of the end time who are raised up by God to maintain the Bible. They view the Bible to be the only standard of all the doctrines and as the basis of the Christian reforms. If it is true that Christian religions consist of the living experience with God as well remaining loyal to the scripture teachings, the question that arises is what roles do the scripture and experience play in the life of a Christian?

Scripture overrules experience

Many denominations in Christianity have over time replaced the scripture teachings with anti-biblical components of the modern culture. The attempt to reverse the process has made some people to overrule their personal experience with an emphasis on the scripture teachings. This means that the objective dimensions of religion can speak more loudly as opposed to the subjective one and thus obedience to any given rules body will overshadow a living relationship with Jesus Christ. The outcome which naturally comes out of this approach is maybe legalism or formalism. The cognitive scripture content has undoubtedly played a foundational role within the life of a Christian. As argued by Apostle Paul, for someone to believe in God, they ought to have an objective knowledge of God (Romans 10:13-15). This means that we ought to first know God before we believe in Him thus faith has content and an object. It can be said that as biblical doctrines are meaningful, true religion is more than just using intellectual convictions (Taliaferro, Draper, & Quinn, 2010).

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