My last post was about John Wesley's acronym REST. This acronym illustrates the Christian's method of knowing things (epistemology). The acronym stands for reason, experience, Scripture, and tradition. Now I want to talk about which of these is most important. My answer may surprise some, but that's okay. Please hear me out.
I think that out of these four ways of knowing, reason is the most important. Why? Because reason is how we interpret all of the others.
Reason, in the way Wesley is looking at it, is basically the proper use of the mind to think through something and come to know it as true, or as false. It could basically be summed up as the use of the mind.
Some say experience is the most important. But we interpret experience by using our minds; by using reason. As far as tradition goes, we have to use reason to think through it as well. Some would say that Scripture is most important. In a way, yes it is - it's the most authoritative. It is always true. But we have to use reason to be able to understand the Bible.
Some of the reasoning we use is really basic stuff, but it's still reason, and it has to be working properly before we can understand the Bible. You can give a Bible to your dog all you want, but he's not going to do anything with it. Without reason, nothing can happen; there is no impact.
Scripture is the only one of these that is always true. It is straight from God, so it will be true in everything that is teaches. But unless we can think properly, we won't be able to understand the truth it proclaims.
I want to make it clear that I'm not saying that reason can make it on its own, the others are very important. And I'm not even saying that reason is ultimate. The Bible is ultimate. The Bible is our standard for truth. But we have to be able to use our minds to understand that truth. So reason turns out to be, functionally, the most important.
This is why reason is so vital for the Christian. We have to be able to think properly. We have to be able to interpret our experiences well, we have to be able to think through tradition, and we have to be able to understand the Bible.
Question to think about and discuss:
Which do you think is most important?