Sunday, September 14, 2008

MONDAY MUSINGS: The Blue Parakeet, part one

I have been granted the privilege of being an advance reader for Scot McKnight's, THE BLUE PARAKEET: Rethinking How You Read the Bible (Zondervan, pub. date 11/1/2008). Our "Monday Musings" for the next several weeks will focus on understanding and responding to Scot's book...

In my last pastorate, I coined a slogan from a verse in Deuteronomy to help our church understand how to follow Christ. I called it, "Learning, Loving and Living the Bible." Now, we Bible-believing Christians think we know what that means, but Scot McKnight's new book says pointedly that our claims of understanding and practicing the Bible are often hogwash— that we all pick and choose what we emphasize and practice when it comes to living out the Bible's teachings.

For example, the clear commands of James 1.26-17, by which the Bible defines "true religion," are words that somehow, many of us avoid as our definition of genuine Christian discipleship. Other examples include how we deal with Biblical teachings about the Sabbath, tithing, footwashing, charismatic gifts, and Jesus' calls to surrender our possessions. In addition, a whole range of contemporary issues challenge Bible believers to apply its teachings in arenas far removed from historical contexts that the Biblical writers addressed.

McKnight's big question, then, is "How?"—"How are we to live out the Bible today?"

The book's title was taken from an experience of birdwatching. Someone's pet blue parakeet fluttered into the author's backyard and took its place at the feeders, forcing the resident sparrows to take notice and adapt. For Scot McKnight, "blue parakeets" are Biblical passages that make its readers stop and think. They get our attention. We do not know what to make of them right away and so, they give us opportunity to pause, observe, and reflect. However, they remain frustratingly beyond our ability to tame them. How we approach these "blue parakeet" passages reveals a great deal about how you and I read our Bibles and attempt to live out its teachings.

The emphasis of this book is much needed today. Exploring our unexamined assumptions is always healthy, and never more so than when we are trying to discern what God has said to us and how we should respond. Furthermore, in today's world, where Evangelicalism regularly devolves into triumphalistic certainty about matters theological, moral and political, we must never be afraid to peek behind the curtain to determine the actual machinery behind the great and terrible Oz.

No comments: