What's the majority consensus here about Alister Mcgrath?

Discussion in 'Defending the Faith' started by Reformedfellow, Feb 13, 2012.

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  1. jayce475

    jayce475 Puritan Board Freshman

    Attempts to figure out how much one can take away from fundamental doctrines so that a person can still be within the bounds of orthodoxy is seldom edifying and can at times be dangerous. Rather than spending my time figuring out and debating with others as to whether theistic evolutionists can still be considered true teachers and believers, I would much rather point away from the error and beseech those around me to believe in the Word of God as it is. The Bible says God created in 7 days, Adam and Eve were the first humans created by God, they fell and brought mankind along into death. The Bible says so, that settles it, I believe in it, and so should every child of God who claims to believe in the Holy Scriptures. Rather than deciding if these theologians are of the faith or not, why not pray for their eyes to be opened to embrace the plain truths of Scriptures regarding the doctrine of creation? As for whether they ought to be recommended reading, babes in Christ certainly ought to be properly guided if they do read books by these authors, lest they be greatly stumbled.
  2. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    Sounds as if many here are saying that Keller, McGrath, et al, are 'short bussers' in their understanding of creation, or perhaps that we are on the AP bus and they're not. If that is the case, why would we want to 'weed through' what they have to teach? If they are so handicapped that they are unable to grasp as straightforward a teaching as ex nihilo creation in six days as scripture plainly declares, what else could they teach that wouldn't be suspect? I would say that reasoning is very generous on one hand and arrogant on the other, in that neither Keller nor McGrath impress me as 'short bus' types - they are both smarter than I am by many levels of magnitude. I used to really like Doug Wilson books. He tiptoed over the edge and fell into the gross error (heresy?) of federal vision. I don't read his books anymore, nor do I recommend them to others. Looking back, I can see the threads of his impending error even in his early writings, and to be honest, they had a detrimental effect on me - some years of wrestling with paedo-communion, etc. Why would I want to foist that on anyone else? On two occasions Paul stated in scripture that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. One had to do with acquiescing to gross open sin in a congregation, and the other addressed the danger of errant teaching. Denying the historical veracity of scripture in regards to creation could fall under both of those categories.

    A difficult part of accepting God's sovereignty in all matters is having to face the reality that some folks we love (family or otherwise), some that are attractive, some that are eloquent, and some we just like, are simply not what we hoped or thought they were in relation to the truth. Playing peekaboo with their error by 'ignoring the bad parts' is not sound, not safe, and not wise. A little leaven really does leaven the whole lump. God was not just joshin' when He inerrantly inspired that warning.

    When a man finds it necessary to conform scripture to incorporate a myth generated by the minds of unbelieving men (and in reality generated for the express purpose of denying God), he has stepped over a line that calls into question all that he has to say on that scripture.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2012
  3. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    Going back to the discussion of McGrath: if I am not mistaken, his background is in biology. I believe he had an advanced degree (and perhaps had done advanced work) in the field of biology prior to his conversion to Christianity. That is not to give him a free pass, only to say that he brought in many presuppositions when he became a Christian, not all of which were necessarily good. When I was a new Christian, I thought I could find Christian references to God in Pink Floyd songs. That was naive and stupid, but that is what our unbiblical presuppositions do to us.

    McGrath is also not Reformed, though I've read some things from him that seem cozy to some Reformed thinking on soteriology (e.g., his helpful analysis on the origin of "free will" language in the Early Christian Fathers). He has written some helpful things. His answering of the awful work of Richard Dawkins (Dawkins will actually converse with him on occasion, as they both are employed by Oxford) has been quite good. He had written some helpful things in the field of historical theology that I have benefited from. His work in apologetics is from a more classical approach, but there are valuable things there in as well.

    No one on this side of glory is going to be perfect in his theology. I agree that his view on creation does give one pause, and that is why one would need to be cautious if this was the subject matter in question. But there are other things one can benefit from in reading McGrath.
  4. GulfCoast Presbyterian

    GulfCoast Presbyterian Puritan Board Junior

    Although I consider myself a young earth guy, I worry about throwing out the baby with the bathwater. For instance, Luther and Calvin cited Augustine frequently in the development of Reformed theology, and based upon this thread we would have to "no go" Augustine's writings on election and salvation by grace based on the inclusion of Augustine of the Apochrypha, the sacrifice of the mass, baptismal regeneration, authoritative tradition, purgatory.....I could keep going.

