Original Research - Special Collection: Theology and Nature

Beyond the quadrilateral: The place of nature in John Wesley’s epistemology of theology

Daniel J. Pratt Morris-Chapman
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 2 | a7643 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i2.7643 | © 2022 Daniel J. Pratt Morris-Chapman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 April 2022 | Published: 14 July 2022

About the author(s)

Daniel J. Pratt Morris-Chapman, Department of Ecumenical, Faculty of Theology, Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Rome, Italy; Department of Systematic and Historical Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Abstract

Many writers have sought to outline Wesley’s conception of how human beings obtain revelational knowledge. In this regard, the use of what has been dubbed the Wesleyan quadrilateral continues to remain widespread in both the academy and the pulpit. However, this presentation of Wesley’s thought has received severe criticism from the late William Abraham, philosopher of religion and Methodist commentator. He has proposed the creation of a new subdiscipline in epistemology for examining theology. This view has prompted a handful of attempts to extrapolate John Wesley’s epistemology of theology from his various writings. The present essay will contribute to this discussion by examining Wesley’s approach to these questions. In doing so, it explores mainly the function and place of nature in Wesley’s theological reflections. Drawing mainly upon Wesley’s A View of the Wisdom of God in Creation (1763), this essay shows that the natural world (read: creation) played an important, neglected role in Wesley’s epistemology of theology.

Contribution: This article contributes to a new subdiscipline in epistemology for examining theology by presenting a new perspective on John Wesley by exploring the role of nature in his thought. Offering an epistemological–theological interpretation of John Wesley, this article fits well within the scope of HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies, particularly this subsection.


Keywords

epistemology of theology; John Wesley; nature; natural philosophy; wesleyan quadrilateral; William Abraham

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