Sunday, November 20, 2011

Timothy McGrew on the Internet and Scholarship

“One of the most disastrous illusions of the internet age is that an amateur plus Google is equivalent to a scholar. A search engine offers information, more or less relevant according to the skill of the searcher. But it does not sift that information; it does not sort fact from fancy, wheat from chaff. It does not explain which facts are relevant and which are beside the point. It does not weigh the merits of competing arguments and tell the user where the balance of evidence lies. A bright amateur armed with the internet may at best be better informed than he would otherwise have been, and he may occasionally catch a real scholar in a factual error. But it will not turn him into a scholar himself. There is no such thing as effortless erudition.”

– Dr. Timothy McGrew


  1. Chad November 20, 2011

    This is an outstanding quote!

  2. Craig November 21, 2011

    The good news is, the average person who reads the words on the page of his bible and believes them; does not try to correct them or spiritualize them, but believes them is better off than a great many "scholars".

  3. Nick November 21, 2011

    Craig. What do you mean by "spiritualize" them?

  4. Craig November 21, 2011

    One example, especially in the area where I live, in western Michigan, is spiritualizing the Nation Israel and replacing it with the church.

  5. defeatingdefeaters November 21, 2011

    Craig, and yet of course scholars can try to correct but then affirm the very biblical text they're scrutinizing, right? Or are you talking about something else: Perhaps you want us to employ the tired old hermenuetic, "it means what it says says what it means".. no bueno!

  6. Craig November 21, 2011

    Don't take me to mean I don't value scholarship. I learn much from scholars.I enjoy Richard Bauckham, N.T. Wright, Gary Habermas, and many others; even when I don't agree with them. But I don't need to be a scholar to "catch a scholar in a factual error" all I need is my bible. 2 Tim.3:16-17 Value scholarship but don't undervalue the average person who believes the Word which then works effectually in them. 1Thess. 2:13 I believe the Jesus Seminar was a group of "scholars".

  7. Craig November 21, 2011

    Defeating…, what does it mean if it doesn't mean what it says?

  8. Craig November 21, 2011

    Study, find scholars you trust, line them up with other scholars, but then line them up with scripture.

  9. Nick November 21, 2011

    Obviously, it's best to go with that literal hermeneutic. You know, the one where it talks about the nation of Assyria and is not spiritualized with Iran or where it talks about Babylon and is not spiritualized with "Iraq" or where it talks about Gog and is not spiritualized with "Russia."

    Or we could go with Paul said when he said all the promises in Christ are "Yes" and "Amen" and that they're fulfilled and we could find that those of us who see prophecy that way do so for sound reasons.

    After all, the Bible was not written in 21st century America in a way 21st century Americans could understand, but in 1st century Mediterranean civilization in a way 1st century Mediterraneans could understand.

  10. defeatingdefeaters November 21, 2011

    Craig, it means what the author intends it to mean. In the Psalms, the scripture describes God as having wings. Is God a bird?

  11. David August 29, 2013

    Great piece — it opens up the whole wider questions of how as Christians we relate/use/think about the net and digital culture more widely. I immensely enjoyed the little essay "Through Glass, Darkly" by Andy Bannister —