    I think the original question of "where do you draw the line" has become "The Berlin Wall of Young Earth Creationism" in this thread. I know many dear saints who are "old earth" creationists. I will not hesitate to seek their opinions on other issues, and sift for myself. I don't think for a minute that makes me "non-Reformed." You can't respond (credibly) to a position with which you disagree without some study of that position, or else all you do is roast strawmen (see, e.g., the Caners). It seems to me with all charity, that "study to show thyself approved" does not mean "ONLY study those folks in lock step with your personal theology statement." I would draw the line "around" theistic evolution if I recomended, say Keller, to someone, and let them be edified by the rest.

    Last edited: Feb 14, 2012
  5. Unoriginalname

    Unoriginalname Puritan Board Junior

    That amuses me.
  6. Sviata Nich

    Sviata Nich Puritan Board Freshman

    History is not a progressive line. We may have more information at our disposal, yes, but the human condition has not changed. If by "accommodate" you mean embracing the differences in thinking we have with others, then no, of course not - I agree with you. Why would anyone embrace an idea they disagree with? But, one can say I disagree with this, but I still love you, and we agree on many other crucial things, so I will not exclude you.

    These men are not old liberals in any sense of the word, nor are they the shallow relativistic, over-contextualized emergent's. I don't understand how someone who holds to God's transcendence and immanence, His triune nature, His incarnation, death, resurrection, His sovereignty and providence, scriptures authority etc...can be labeled as not understanding fundamental doctrines.

    I am not aware of any passage of scripture or confession which relates ones faithfulness and Godliness to their belief or disbelief in a six day creation. I thought those were qualities measured by how one loves God, and how one loves their neighbour.
  7. Zach

    Zach Puritan Board Junior

    Brother, I think you are throwing around the "H-word" too lightly and without grace and love for the people you are labeling. There is a difference between error and heresy. I am often guilty of violating the ninth commandment when talking about those who I disagree with, but I think it is important to remember that we are to promote our neighbor's good name.

    Q. 77. What is required in the ninth commandment?
    A. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor's good name, especially in witness-bearing.
  8. Rufus

    Rufus Puritan Board Junior

    He has D.Phil in molecular biophysics, as well as a doctorate in Divinity.
  9. gordo

    gordo Puritan Board Freshman

    Excellent post Kieth!
  10. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    I've always believed that theistic evolution, of whatever stripe, is the liberal theologian's doctrine of creation.

    Alister McGrath may have lots of good things to say but he's way off base on his doctrine of creation, including the creation of Man. I would warn people of that where the subject of McGrath arose.

    The same goes for others like e.g. John Stott. It needs to be pointed out to people who're studying, reading, or may be using his books, that he was way off base on the fundamental doctrine of Hell.

    In many ways these guys are more dangerous than the old-fashioned liberals. The liberals were over there, and the evangelicals were over here and never the twain did meet. Post-war, things have become progressively more confusing for the undescerning evangelical believer, to put it mildly.

    I think you need to make a distinction in these debates between the subject of whether or not someone seems to be a believer or not, and whether we should criticise, commend or warn about their doctrine.

    A true believer can be so confused or plain sinful, that like Thomas, he doubts the resurrection of our Lord. Or he can be so wrong as to embrace Darwinism or annihilationism. That does not mean that we want his false-teaching to be increasingly disseminated, propagated and accepted.

    The fact that these men are such good teachers in other ways, makes their doctrinal bloopers more acceptable to a wider evangelical and Reformed audience than if they were out-and-out Liberals.

    Neo-Orthodoxy/Barthianism had a similar attraction to many evangelical and Reformed men.
  11. John Bunyan

    John Bunyan Puritan Board Freshman

    Some people here use the word "heretic" to often to refer to a very broad range of theological differences.

    Heresy is to deny one of the basic doctrines of christianity: the substitionary atonement, the incarnation, the hypostatic union, the trinity, divine justice, God's existence and properties, the messianichood of Christ and his two natures, Christ's particularism, the sufficiency of God's revelation.
  12. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    And the boundary markers get moved a little more.

    I'm sure glad that I don't have to attend cocktail parties with the cognizant elite who would scoff at the idea that any being could create the universe in a mere 6 days. Methinks fear of that kind of ridicule is a catalyst for this kind of balderdash.
  13. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    I'm going to jump in here with some thoughts:

    I won't recommend McGrath unreservedly, but I do think he has a lot of good things to say. This man is one of the leading scholars on the reformation, in addition to his excellent arguments against naturalism and his defence of doctrine (which I am making use of to some extent in a thesis at the moment). He's an excellent scholar and one of the best defenders of historic orthodoxy on many points, and that's nothing to be sneezed at.

