The Blue Parakeet
Book four for my Regenternship is a book cutely titled The Blue Parakeet. It's not about bird varieties, and it's not a cute children's book either. The Blue Parakeet exists as an avenue for Christians to question "How are we to live out the Bible today?"
"I believe we need to begin asking this question and "start splainin' ourselves." I believe there is an inner logic to our picking and choosing, but I believe we need to become aware of what it is. Until we do, we will be open to accusations oh hypocrisy. It's that simple, and it's that lethal. If you tell me you believe the Bible and seek to live out every bit of it, and if I can find one spot that you don't --- especially if that spot is sensitive or politically incorrect or offensive --- then we've all got a problem."
I vehemently agree the Church has problems, and the Bible has problems, or rather, we've got problems with the Bible, but before we get into that let me frame more of the book.
Author Scot McKnight begins to answer this question of living out the Bible by helping the reader frame how she or he may already be interpreting the Bible. The three most common ways people approach The Bible are "reading to retrieve," "reading through tradition," and "reading with tradition."
"God was on the move; God is on the move; and God will always be on the move" is how McKnight makes the case for "reading with tradition," the latter of the three most common methods of approaching the Bible.
This method is McKnight's preferred understanding of scripture, and he champions Bill Hybels and his church Willow Creek for leading the charge in this method of deep understanding and reverence for The Bible.
Two great quotes about this method:
"We need to go back to the Bible so we can move forward through the church and speak God's Word into our days in our ways."
"Renewal carries forward God's timeless and historic message in a timely and cultured way for our day. We know that what we discern for our day is timely but not timeless."
How we often get to these methods for understanding is shortcuts -- 5 common shortcuts are:
1) Morsels of Law -- "Law book readers become pompous, self-righteous, and accusatory. Sometime [they] become resentful that others haven't caught up to [their] level of holiness."
2) Morsels of Blessings and Promises -- "Dividing the Bible up into verses turns the Bible into morsels and leads us to read the Bible as a collection of divine morsels, sanctified morsels of truth."
3) Mirror and Inkblots -- "Reading the Bible as an inkblot is projecting onto the Bible our ideas and our desires."
4) Puzzling Together the Pieces to Map God's Mind -- "Once you've got the puzzle solved, you no longer have to work with the pieces."
5) Maestros -- "In this shortcut, Jesus is either ignored or overwhelmed by Paul's way of thinking.... Everything was either filtered [through] the book of Romans or Paul's theology."
I have been apart of a handful of churches in my life so I found that I related to a couple of these shortcuts, the same may be true for you, or you may only strongly connect to one. Irregardless these shortcuts wonderfully display how we often approach the Bible.
So, great. Now we have this information, what shall we do with it?
I'm not entirely sure.
After McKnight's formation of Biblical interpretations he enters into an explanation of how the Bible works. He sees the Bible as a collection of wiki-stories surrounding the "oneness," or "created Eikons," and "otherness," or "cracked Eikons" of humankind in their relationship to God the creator. The Bible is one huge mega meta story pointing to God, and oneness with God. Authors throughout the Bible are given freedom to write their mini wiki story within this plot. "Whether you turn to Exodus or Ezra, Malachi or Mark, or Acts or Hebrews, you must read each book as a variation of this story." The stories follow similar story arcs, oneness, otherness, repaired oneness. Rinse, repeat.
This cracked Eikons isn't a totally singular experience, nor is it an ancient experience. "This otherness problem is what the gospel 'fixes,' and the story of the Bible is the story of God's people struggling with otherness and searching for oneness....God's idea of redemption is community-shaped. Oneness cannot be achieved just between God and self; rather, oneness involves God."
This is exactly where we find ourselves now. We, modern Christians in a modern world, are struggling with otherness and searching for oneness with God. We are doing this by our struggle and wrestling with God's message and words to us. As a community of believers we are yearning for togetherness and oneness with God. Shalom with G-d.
I am afraid if I keep on writing a summary as I have been I will lose many lay readers of the Bible, this magnificent book given to us by our forefamily, and inspired by God's direction.
McKnight goes on to explore how we often latch ourselves onto a certain part of scripture, but are blissfully blind to other parts that contradict or muddy those beliefs.
If McKnight's goal was to set right all misinterpretations of scripture, or to explain away all poor interpretations he drastically missed the mark. Admittedly if that was his goal his book would've been lengthy and if correct, the first one of it's kind. The cover of the book claims "McKnight will leave us equipped, encouraged, and emboldened to become the person we long to be."
I highly object to that description. I enjoyed a good portion of this book, but do not believe it lived up to any of those claims.
Instead of equipping me I now feel a deep disparity between what I know and have been taught through tradition, and what a true and God-like Eikons viewing of the Bible would be. The Blue Parakeet did little to encourage me, if anything I am only encouraged to dig deeper into these questions I am left with. I do not even slightly feel emboldened, if anything I feel enraged. Not at McKnight, only at humankind's frustrating ability to break a nice thing. McKnight simply made me keenly away of this ability to crack our oneness with God.
In many cases I was frustrated by McKnight shedding light on an issue in which there are many interpretations only to leave the argument open ended as if to only suggest that we should understand that there are many discrepancies. McKnight did not seem to think a better, true, or more enlightened interpretation should be offered.
The only issue he deeply explored was that of women in ministry, which he did wonderfully, and, as a woman in ministry, I deeply loved it. I wanted more of it.
(I especially loved the chapter of women in the New Testament and have decided that should I ever have a daughter I will name her Junia.)
I am thankful that I have read this book, even if I feel frustrated with it. After reading it I think I will be taking on McKnight's own motto. "Let the Bible be the Bible."
I want to close with a somewhat long quote, but one I think sums up my experiences reading this book, how I will be leaving this book, as well as a great summary of McKnight's understanding of the Bible, and an invitation into a new way to read the Bible. If you get anything out of this post I hope it is that God is still at work and we are still called to listen to him. We are still called to serve and worship our creator God who is, was, and shall be at work forever.
"'Let the Bible be the Bible' is my motto, because teaching the Bible has taught me that the Bible will do its own work if we get out of the way and let it. Someone once said that the Bible needs no more defending that a lion, I agree. I have learned that when we take our hands off the pages of the Bible, read and listen to its words, and enter into its story by faith something happens. It renews and continues to renew it's powers....Perhaps listening to the Bible is like having the most powerful person in the world sit down with you for coffee as a friend and chat with you. Join me as we enter into the world of reading the Bible in such a way that comes to life for us, in such a way that it is renewing and ever renewing, in such as way that we learn how to live it out. Three words tell us how to read the Bible: Story, listening, and discerning. That's all we need to know. It's all in those three words."