Take a look here:
Rhology is persuaded that there must be a source that can provide absolute certainty about a number of important matters. Some of us are not so persuaded. And so where does that leave us? It means that we'll inevitably be wrong about some things, and uncertain about some things - and that we'll inevitably feel certain about some things that it turns out we were wrong about.Let's take a few points out and see where they lead us.
The interesting thing is that this doesn't differ as much as might first seem to be the case from Rhology's own situation, in which, even if there is an inerrant text, the question of how one interprets it, which Scriptures one starts with when "interpreting Scripture in light of Scripture", as well as our own human propensity for self-delusion, means that even if we had such an absolute authoritative source, we would presumably nonetheless have significant disagreements. The variations among groups that claim to hold the Bible as inerrant or at least infallible provides evidence for this.
Anyway, to put it in a nutshell, those of us who are not persuaded that we have an inerrant text that speaks to us without interference on the part of the human authors, seek to do the best with what we have, using Scripture, tradition, reason, wise advice, scientific evidence, and any other source of information that seems relevant. And sometimes, even with the best of intentions and the best of data, we get things wrong.
I understand why this viewpoint can be so terrifying that some feel the need to flee it, denounce it, attack it and avoid it. And I think James Fowler's notion of "stages of faith" helps shed light on the psychological and emotional aspects of this topic, and why many of those who've been part of this conversation are unable to persuade one another that they are right.
After all I've just written, I'll end with this disclaimer: As far as what I've just written is concerned...I could be wrong. (emphasis original)
-It means that we'll inevitably be wrong about some things, and uncertain about some things
Translation - it means that Rhology and his ilk will be wrong about some things, particularly the things that they hold to be really important and that serve as defintional of their position, like inerrancy and the substitutionary atonement of Christ. We will also be wrong about some things, but not important or definitional things. So we could be wrong about how many carbon credits to assign to turning off one's lights for an additional hour per night or how much it is justifiable to charge for a John Dominic Crossan anthology at one's university bookstore. We are NOT wrong, however, about such things as the fact that Rhology and his ilk are wrong in at least some of their definitional doctrines. Nor are we wrong that we'll inevitably be wrong about some things and uncertain about some things. That is certain.
-and that we'll inevitably feel certain about some things that it turns out we were wrong about.
Will he extend the same grace to my ilk and me? Perhaps, perhaps not. I know many of his commenters would be less than willing to do so, but he's often been more conciliatory than they.
-the question of how one interprets (the Scripture)...as well as our own human propensity for self-delusion, means that even if we had such an absolute authoritative source, we would presumably nonetheless have significant disagreements. The variations among groups that claim to hold the Bible as inerrant or at least infallible provides evidence for this.
1) And what is Dr McGrath's argument that this is the fault of the Bible?
2) How does this matter on the question of inerrancy?
3) Dr McGrath conveniently forgets that the Bible predicts this very thing, that a believer will have to use his discernment and his knowledge of and relationship with God to discern between false and true teaching.
4) Further, we will see in a moment his source of spiritual epistemology, and it does far worse on this score of internal unity. What do I mean? This is the very same argument we use in disputes with Romanists and Eastern Orthodox, who claim that Sola Scriptura is a "blueprint for anarchy", while Sola Ecclesia, the living voice of the church as effectual authority over the Scripture, produces unity. Comparing apples to apples, however, we see that such is not the case.
Who actually believes in inerrancy, or Sola Scriptura? Many but not all Baptists, Assemblies of God, charismatics, Presbys, Lutherans, Church of Christ, a few Methodists, and I'm sure there are a few I've left out. Now, do we all agree on everything? Of course not. Are we all Trinitarians, though? United in our Christology? Our authority? Monotheists? Think baptism is an obligation for a believer? Necessity of Jesus' salvific work for salvation from sin? That the Holy Spirit is at work today in the world and the church? See what I'm getting at?
Now, let's compare McGrath's spiritual epistemology, namely:
"seek to do the best with what we have, using Scripture, tradition, reason, wise advice, scientific evidence, and any other source of information that seems relevant"
Hmm, who falls under this umbrella? Unitarian Universalists, Congregationalists, United Church of Christ, agnostics, some atheists, some Presbys, some Baptists, some Methodists, some Lutherans, New Age, Jehovah's Witnesses, some Roman Catholics, some Eastern Orthodox, Wiccans, Buddhists, Japanese Shinto-Buddhist agnostics (aka 98% of the population of Japan), etc.
In what beliefs are these folks united? Trinitarians? Um, no. Monotheists? No. Christology? What the heck is that? Authority? Baptism? Sin? God as personal?
An emphatic No to all of these.
So, exactly where does Dr McGrath get off advocating his ideas on this basis?
-those of us who are not persuaded that we have an inerrant text that speaks to us without interference on the part of the human authors, seek to do the best with what we have, using Scripture, tradition, reason, wise advice, scientific evidence, and any other source of information that seems relevant.
This is my favorite quote from his comment.
Now, let's focus a bit. We're trying to figure out a source for spiritual authority, to tell us what we SHOULD believe. I say it's the Bible. He says it's not b/c it's errant. So what does he want to put in its place? Let's take 'em one by one.
Errant, human Scripture. By which he no doubt means "the parts of Scripture that I baselessly believe are not errant". As I've asked many times before (in this very combox, even), how is the Scripture any guide or authority when YOU decide the subset of what is to be followed and believed among the set of all its contents? He has never attempted to answer that.
Even more errant, even more human tradition.
Whose tradition? Mine? His? Buddhist? Mormon? Branch Davidian? Moonie? Some obscene, bastard mix of many? Which elements, since they all contradict at numerous points? How is this at all useful to the seeker of actual truth?
Never mind the fact that Jesus commanded us to submit all human tradition to Scripture in Mark 7:1-13.
How precisely does reason tell us what we OUGHT to do? Is he unfamiliar with the famous Hume's guillotine, sometimes known as the naturalistic fallacy (which is related but apparently not the same)? How does reason tell us the OUGHT?
4) Wise advice.
See #2 and 3.
5) Scientific evidence.
Further, this is a significant category error. We're talking SPIRITUAL epistemology, in the metaphysical. How does science, which can only deal in the empirical, give us any significant information about the metaphysical?
6) Any other source of information that seems relevant.
This is why I said in an earlier post the following, which bears repeating here:
One of their fundamental problems is their backhanded ethnocentrism. You will no doubt swear up and down that it's actually those awful fundies who are racist, but wait a second. Our message, from the Bible, remains consistent. We call ALL people to repent and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, b/c ALL people are equally filthy and equally dead in their sins. You want this squishy "community" wherein people are able to "express themselves", but you only want some of that. You won't include the conservative Reformed person like me. You won't include the unrepentant jihadist or the Hindu church bomber, or the loner, or the repentant homosexual who is now happily married to a woman and has 4 kids and wants to help others to leave the homosexual lifestyle, or the sociopath, or the wife-beater. And you know what? There are an awful lot of people like that out there. They are sinners. We are sinners. We need a Savior. Our problem is not that we need community. Our problem is that we are sinful.
One of the points of that is that humans are wildly inconsistent and don't agree on much of anythg, but you naively make humans your yardstick. This boils down to nothing more than happy-happy subjective relativism, and it will fail you in the hard (or even moderately difficult) cases. Ground your morality in humans? What do you tell the guy who wants to murder you? You can't say it's morally wrong to do so! You might tell him it's wrong FOR YOU, but maybe it's perfectly right for him!