One of my pet peeves is popping up all over the place with General Convention right around the corner: experience as a criterion for theology. Let’s be real clear on what this is and what this isn’t.
Some Anglicans talk about Hooker’s stool, suggesting that theological reflection is equal parts Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. This is a modern construct. Hooker placed Scripture first as read through Tradition as aided by Reason.
Others talk about Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience. This was labelled the Wesleyan Quadralateral at the Methodist seminary where I did my MDiv. To the best of my understanding–and I skipped all the Theology of Wesley classes–this too is a modern construct approximating something vaguely Wesleyan. My sense of what Wesley meant when he said “experience” is not individual experience but the Church’s collective experience of the Holy Spirit. Again, I’m not enough of a Wesleyan to know what scope of “Church” he meant–local, denominational body, global-in-this-age or the Church as the collected Body of Christ throughout all ages.
Why the distinction? Because if we’re gonna split hairs about stuff, let’s be precise in how we go about it. You cannot invoke Reason–or, actually, Scripture or Tradition–without personal experience being an aspect of it. How we think, perceive, and comprehend is all conditioned by our experience. Whatever we know of Scripture and Tradition is filtered through our experience of it, of the world, and of what we have experienced others teaching us. Furthermore, our knowledge and understanding of Scripture and Tradition is conditioned by Reason.
So let’s just lose the claim that Experience and Reason are being used by one side in this dispute and not the other, shall we? What it is perfectly fair to argue about is the place of Reason and its admixture of personal experience and of Experience especially on the local church and denominational levels.
That clarification having been made, you may return to your regularly scheduled feuds.