Zondervan was kind enough to send a copy of Scot McKnight’s latest book, The Blue Parakeet, a couple of weeks ago. Brandon O’Brien has a thoughtful and fairly comprehensive two-part review over at Out of Ur (part one and part two). Rather than duplicate Brandon’s review, I’d like to reflect on the usefulness of this book.
The Blue Parakeet is Scot’s appeal to think carefully about how Christians read, interpret, and apply the Bible. He begins by sketching how many folks approach the Bible by using different shortcuts: treating the Bible like a collection of laws to be obeyed, taking the blessings and promises of Scripture out of their contexts, using the Bible as a Rorschach test to project personal opinions, piecing together diverse portions of the Bible to create a unified map, and reading all of the Scriptures through one maestro like Paul or Jesus. All of these shortcuts distract from the way we should be reading the Bible: as a story. To be more accurate, Scot understand the Bible to be a collection of wiki-stories that tell God’s story in a particular way for a particular day. He discovered that this way of reading the Bible,
justified Paul and gave new life to John to take Jesus’ kingdom story and make it their own story of the Story. I’ve come to see these stories of the Story to be like the seventh day of creation- very, very good. No single story, not even Jesus’ story, can tell the whole Story. We need them all.
Do you have an intentional way of reading and interpreting the Bible? Where did your understanding of how to read the Bible come from?
The rest of The Blue Parakeet is basically Scot unpacking the implications of this way of reading, and it is why this book is so useful. While the author is a university professor with plenty of academic books under his belt, this book is written more like his very popular blog, Jesus Creed. At times this can be distracting, as when certain ideas seem incomplete or implications left unwritten. But most of the time this accessible and conversation style works well and draws the reader into the world of biblical interpretation. This style of writing combined with Scot’s expertise is precisely why this book is so useful.
In The Blue Parakeet I now have a book that I would recommend to almost any Christian interested in moving beyond the easy shortcuts of Bible reading. As a pastor I find there are two scenarios that repeatedly surface that make me nervous about how we interpret the Bible. The first is the person who believes all they need to understand the Bible is the Bible. This person eschews study aides, historical perspective, theological conversations, and the perspective of those outside his or her tradition. The other is the person whose biblical interpretation is formed by the buffet of christian television and radio. For whatever reason, when someone hears an expert say something on the radio it has instant credibility. It’s always difficult to know how to respond to these scenarios outside of a long conversation. In the future, for those interested in a more nuanced (and, in my opinion, God-centered) way to read the Bible in our way in our day, I will recommend this book.
Scot ends the book with a case study about women serving in church ministry. He shows how reading the Bible as a story leads him to believe that women should serve in any area of ministry as they are gifted by the Holy Spirit, a position I agree with. I’m not convinced this section is entirely helpful for the case Scot makes because in looking at this issue he employs some theological tools not covered in the rest of the book. Nevertheless, this section allows the reader to watch theology happening in real time rather than only seeing the finished result.
This is a book for any Bible reader, one that will both encourage and challenge the role of Scripture in our day.