Activity time: 25 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Leader Resource 3, Sources Visuals
- Newsprint, markers and tape
- Participants' journals
- Pens or pencils
Preparation for Activity
- Replicate Leader Resource 3, Sources Visuals, on two sheets of newsprint. Post them with the first sheet taped over the second until the activity outline indicates that you should move it.
Description of Activity
This activity explores how to use reason when approaching religious and theological issues.
Explain that when using reason to reach conclusions or make decisions, one draws (consciously or unconsciously) from various sources of knowledge.
Draw the group's attention to the sheet of newsprint with Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience listed on it. Tell the group that these are the four sources and lenses through which to interpret truth according to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Albert Outler, who did research on Wesley in the 1960s, named these the "Wesleyan Quadrilateral." For Wesley, Scripture or the Christian Bible was the sole source of truth. Tradition was a lens through which to view the Bible, Reason was the way to evaluate and interpret Tradition, and Experience was the way to apply and test truths in practice. Wesley believed that none of these sources could be used independently, but instead must be used together with Scripture as the primary authority.
Remove the top sheet of newsprint and move it to the side so that the group can see the second sheet with Reason, Experience, Tradition, and Scripture listed. Explain that Unitarian Universalists do not use the Wesleyan Quadrilateral for guidance in the same way that Wesley did. We are more likely to emphasize Reason and Experience, though all four can be found in our Sources. Point out that we do not share one scripture, but rather draw from many Sources. Draw the group's attention to the sheet of newsprint with Reason, Experience, Tradition, and Scripture listed next to the corresponding Sources. Ask for volunteers to read each source aloud.
Then ask the group: What other sources of knowledge do you draw from when reasoning? Write their responses on the second sheet of newsprint under the four already listed. Examples might include: science, family, friends, a minister, emotions, intuition, politics, and specific scriptures or writings.
Invite participants to take out their journals. Ask them to identify three of their most deeply held religious beliefs and to list them each on a separate page in their journals. After two minutes, ask them to apply the following three questions to their three beliefs. Give them 10 minutes to write.
- What was the process of developing this belief?
- What role, if any, did reason have in developing this belief?
- What other sources did you draw on to develop this belief?
After 10 minutes, conclude the journaling and tell the group that if they did not finish or want more time to work on this they can do so during the journal reflection time at the end of the workshop, or sometime after the workshop is over.
Close by saying that Unitarian Universalism is a non-creedal religion, meaning that we do not have a creedal statement from a higher authority telling us what to believe. Instead, we engage in a process that uses reason as a tool to develop our own beliefs and faith, and that we covenant to walk this journey together. Tell the group that they have just engaged in part of this lifelong journey.