    I also think that one has to extend charity to folks and remember context. McGrath is a British evangelical, which is at once often closer to confessional reformed theology on matters of doctrine than American evangelicalism and further from it on matters of Biblical interpretation and authority. How many current British evangelicals actually hold to 6-day creation?

    Here's the deal: I never recommend anyone without reservation. I recommend C.S. Lewis to people, but does that mean that I agree with his doctrines of creation, his leanings toward Boethianism, or his inclusivist tendencies? No. Just because you wouldn't let someone teach Sunday school at your church doesn't mean you should write them off completely or fail to recognize their real contributions. To do this is an injustice to them and (I think) a violation of the 9th commandment.

    Also remember that within reformed thought there is a spectrum of views on what "6-day creation" means. The PCA doesn't (officially) permit theistic evolution, but good reformed men may have Biblical reservations about holding to literal 6-day view on creation.

    If I recommend Thomas Aquinas as giving a good account of Divine Simplicity or analogy in theology, does this mean that I am recommending Catholicism? I don't think so.
  14. gordo

    gordo Puritan Board Freshman

    Good post Philip.

    I have always found creation/evolution debates to be one of the most detrimental arguments a Christian can get into with both other Christians and when witnessing to non-believers.

    As this thread has shown a bit, I have seen Christians who normally would agree on everything about the wonderfulness of God, break each other down over differing opinions on creation. I have also seen witnessing go horribly wrong when the un-believer asks about evolution and the Christian witnessing speaks of the 6 days of creation like it is a essential piece of saving faith, which completely takes the focus off the wonder and beauty of the Gospel. It is tough to watch Christian unity and evangelism break down over this endless debate.
  15. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Junior

    If the foundations be destroyed

    This thread has really surprised me. The fact is, if any theologian had denied that Adam and Eve were real historical figures in any other age of the church, they would have been regarded as an out-in-out heretic.

    And to be clear as it relates to the opening post, in the interview in question, he is asked point blank:

    He doesn't even attempt to qualify these answers with further comment!

    And I might add that the expression on his face when he affirms evolution appears to be one of delight. This exchange, as well as the others posted in this thread, does more than put him beyond the bound of Reformed confessionalism, this puts him in the arena of very serious error and even heresy.

    So, in response to Reformedfellow's opening post: Yes, I would agree with you. This man espouses heresy (1) in his denial of the biblical account of creation; (2) in his denial of the historicity of Adam and Eve; and (3) in his affirmation of the scientific theory of evolution.
  16. Unoriginalname

    Unoriginalname Puritan Board Junior

    Colin that seems like a bit of an acusation. I am quite sure most of continue to post because of your repeated refusal to properly represent mcgrath's views as well as repeated assault on the characters of posters on this board.

    Also contrary to what you said to Zach you did catergorize AM as a heretic when you grouped him with Joseph Smith in an earlier post
  17. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    I didn't see where anyone in this thread disagreed with you on McGrath's view. I don't know of anyone on this board who would subscribe to theistic evolution. All the posters in this thread have labeled it as unconfessional and unscriptural, disagreeing with McGrath on this topic. What is it exactly you are wanting to happen?
  18. Unoriginalname

    Unoriginalname Puritan Board Junior

    That is not what is happening. We are just trying to make the distinction between potentially endorsing a book by someone and saying that everything they say is ok. I have books by Lutherans who believe in baptismal regeneration and Christ's physical presence at the supper yet it does not negate the fact they are good books. If you have a scruple endorsing a book that is fine but to accuse the author of being equatable to Joseph smith and accusing people who disagree with you to be weak is uncalled for.
  19. Andres

    Andres Puritan Board Doctor

    I'm with Eric. I don't read of anyone in this thread who just shrugged their shoulders at McGrath's theistic evolution. As I already mentioned, every poster condemned McGrath's view. So, again I ask, what are you surpised/disappointed about?
  20. Unoriginalname

    Unoriginalname Puritan Board Junior

    Joseph Smith denies the gospel and promotes a false religion which is nothing close to what you could accuse McGrath to doing, so if that was your point, your hyperinflated rhetoric hid it.
    Did you ever type the words are weak, no but you implied multple times that anyone who disagreed with you is weak on doctrine or choosing men over God:

    Last edited: Feb 15, 2012
  21. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    Is theistic evolution erroneous? I believe so. The fact that evolution was primarily espoused by those who rejected Christianity and the Bible doesn't help it's case any.

    Is it damning heresy. No.... but I believe it can create a slippery slope toward undermining the Scriptures.
  22. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Colin, why do I get the impression that you are taking constructive criticism as personal attack?

