I finished reading The Blue Parakeet this morning, and I still feel like skipping around singing praises to my great God who inspired Scot McKnight to write this wonderful book. I didn’t finish it last time I started reading (last year), but now that I’m done and can see how right now was exactly the time I needed to read it, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by God’s awesomeness and sovereignty and want to start the skipping and singing all over again. (I should mention that I was able to persevere this time around because I told myself it was a transcription of a super long but friendly lecture, which allowed me to forgive some of the writing.)
In this book McKnight points out that all Christians pick and choose (or “adopt and adapt”) which parts of the Bible apply to us today and which don’t. McKnight argues that this approach isn’t new, nor is it necessarily a bad thing:
Adaptability and development are woven into the very fabric of the Bible. From beginning to end there is a pattern of adopting and adapting. It is the attempt to foist one person’s days and ways on everyone’s days and ways that quenches the Holy Spirit. Can we be biblical if we fail to be as adaptable as the Bible itself was – only for our world? Is this messy? Sometimes it is. Was the Jerusalem council messy? Yes, it was. Did they discern what to do for that time? Yes, they did. Was it permanent, for all time, for everyone, always, everywhere? No. (Page 143)
This book sets up a framework that helps us to read the Bible, know its Story, and trust the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in a way that equips us to listen to God and then pick and choose (“discern”) well.
McKnight does such a good job of (lovingly) challenging the way we read the Bible. I realised that I have a tendency to take a few of the shortcuts he mentions: Viewing the Bible as a stack of individual laws and promises rather than one whole story, which tends to leave me feeling disappointed if the passage I read in the morning doesn’t offer a fresh rebuke or encouragement; Viewing the Bible as a puzzle that can fit together in a neat system (“If I could just chop that piece off, it would be perfect!”); And, less consciously, viewing Paul as a ‘Maestro’, which means that “Jesus’ teaching is either ignored or overwhelmed by Paul’s way of thinking” (page 53). Over the years it’s sometimes been a struggle to remember that Jesus and Paul are on the same team.
I like McKnight’s biblical theology, or “Story”, of oneness (with God, others, self and creation) - otherness - oneness (you’ll have to read the book for an explanation of this approach!). It’s relational and communal in a way that Graeme Goldsworthy’s ‘God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule’ isn’t, and it makes sense of what I know about God and the world I see. Thinking about humanity’s sinful proclivity for otherness made more sense of my marriage struggles than any marriage book I read last year! And I like that I kinda know what to aim for with ‘oneness’: Forgiveness, grace, healing, unity, equality and trust are the first batch of ‘oneness’ words that come to mind. They’re all concepts tied up with the Kingdom of God (Goldsworthy again), just without the brain freeze that always seems to accompany that phrase (for me).
This book is the first I’ve read that has helped me understand the Hebrews 4:12 description of God’s Word as “living and active”, which has been comforting as I’ve thought through the fact that Spirit-guided discernment will look different for Christians in different contexts; what’s right for a church in Sydney may not be right for a church in Africa, for example. In many ways I feel liberated knowing that our disagreements about what the Bible says aren’t always because one group is wrong and the other’s right. Sometimes both are right for their particular situation, and God’s in control of it all.
I’ve been spit out the other end of this book with a passion for God and His written Word that was lying dormant before I picked it up a couple of days ago. I now want to read my Bible over and over and over and over again so that I’m better able to discern and live out God’s plans for my ways, today. This will sound less weird after you’ve read it, which you should totally do. How many other books make you feel that way?! It’s one I plan to return to, if just for this fire, many, many times in future.