If you’ve read Scot McKnight’s blog Jesus Creed, you know that his work ranges far and wide but almost always centers on the meaning of Jesus in the context of living out our faith in the modern world. His books mirror this broad spectrum of application from drawing Mary back into Protestant life with The Real Mary to emphasizing the twin foci of love as the outcome of spiritual formation in The Jesus Creed. McKnight’s latest offering is an outstanding entry in his library, moving Christians to consider the way in which they read the Bible. The Blue Parakeet is not a hermeneutics text, it is a challenge to manner in which we hear the words of the text. Is it a collection of ‘thou musts’ linked together by vignettes of human history or a lengthy and far-reaching story of God and His relationship with creation? Scot helps us to discover our initial viewpoint and then leads the reader to discover alternatives that help us to apply the Scriptures to a modern culture that is much different from the setting of the stories we read.
Central to Scot’s ideas throughout the book is the question, how does God speak to people through the Bible? We can read the text in a fossilized state, forever locking words in their first century (or earlier) context while trying to apply them to a twenty-first century culture or, as McKnight asks us, we can consider a broader reading of the Bible as themes that are universally applicable in each proceeding culture. In doing so, we can easily see that God spoke Moses’ days in Moses’ ways, in Jesus’ days in Jesus’ ways, in Paul’s days in Paul’s ways, and given that pattern it is reasonable to hear God speaking to us in our days in our ways. The themes and concepts of the Scriptures were meant to carry God’s words throughout every era of history, continually applicable to an ever-changing culture.
Blue Parakeet weaves an interesting path that leads to the development of discernment in the application of the Bible to our modern lives. Ever the professor, McKnight puts the preceding chapters to the test in applying the ideas to the contentious issue of women in ministry, devoting five full chapters to the subject. This section of the book cements the value of this work as it transfers the ideas that he presents in the early chapters from the abstract to the concrete, demonstrating how they can be applied to an issue. Will this methodology ruffle some feathers (no pun)? Certainly, but by reading the Scriptures as story rather than Torah we find each generation and culture challenges those that came before it and God remaining consistent throughout.
The Blue Parakeet was not written specifically for an academic audience but seminaries would do well to consider including this book alongside their selected hermeneutics text and How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. As with all of Professor McKnight’s books, Parakeet is well written, organized and applicable. Like a well crafted sermon, each idea has appropriate illustrations and solid application for the reader to use in testing the viability of the proposition. Christian leaders and laypeople alike should spend time reading, discussing and applying this book.
I was privileged to receive an advance reader edition of this book prior to its release and I took a couple of weeks to read it slowly and savor the ideas in small sips. Scot McKnight has once again provided an invaluable contribution to the advancement of the Church and the faith and his style makes the book immediately accessible to every member of the Christian community. I am going to begin a series of posts on the book, looking at each chapter on its own now that it has been released. It dovetails perfectly with another ongoing series I have been doing on Foster’s book Life with God. Both McKnight and Foster emphasize reading to hear; listening to the scriptures for God’s voice and his unique address to each one of us. What Scot contributes to this discussion is the emphasis on God speaking to us in our ways. Our application should then take cultural context into consideration in every move we make. I’ll look forward to interacting with other readers of the book in the weeks ahead.