Over at Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight has been going through John Stackhouse's book, Making the Best of It: Following Christ in the Real World. In this book Stackhouse talks about how Christians think through issues: Scripture, tradition, reason and experience. In the end, Christians sometimes come to different conclusions on how best to address a problem of society or who to vote for, etc. This is inevitable as we all vary with reference to all four entities. I need to add to this that the prerequisite to Stackhouse is the commitment to follow Jesus in discipleship.
Scripture involves interpretation, and though we have the Spirit to guide us, why is it that we Christians do have different interpretations and think differently on how to tackle the problems of this world? I think it involves in part the nature of our existence here. We know only in part and we see through a glass darkly. This makes us more dependent on God, and it should make us more humble about what we think with reference to everything, while not watering down at all our commitment to the Triune God and to the faith once for all entrusted to us, God's people in Jesus.
The realism Stackhouse seems to be advocating (I haven't read the book) is in light of the idealism we find in Scripture, but an idealism that does not deny the existence we live in here. So that God's will worked out in us in Jesus does involve experience, but an experience that is always being brought back to the touchstone of Scripture and then to our church tradition and various church traditions, as well as to the tradition of the Church at large. Then to our reason, and finally back to our experience.
We live out God's will mediated to us in Christ and from Scripture in a real world together as God's people with the gift of our reason. But oftentimes we're better off to acknowledge that we simply don't know what the best course is in a given situation. And in prayer along with fellowship with other Christians, we seek to make the best decision we can, and keep learning. All four of these are important, and probably in that order: Scripture certainly first always having priority- then tradition, reason and experience.
This is not a denial that Scripture is our basis for faith and practice. But how that is worked out, I believe, is through the church as best we understand it in real life. With an ever ready desire to change where need be and keep growing in our understanding of God's will, and in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
What do you think about factoring in, along with Scripture: tradition, reason and experience?