I’d like to welcome Ryan Cordle as guest blogger today with this review of Scot McKnight’s new book. In addition to his recent graduation from Ohio Christian University and joining the faculty where I teach as an English teacher, Ryan is my son-in-law. He’s a fine writer and communicator. Hopefully, you’ll be reading him more in the future. Welcome Ryan.
Faithful readers of Michael Spencerâ€™s â€œdispatches from the post-evangelical wildernessâ€ will likely have read one of his finest essays, â€œA Conversation in Godâ€™s Kitchen.â€ In this essay, Michael lays out how he has learned to read the Bible as one great conversation in which human authors share unique literary contributions about God, and what he is doing with his creation. We can correctly identify the Biblical conversation as inspired, because Christ is present in the millennia-long dialogue, and ultimately the conversation is about him. It is not a â€œmagic book,â€ with answers to questions about pet grooming, basket weaving, and what kind of Halloween candy to give, but something profoundly more interesting, namely Jesus. In his new book, The Blue Parakeet, Scot McKnight (The Jesus Creed) argues that readers of the Bible should stop and listen to this compelling conversation, so that they can live out its story in their contexts.
The author is a master of translating thoughtful, sometimes dreadfully academic arguments into personal and enjoyable anecdotes and illustrations. Throughout this relatively short read (229 pages including the very helpful appendices), McKnight uses several metaphors to support his explorations of how one might become a faithful listener to the Biblical conversation. The central metaphor of the book is that of the blue parakeet. For McKnight a blue parakeet is a passage, or sometimes a person, that can be considered â€œodditiesâ€¦that we prefer to cage and silence rather than to permit into our sacred mental gardensâ€ (208). These are the passages that challenge our Bible reading, for, as McKnight loves to point out, no Christian has ever obeyed every command and suggestion of the Bible. Instead, depending on how one chooses to read the Bible, every reader picks and chooses which parts to consider as authoritative to the contemporary church. Reading the Bible as conversation then allows Christians to let the blue parakeets be blue parakeets, instead of trying to explain them away. How do Christians answer the â€œhard questionsâ€ of the Bible like the violence in Judges, or the impossible imperatives of Jesus? They donâ€™t.
McKnightâ€™s oft-repeated â€œâ€¦ â€œIn Paulâ€™s day God spoke in Paulâ€™s way, and in our day, God speaks in our way,â€ answers the â€œso what?â€ question of the hermeneutic. God may have had to get Israelâ€™s attention through violent action in Judges, but this doesnâ€™t mean that we are still supposed to mail body parts across country. Instead, we speak today in our own way. Itâ€™s all about how the Holy Spirit carries on the conversation to us today. As a lengthy case study, McKnight examines the role of women in the church and in ministry, asking, â€œWDWD- What Did Women Do?â€ He unashamedly concludes that women had an important role in the early churchâ€™s ministry, and should continue to do so today. The Pauline texts, which seem to exclude women from pastoral ministries, are essentially Paul having to speak in his own day in his own way. If the Spirit is today leading women to important ecclesiastical things, who are we to get in the way?
Unfortunately, the people who most need to read The Blue Parakeet will label McKnight as a liberal and move on. For self confessed post-evangelicals, McKnightâ€™s new book will be seen as a refreshing articulation of what we should be doing when we read the Bible. These same readers will undoubtedly hear undertones of Robert Webber when McKnight admonishes his readers to read Scripture â€œwith traditionâ€ instead of â€œthrough tradition.â€ In this way, the Church will read like the earliest Christians who listened to the conversation, and then sought to apply the conversation in their own day. In this way, McKnight offers an enjoyable and engaging approach to a good (post-evangelical) hermeneutic.