How do Episcopalians Find Truth?

For Episcopalians/Anglicans, truth can be found and belief rests on the principal of the three-legged stool. This concept was first introduced by the Anglican theologian Richard Hooker in the book Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie in 1594.

The three-legged stool consists of scripture, tradition, and reason. When seeking truth about any matter, Anglicans begin with the primacy of scripture. We say that scripture contains all things necessary for salvation but not everything in the Bible is necessary for salvation. Scripture needs to be interpreted in light of tradition and reason.

Tradition is the record of Christians throughout the centuries. And so our beliefs are informed by the historical record of the understandings and the misunderstandings that Christians have had about God.

Finally, we believe that part of the truth of God comes through reasoning. This includes the intuitive reasoning of the artist, the poet, and the musician. It also includes the factual reasoning of the scientist, the sociologist, the psychologist and the psychiatrist.

The hope of the Anglican Church is that whenever we are addressing an issue of importance, we keep these three legs of the stool, (scripture, tradition, and reason,) in balance. It's the Anglican way.

Comments (3)

  1. Rob eaton:
    Aug 14, 2015 at 02:51 AM

    Mother Lyn,
    I was checking in on one of my favorite people, Father Rob, and came across your article making note of Richard Hooker and the three legged stool. If I remember correctly, what you said in that 2nd paragraph introducing Scripture, tradition, and reason, is what Richard Hooker wrote. He was indeed making a Reformation argument regarding the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God, and primary source for Holy Spirit revelation. As part of the English Reformation he went on to note Holy Church's reliance upon Tradition and Reason to interpret that Scripture. I'm pretty sure, though, that Hooker himself never made reference to a three legged stool, since that illustration would have suggested Scripture was an equal source with tradition and reason in God's Word spoken. Western Catholicism based in Rome was already pointing to both Scripture and Tradition (the continued teaching of the Church after the establishment of the accepted New Testament books). So he was making the case for "scripture only" but making use of reason and the teaching office to help understand.
    I'm still not sure who was the first person to call it the 3 legged stool, and I have no doubt it was probably thought up by some pedagogical mastermind to assist their Anglican students!!


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