As the summer deepens, sometimes we fall away from the routines of an “academic year.” Even if we aren’t in school ourselves, there’s a cadence to the Autumn, Winter, Spring cycle in our western lives. Church, school, work, certain sports, tv schedules, even food, and more, all fall into a rhythm that loosens a bit for 2+ months each year as we plan for vacations, just taking things quieter or noisier as a break from all things “normal.”
So, what about faith? Busy days and nights in the regular schedule of life can easily have an impact on the time we give to it. For some of us it may get a bit thinner, and a little off-balance when we are not in the usual places at the regular times.
Here’s a thought to think on as the days and nights of summer encourage some time to ponder and wonder.
Imagine a three-legged stool.
Close your eyes and feel yourself sitting down on one. Ah, one leg is a little too long, and the others a little too short and the stool feels a bit rocky. Perhaps you or another try to shorten two in an effort to make it steady. Yet there’s always just a slight difference each time it’s tried and the legs never seem to sit quite equally on the floor as when they were first made, though our helper continues to attempt to even things up.
Episcopal/Anglican theology (essentially studying God/religious questions) is derived from the idea of a three-legged stool, also known as the three-fold way of balancing our three basic sources of authority which are Scripture, Tradition, and Reason.
A 16th century theologian named Richard Hooker, an Anglican priest, developed the three-fold sourcing as a way to keep us balanced in how we approach our faith, our practice, and, inasmuch as we are able, our understanding of God.
To Hooker, the Church was not/is not a “static” institution but rather “organic,” whose method of government can change according to circumstances. Our current understanding of this three-fold way is explained briefly by our National Episcopal Church thusly on their website www.episcopalchurch.org:
- Scripture is the normative source for God’s revelation and the source for all Christian teaching and reflection.
- Tradition passes down from generation to generation the church’s ongoing experience of God’s presence and activity.
- Reason is understood to include the human capacity to discern the truth in both rational and intuitive ways. It is not limited to logic as such. It takes into account and includes experience.
- Each of the three sources of authority must be perceived and interpreted in light of the other two.
There you have it, a very short course of theology to reflect upon about while enjoying cloud-watching, tide rolling, mountain-climbing, star-gazing, charcoal-heating, gas-grilling, or just sitting on a stool this summer. We are all theologians working on balancing God, Ideals, and Life to keep all legs equal and interactive. Let’s talk more about it in the Fall.
—Christina Brennan Lee
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Every week, Christina Brennan Lee writes the Prayers of the People we use in our worship services on Sundays. She also leads weekday prayer services. Click here to see her People’s Prayers website.
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