No Shortcuts

Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet, Chapter 3: Inkblots and Puzzles

With this chapter McKnight starts a new section devoted to answering the question: What is the Bible?  Of course, how one answers this question shapes how one reads the Bible.  I couldn’t help but feel like there was overlap between these first three chapters, but the book is anything but technical so it reads quickly.

The author posits that what we really want is for the Bible to come alive and transport us into a whole new world, as did the maritime picture in C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of The Dawn Treader into which Edmund, Lucy and Eustace “swim” back to Narnia.  This idea of world-constructing portal into a new kind of existence is an excellent one!

Unfortunately, like so many other things in our life, we take shortcuts instead.  McKnight lists six such shortcuts:

  1. Reducing the Bible to nothing more than a lawbook.  The problem with this approach is that this tends to turn us into self-righteous, judgmental people who miss the bigger point.
  2. Reducing the Bible to lists of blessings and promises.  The problem is that we expect life to always be pleasant and miss the character formation possible from hardships.
  3. Reading the Bible like an inkblot or mirror which are really just ways to say something about yourself.  The problem here is that this casts the Bible in our own image to serve our own desires.  This approach isn’t redemptive, it is narcissistic.
  4. Reading the Bible as if it is a puzzle that is intended to be put together piece by piece.  In this approach we are really trying to construct the “picture” of what was behind the Bible.  The problem is that we don’t know what that picture was and it is arrogant to think we can totally figure it out and master the Bible.  This is a shortcut because once we “put the puzzle together” we don’t think we ever have to again.
  5. Reading the Bible through the lens of one master, usually Jesus or Paul.  The problem here is that we make everything fit with that one person’s theology and usually miss things in our reductionism.

In the next chapter McKnight will give us a better analogy to use to answer the question, “What is the Bible?”