Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Man to Man - The Wesley Quadrilateral and my favorite movie


As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.  Proverbs 27:17

I have been invited to present a lesson based on my favorite movie, Fiddler on the Roof (see earlier article), to my Sunday School class. 

It seems to me that there’s too much material to be able to present in one class time, so I’ll have to be selective in what I choose to cover.  However, in preparation for that class, I have been going through the movie, sequence by sequence, to decide which “lessons” to glean. 

In doing this preparation, I discovered that John Wesley and Tevia, the main character in the movie, had something in common - the “Wesley Quadrilateral”  (read more about Wesley Quadrilateral here)


One of the most familiar songs from the movie is, “Tradition,” which is also one of the four legs of Wesley’s Quadrilateral.  In the movie, tradition formed the foundation which allowed the fiddler to “scratch out his melody (life) without falling and breaking his neck.” 

With this connection in mind, I started looking at the rest of the movie. 

Tevia, throughout the movie, is constantly “quoting scripture” to help explain the current circumstances. Like a good Methodist, he doesn’t always get it right, but he knows “it says something like that, somewhere in the Bible.”  So, scripture, the first principle of Wesley’s Quadrilateral is a guiding principle in his approach to life. Then, when trying to understand what’s happening in his life, he also reasons with himself as he says, “..but on the other hand…, and on the other hand….”  And, finally, he examines the experience; “…but look at my daughter’s eyes…” He takes a realistic look at what is happening.

I see Tevia using Wesley’s Quadrilateral to help him get through, cope with, understand, life’s changing and challenging circumstances. And, I’m sure the writers did not have this in mind, at all, as they were writing the script. But, if an 18th century Russian Jew experiencing a revolution found scripture, tradition, reason, and experience a firm basis for dealing with life’s circumstances, what does that say to us about dealing with the rapidly changing and challenging circumstances of our lives? 

Of course, you can say, “It’s only a movie,” but…..? 

Would you please take time to share your thoughts regarding the movie, the “Quadrilateral,” or my comments. Visit our Facebook to post your thoughts.


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