Blue Parakeet 2

Scot McKnight’s excellent book The Blue Parakeet next addresses the question of what the Bible is. His point is that the way in which we approach the Bible deeply affects the truth that we draw from it. This section on The Bible as Story begins with a reminder from scripture as to the way that God speaks to His people in different ages:

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. (Heb 1:1-2)

Chapter 3 opens with a deliciously applicable illustration. The image below is an autostereogram. When you first look at the picture you see the obvious repetitive abstract pattern. Kind of fall-like, maybe some maple leaves at the bottom.




Now, press your nose against your monitor and slowly let your eyes adjust to the picture. As you slowly move away from the image, the picture in the picture begins to emerge. Do you see it? The bird, the donut? It’s easier for some than others but if you scan the web you can find dozens of these kinds of images.

What does this have to do with the Bible? In order for God’s word to take its full three-dimensional presence in our lives, we need to adjust our reading methods so that the picture in the picture reveals itself to us. Just the like the bird in the image seems to become a part of our plane of existence, so God wants to have his words move into our immediate experience.

Reading the Bible as story is what will allows the Spirit to move in this way in our lives. The challenge to us is that we must put away our shortcuts as they tend to obscure the story in favor of deriving other kinds of information. Do any of these hit home with you?

Morsels of Law

We read the Bible strictly as a huge collection of laws. God is portrayed as the impatient and irritable giver of laws and we are judged by how many of these laws we follow and how closely. Our relationship is then defined by how good as citizens we are.

Morsels of Blessing and Promise

If this is our shortcut we read the Bible as a collection of blessings and promise. The tendency here is to pull promising verses out of their context while ignoring the others. The sense of the Christian life that develops from this practice is that it is all good with no troubles clouding the horizon.

Mirrors and Inkblots

We’ve all seen the inkblot cards used in psychological tests. Splat! What do you see? Spronk! Now what do you see? The point is that you will see what you want to see. When you encounter Jesus in the Bible your mind sees someone a lot like you. He thinks and acts the way that you would. It’s amazing…until I talk to you and find out Jesus is more like you! How can this be.

Puzzling Together the Pieces to Map God’s Mind

The Bible is a puzzle that we are challenged to put together. The trouble we run into is that, unlike the boxed puzzle, we don’t have the picture on the lid to help us assemble the thousands of pieces. Without that picture, we have to rely on our imagination and anything that doesn’t fit goes back into the box.


Reading to find the maestro answers the question, What Would Jesus Do? If he is the master, all we have to do is to imitate this model of perfection and all will be well.

These are all snapshots that give us an incomplete view of the Bible and the story that God wants to envelope us in. Do you agree with these shortcut descriptions. Is there another that was missed?

Blue Parakeet 1

This is the first post in a series that will engage the ideas in Scot McKnight’s new book The Blue Parakeet.BPkeet As I said in my earlier review, this is an excellent piece of work destined to make a lasting contribution to the Church and is particularly useful to the seminarian immersed in the technical aspects of Bible study. Scot’s perspective is refreshingly non-academic or pedantic in the least. He writes as a fellow journeyman confronting with us what it means to read the 1st century Bible in a 21st century context. Is Christianity fossilized in that time which we must forcefully apply to modern life or is the Bible a guide to understanding how the Spirit moves today?

In the first two chapters of the book, Scot outlines the observations that led him to construct his tools for discernment. The Christian bromide ‘if the Bible says it, we do it’ is the foundation on which he begins to build his method. This, if we stop to consider it for even a moment, is nonsense. We pick and choose among the biblical mandates those that we will apply today and those we will ignore. The Sabbath, foot washing, surrender of possessions, charismatic gifts; all are dispensed with in various ways and with a variety of justifications as not applicable to today’s church. At the same time, we hold other mandates to be fixed in time and to be obeyed regardless of the times, women in ministry leadership a prime example. Scot asks how we develop the discernment to tell which is which.

McKnight outlines the three general ways in which we approach the Bible and the attitudes and actions that result from each. We may read to retrieve, meaning that we return to the times of the Bible to retrieve the ideas and practices for today. The challenge with this common approach is that we cannot live a first century life in the twenty-first century. The truth is, we shouldn’t want to do this as it ignores the work that the Spirit is moving to accomplish in our modern age. If we read carefully we find that God spoke in Moses’ days in Moses’ ways, to Paul in his days in his ways, and we should expect this pattern to continue; God will speak to us in our days in our ways. Our reading of the Bible should help us to see how God wants to move in our current time.

Reading the Bible through tradition is an important component in developing this discernment. One of the most important changes that the Reformation wrought was to put the scriptures into the hands of the believer. Everyone should read the Bible for themselves but they shouldn’t necessarily interpret it for themselves. Christians have a rich history and long held beliefs that can serve as the guard rails to our interpretation. We should respect long held beliefs, trusting that the Spirit guided those who came before us in forming those beliefs. Moving on this track helps us to roughly figure the edges of our belief while allowing the Spirit sufficient freedom to breath new insight into our faith for today.

Finally, we read with tradition, recognizing that God is forever on the move toward His conclusion. We were never meant to be stationary as history flowed around us like a stone in a creek. We were meant to be a part of it, serving out our individual purpose in the story. We should be able to read the Bible without getting stuck there. God did not freeze time in the periods of the Bible anymore than most cultures have stood still. He provided the scriptures so that we would have a guide to understanding how He wants to move today addressing the issues that we face.

McKnight challenges us to think about the way we approach the scriptures. We can try to cage it, taming the Spirit. In doing so we lose its edge, dulling the double edged sword that transforms us and the world around us. Bringing modern eyes to the Bible is not a crime, any more than it was for Paul to understand the whole of his scriptures in light of the modern revelation that he confronted. We’re not Paul but we do have to understand the way that God speaks to us in our days. I hope you’ll follow along as we read through the rest of the The Blue Parakeet, attempting to put the tools to work to hear the Spirit move today. I look forward to hearing what you think.