    Well, sounds like I need to chuck pretty much all my theology written before 1517.

    I don't think it's okay, I think it's wrong. But it doesn't mean that I think their work in other areas is completely useless or that I cannot recommend someone like McGrath on, say, Luther's view of the atonement vs. Calvin's.

    Again, I think here you need to be charitable: McGrath's context as an evangelical British Anglican is such that I would be more surprised to learn that he actually was a six-day creationist as opposed to holding to evolutionary theory. He's considered almost a Biblicist over there because he actually defends Scriptural teaching on a number of other issues. In terms of British evangelicalism, he's as conservative as it gets.

    Again, I wouldn't allow him to teach Sunday school, but I'm not going to throw him out completely because of that.
  23. Zach

    Zach Puritan Board Junior

    Colin, as Andrew has pointed out, nobody is excusing McGrath. What I am saying is that God is gracious in that he often does not allow for our theological errors to be brought to their logical conclusions. I agree, theistic evolution is a slippery slope that can quickly result in rejecting a historical Adam and ultimately rejecting Christ as the true Second Adam. But, God does not allow everyone to fall down that slippery slope. Is it error? Yes. Is it unconfessional? Yes. Is it heretical? No. As Ruben pointed out earlier in this thread, we all attack the Biblical doctrine of God with our sin. Praise the Lord that we do not need to have perfect theology to be saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ!
  24. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    It's liberal theology with respect to the doctrine of creation. McGrath, like many evangelicals is trying to combine liberal and evangelical theology, which is bad for him and bad for those who think they can follow his example, because, after all, he's McGrath.
  25. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Junior

    But as has been pointed out, he flat-out denies that Adam and Eve were real people. The implications of such a false teaching are enormous for one's doctrine of man and sin.

    The Gospel is dependant on a literal, historical Adam. I don't believe I'm overstating the enormity of his error.
  26. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Systematically, yes. If you believe that there was no such historical person as Adam, then if you were consistent, you would not believe the Gospel. Thankfully McGrath is not consistent and we can be praying that he becomes more consistent in allowing the Scriptures to show him how theologically important the historical Adam is.

    Also, I should point out that it is my doctrine of sin and Christ's atoning work that leads me to believe in an historical Adam, not the other way around. The historical Adam is a logical implication, not a logical foundation (at least from my perspective).
  27. Zach

    Zach Puritan Board Junior

    Does McGrath reject a historical Adam? I am really not that familiar with McGrath but I was operating under the assumption that he was like Tim Keller who believes in theistic evolution but still maintains an historical Adam. I agree that an historical Adam is fundamental for understanding sin and the gospel. But, I agree with Philip that it is my understanding of Christ and his work that points to an historic Adam.
  28. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Genesis points to an historical Adam too. E.g. Moses gives the location of the Garden of Eden.

    Keller's view is a compromise too far with liberalism, too. In the Gospel of Luke, Adam is called the Son of God. Keller is presumably holding to the ridiculous position that Adam was born to non-human parents.
  29. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Junior

    I would direct you to the videos in post #34. There is where he denies the historicity of Adam and eve.

    And as to the question of whether your doctrine of Christ informs your thinking on Adam or vice versa, is irrelevant. So challenging my statement that 'the Gospel is dependant on a literal, historical Adam' strikes me as nitpicking semantics. The point was: it's an essential element of the Gospel.
  30. chuckd

    chuckd Puritan Board Sophomore

    Many scientific theories are espoused by those who reject Christianity, but they shouldn't be rejected based on that alone. I think something needs to be said here...ever since the Enlightenment or even a little prior (maybe Descartes), science and/or reason has been pitted against faith unfairly. Granted, it likely happen outside of Christianity by those who wanted to expel faith and the Church's hold from scientific discovery, but we have to remember that many scientific discoveries happened as a result of faithful Christians.

    As a result of science and faith being torn apart, I think anything "new" in the realm of science is seen as from Satan. I'm not advocating the original ancestor theory (I personally think it's ridiculous), but based on fossils, carbon dating, and other things, I would at least like to consider that Augustine (who by the way is completely immune to any of this considering he predated this conversation about evolution by 1600 years) was on to something when he commented that Genesis 1 should be interpreted FIGURATIVELY. And that the earth is a little older than 6,000 years.

    Another thing, we need to define "evolution." Lumping every and all theories that touch evolution into one lump is unfair, in my opinion. There's microevolution (birds beaks changing) and the original ancestor theory (we all came from a single celled organism)...and then everything in between.
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