Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Reading the Bible in Light of Scot McKnight’s Blue Parakeets

By Roy Ciampa, PhD
Associate Professor of New Testament

If you read Christian blogs you are probably already familiar with Scot McKnight’s popular and insightful blog, Jesus Creed. I don’t always read blogs, (Christian or otherwise), but when I do, I prefer Jesus Creed… That is, whenever I go there I find good, sane wisdom. Scot McKnight’s writing is always worth your time. I just came back from a week’s vacation. I brought three books along with me and although I spent some time with the other two books the one book I read straight through (years after everyone else already read it, probably including you) was Scot McKnight’s The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008).
I think it is a wonderful and even very important and easy book on the interpretation of Scripture. It is an easy read and is not the kind of book that is likely to persuade anyone who is already committed to a different way of reading the Bible, but for those who are not already committed to a different way of reading the Bible, who are looking for some initial guidance and/or are willing to let Scot serve as their insightful guide, this will be a very helpful book. (Scot teaches undergraduate students at North Park University and this book is filled with material reflecting that context and clearly would be very useful for students in a context like that, as well as for many other kinds of readers.) The book discusses the tendency to read the Bible as a law book or a rule book or to treat it like a puzzle, and argues for the need to understand it as God’s story in which God spoke to (and through) different people in their days and their ways.
“Blue parakeets” (a reference explained through an observation of bird behaviors at a birdfeeder in the McKnight’s yard) are texts in the Bible or questions that people ask about them that cause us to stop and think again about our understanding of Scripture and how we use it today (see pages 24-25). Scot asks us to face up to the fact that readers pick and choose (or adopt and adapt) which texts we will obey and apply (and he provides plenty of evidence that that is indeed the case) and he seeks to uncover the unwritten and unconscious process of discernment that would explain how we go about that process of picking and choosing so that we can think more clearly about what we are doing and why. Along the way the book emphasizes a number of themes that have become dear to my own heart (and which I have addressed in some of my earlier posts here), including, among other things, Augustine’s promotion of a hermeneutic of love. He also emphasizes the importance of learning to read the Bible with the Great Tradition (but not through the Great Tradition).
I am slightly uncomfortable with some of the language used here and there (like “Is this passage for today or not?”; page 25), but Scot clarifies (I think) that it isn’t ultimately about some passages being for today or not but about whether they are to be applied/obeyed/practiced today and in our culture (or in other times and cultures) in the same way as would have been expected for the original audience or if they may serve as “blue parakeets” that can lead us to stop and think and point us to something beyond the original context and inform our understanding and behavior in different ways that are also informed by the rest of Scripture and our ever-developing understanding of creation and culture. (Scot would compare and contrast “our days and ways” with “those days and ways.”)

No comments:

Post a Comment