Three central doctrines of the Bible explain the reality of human existence:
creation > sin > redemption
God made a good universe in the beginning. That is creation. Adam and Eve disobeyed, alienating themselves and their descendents from God. That is sin. God provided the means to reconcile sinful man back to Himself. That is redemption.
These terms can be described in a directional metaphor:
the order of creation > the reversal > the reversal of the reversal
The order of creation is the time period prior to the Fall of Adam and Eve, namely, Genesis chapters 1-2. The reversal, or sin, appears in Genesis 3. It is a reversal in that it goes in the wrong direction, a movement away from God and his intentions. The reversal of the reversal, or redemption, is prophesied in Genesis 3:15. It is a change of direction, a move back toward God . The rest of the Bible, from Genesis 3:16 to Revelation 22:21, records the battle between sin and redemption, with the ultimate victory of redemption for those who place their trust in Messiah.
The doctrines of creation, sin and redemption provide the interpretive basis for the Bible and of all biblical faith. Rooted in Genesis 1-3, they are assumed throughout Scripture and as such transcend creed, denomination or labels like conservative and liberal. Even those who would dispute the inspiration of the Bible can not disagree with the Bible on its own terms. For example, Dr. Krister Stendahl, an internationally respected scholar and professor emeritus at Harvard Divinity School, rejects Scripture as reliable history and finds fault with many of its teachings. Nevertheless, he once summed up the message of the Bible in these words: "Creation and the repair of a broken creation." Or in other words, creation, sin and redemption.
Why is this important? Because the Bible on its own terms distinguishes between the goodness of creation, versus the pollution of creation caused by the introduction of human sin.
God, Life, Choice, Sex
Four subjects summarize the content of the order of creation. They can be described in a directional metaphor:
God > life > choice > sex
In the beginning God made the universe. He created all life, especially human life made in His image. He gave man and woman the power for moral and aesthetic choice; and finally in the order of creation He gave the vehicle for sex, which is heterosexual, faithful, monogamous marriage. In the covenant of marriage, husband and wife share in blessing their children by passing on the gifts of life, choice and sex.
Every topic in the universe is rooted in these four subjects and how their definitions relate to one another. Just as sin reverses the order of creation, so too sin reverses the four subjects. It becomes:
sex > choice > life >| God
And this is what we see throughout history, as people advocate beliefs and behaviors in opposition to biblical ethics. When the biblical paradigm is reversed by sin, definitions of sex and choice gain preeminence which in various ways lead to the forfeiture of life as an affront against God.
The ethical foundation of American democracy rests on the God > life > choice > sex paradigm. The Declaration of Independence appeals to these topics as the basis for unalienable rights, and the U.S. Constitution makes a similar appeal.
The Wesleyan Quadrilateral
The Wesleyan quadrilateral outlines the authority for a biblically-rooted faith:
Scripture > tradition > reason > experience
Scripture refers to the inspired and sufficient written word of God, the 66 canonical books of the Bible. Upon this foundation church traditions are adopted which agree with the biblical text, and those which are inconsistent are discarded. Next, reason is received as a gift intrinsic to the image of God. Finally, with Scripture, tradition and reason in place, human beings are prepared to experience the reality of God’s love.
Very often people base their lives on personal feelings, followed by an appeal to reason or tradition, perhaps concluding with bits of Scripture at the end. But this is a reversal of the Wesleyan quadrilateral. It becomes:
experience > reason > tradition > Scripture
The most egregious ideas and actions can be justified when the basis of authority is assumed to rest upon human experience. And as the Wesleyan quadrilateral is reversed, so too the God -> life -> choice -> sex paradigm. Sin multiplies and deepens the fracture of human lives.