The Bible: A Book of Ever-Changing Constancy
Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet, Chapter 4: It’s A Story with Power
In this chapter, McKnight begins to answer the central question of the book: how should we read the Bible? He starts by stating the number one rule of any good interpretation: we must pay attention to context. He summarizes this with this slogan: “that was then and this is now.” I suspect this idea will be very important later in the book.
God always speaks in the Bible in a new contextualized way. He talked about covenant to Isaiah and the prophets different from how he talked to Abraham and Moses, a thousand years earlier. Love is a common theme in most of the New Testament Letters, but God spoke through the letter-writers in the New Testament about love in unique ways. We must pay attention to context and acknowledge that God always speaks in fresh ways about constant ideas. McKnight posits that likewise God is speaking today in our unique ways too. In theory, this idea is spot on, of course how God speaks to us today and what exactly is God’s unique message is a hard idea to nail down with accuracy and widespread acceptance.
McKnight suggests the following analogy for how the continual recontextualization works. He suggests the Bible is a “wiki-story.” As you might have guessed, this is a neologism based on the idea of Wikipedia, the open source online encyclopedia that can change daily (Personal note: I generally think Wikipedia is a good source for quick research on big ideas about a topic; I am not a WikiHater). Like Wikipedia, at any given time God can add, change, delete, or rewrite His words for a particular time and place. At the same time, if someone is going to claim they have a message from God, there is foundational information that has to be included for an entry to have any credibility. The technical term for this would be Jewish “midrash.” These interpretive retellings are all part of a series of the one Story that God wants to tell. Each author tells the big Story in his or her own way. None of these wiki-stories are final or comprehensive, each tells a true story of the one true Story.
In so describing the message of the Bible this way, McKnight is talking about a “metanarrative” that ties all of the Bible, later retellings of biblical ideas, and really all of life together. While the details may and do change, there is a core Story that is eternal and unchanging.