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The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible Paperback – December 25, 2010
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From the Back Cover
Why Can't I Just Be a Christian?' Parakeets make delightful pets. We cage them or clip their wings to keep them where we want them. Scot McKnight contends that many, conservatives and liberals alike, attempt the same thing with the Bible. We all try to tame it. McKnight's The Blue Parakeet has emerged at the perfect time to cool the flames of a world on fire with contention and controversy. It calls Christians to a way to read the Bible that leads beyond old debates and denominational battles. It calls Christians to stop taming the Bible and to let it speak anew for a new generation. In his books The Jesus Creed and Embracing Grace, Scot McKnight established himself as one of America's finest Christian thinkers, an author to be reckoned with. In The Blue Parakeet, McKnight again touches the hearts and minds of today's Christians, this time challenging them to rethink how to read the Bible, not just to puzzle it together into some systematic theology but to see it as a Story that we're summoned to enter and to carry forward in our day. In his own inimitable style, McKnight sets traditional and liberal Christianity on its ear, leaving readers equipped, encouraged, and emboldened to be the people of faith they long to be.
About the Author
Scot McKnight (PhD, Nottingham) is the Julius R. Mantey Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. He is the author of more than fifty books, including the award-winning The Jesus Creed as well as The King Jesus Gospel, A Fellowship of Differents, One.Life, The Blue Parakeet, and Kingdom Conspiracy.
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It is easy to put yourself neatly in the box of those around you - evangelical, baptist, protestant, catholic, liberal, conservative - whatever it is. But when it comes down to it, the Bible was not written with our 21st century categories of thought in mind. McKnight does a great job at looking at culture and context when he highlights some examples of passages that some denominations or schools of thought either brush off, ignore, or twist.
But he doesn't say - "Here's a bible, go in a room by yourself and read it, and forget all of the church theology you've ever heard. He makes the argument that a person should read the bible WITH tradition so that you have a basis of commonly accepted theology and practice, but you still have the freedom to break away, or reform.
I highly recommend this book for the serious student of the bible, and one who has a decent foundation in reading scripture on their own.
I agree with McKnight that it is important to properly qualify our claims of "literal" application and obedience to Scripture; we are often more selective in this than we would care to admit. However, even some of McKnight's readings, especially of the rules related to modest clothing and hairstyles on women in II Timothy 2 reflect the very subjectivity that he is critiquing. (He reads these texts with no acknowledgement of how they have been read and understood within the Holiness and Mennonite strands of the Christian tradition.)
Most concerning of all to me though, was this statement on pg. 143 related to the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15: "Was the Jerusalem council messy? Yes, it was. Did they discern what to do for that time? Yes, they did. Was it permanent, for all time, for everyone, always, everywhere? No." I wonder if that means McKnight feels there will ever be a contemporary context in which Christians SHOULD become Jewish proselytes in order to be a part of the Church... I would hope not, but that statement seems to leave that as a logical possibility at least.
I think that illustrates both the importance and the challenge of addressing the "contextual" nature of Scriptural interpretation. There is a constant tension between discerning what is "universal" and what is "particular." And I couldn't agree with McKnight more that it is this interpretive tension that necessitates an active role of the Spirit in our reading of Scripture.
Finally, McKnight spends several chapters addressing the perennial issue of the role of women in church ministry as his kind of "test case" or "working example" of the kind of contextually-sensitive/discernment-oriented hermeneutic he is promoting. Though he doesn't break much new interpretive ground in his work on the so-called "silence passages" (1 Cor. 14:34; 2 Tim. 2:9-15), he does nicely pull together a coherent and compelling response to the traditional prohibition of women holding roles of spiritual and/or teaching authority within the church. (Having already been convinced of a strongly egalitarian view, McKnight only confirmed what I already thought.) Just this section alone might be worth the price of the book.
McKnight's book is really most valuable in that it is such an easy read. He keeps the tone conversational rather than didactic, and peppers the book with enough personal observations and stories to maintain the reader's attention. I think the book has value as a way to introduce some of the thornier questions of hermeneutics to beginners. There is much more than can (and must!) be said than what McKnight says here, but at the very least, he provides a book that helpfully frames some of the most important questions we as followers of Christ will ever have to answer.
The setup using the parakeet could have had a clearer tie-in with the concepts he discusses, but his application of the literary skills to the issue of women being in positions of leadership in a church is brilliant. I feel this particular issue has been one that has led to the wasting of a lot of wonderfully competent talent in Christian leadership, and is one that any woman who feels the slightest compulsion by God to enter that realm should read.
He clearly doesn't just teach but believes what he is saying and has spent a great part of his career trying to better understand the Bible, its purpose, its range, its language, interpretation, and application. You need not be a theologian to read it but I think even a theologian could appreciate the ideas presented and the manner in which they are presented. Really good for lay theologians or theologian wannabes.
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