Regular readers of Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog will know that McKnight is an avid birdwatcher. One day, while watching the birds in his backyard, he eyed a unique blue colored bird in the bushes. Wondering about the species of this unique visitor he observed it for a while. Alas, it was just someone’s escaped blue parakeet.
Yet what became particularly interesting to McKnight was the response of the other birds to this strange visitor. The sparrows were terrified. Movement by the parakeet would scatter the sparrows into panicked frenzy. But after awhile (the bird was around for a month) the other birds began to become more accustomed to the blue parakeet, joining it at the feeder. McKnight reports that he later saw it on the neighbor’s roof with thirty other birds gathered around it. The other birds did not attempt to become like the blue parakeet nor did they seek to make the parakeet conform to their behavior. The parakeet would occasionally startle the other birds with his unexpected behavior but they became accustomed to his presence.
So what does the blue parakeet have to do with reading the Bible? Growing up in his Baptist setting, McKnight frequently heard the phrase, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” The problem was that blue parakeets kept appearing. There are a host of instructions given in the Bible we do not follow in the sense New Testament Christians followed them. There are other instructions we ignore altogether. How to make sense of biblical instruction and apply it to our lives? McKnight writes:
When we see how we actually live, we have two choices: either to become radical biblical literalists and apply everything (and I mean everything), or to admit that we are “pickers and choosers.” Since the evidence reveals that were are all adopters and adapters, we need to admit it and then seek to explain ourselves. That is what this book attempts to do. I hope others will join the conversation. (123)
Blue parakeets keep appearing that unsettle simplistic formulaic interpretations. Blue parakeets come in the from of questions about about divorce and remarriage, circumcision, “The style of Christian women,” Sun-centered or Earth-Centered cosmology, the death penalty, and speaking in tongues. Thus the name of his latest book The Blue Pararkeet: Rethinking How You read the Bible.
The thrust of the book is to rediscover a narrative approach to reading scripture. McKnight identifies a number of pitfalls we regularly encounter when we fail to appreciate that the Bible is ultimately testimony to the God’s unfolding story in the world. McKnight sees oneness and otherness as central to the plot of the biblical narrative. Here are five "episodes," if you will:
- Creating Eikons (Genesis 1-2) - Oneness
- Cracked Ekions (Genesis 3-11) - Otherness
- Covenant Community (Genesis 12 - Malachhi) Otherness expands
- Christ , the Perfect Eikon, redeems (Matthew - Revelation 20) - One in Christ
- Consummation (Rev 21-22) - Perfectly one (p. 67)
McKnight spends the first three quarters of the book making his case for how we might rethink reading the Bible. I won’t unpack all of that for you here. (Buy the book.) He devotes the last quarter of the book to applying this perspective to the issue of women in church ministries. The book is written in McKnight’s characteristically engaging style and is accessible to a wide audience. It strikes me that this book would make a great topic for a Sunday school class or a study group. It is a concise introduction to narrative theology and ethics for those who may have been intimidated by more academic works on the topic. I highly recommend it.