Top 10 Things Learned about Reading the Bible from “The Blue Parakeet”

I have finally finished a close and slow reading of Scot McKnight’s The Blue Parakeet.  This is the first of three books I am wanting to read on how best to interpret and apply the Bible to today’s world (see this post).  For sake of brevity, I will write this synopsis in top ten fashion with no particular order, and I will limit my observations to interpretation, not women’s roles in ministry.  Read the twelve previous posts in the “How to Read the Bible” series for the details.

  1. No one takes everything in the Bible completely literally and does exactly what it says without interpretation.  No one.  Really.  Think about it.
  2. Just like every other piece of literature and form of communication, the Bible was written and shaped by a particular cultural context that must be investigated and account for.  Likewise all interpretations of the Bible are cultural.
  3. I really liked the idea that there is one grand Story (metanarrative) of oneness–otherness–oneness that constructs a whole new reality that we can live into if we choose and that the individual books of the Bible are contextualized versions (wikistories) of that one Story.
  4. Tradition is not all bad.  It can guide our interpretations but we also must be careful not to accept it blindly or fossilize our own interpretations.
  5. One of the best aspects of the book is McKnight’s reminder that we read the Bible in order to have a relationship with the God of the Bible, not the Bible itself.  Ultimately, we must read to transform and empower our heart and our hands, not just inform our head.  In fact, if our reading of the Bible is not producing good works in our life, there is a problem.
  6. We can’t fully understand and appropriately apply the Bible without the help of the Holy Spirit.  Makes sense.  It is supposed to be a spiritual enterprise, right?
  7. Keep the Story the same, but keep adapting the application of the Story to fit unique life situations.  And that adapting didn’t stop when Revelation was written.  We have the privilege and necessity to take up the gauntlet.
  8. Hold tight to the redemptive gospel of Jesus.  Don’t change it, but let that gospel be our permission to be the harbingers of curse-reversal in whatever way the situation calls for.
  9. There is no way around it.  This is going to be messy.  Not every question will be answered, and not everyone will agree with everyone else’s conclusions.  But anything less is bound to sell the Bible short.
  10. Not exactly about how to read the Bible.  More about how to write an interesting book.  Use some image or extended metaphor (like McKnight’s blue parakeet, read the book for the details).  It works.  So too does choosing a controversial topic as a case study.  Nice strategy!

Overall, I have enjoyed The Blue Parakeet.  McKnight is a bit too repetitive in places and he doesn’t answer all the questions a reader will have (who does?).  How exactly to do his highly culturally-shaped, Story-based interpretive approach became clearer as the book went on and the case study helped much more than I thought as I was reading.  I gave the book four out of five stars on goodreads.com.  If the reader comes from a religious tradition that limits the ministry roles of women, the last third of the book will challenge the reader and likely wear on your nerves a bit, but McKnight makes a clear case for the egalitarian/mutuality position.  In a culture where hierarchical gender roles are more and more anathema, McKnight’s position must be investigated by all who wish to advance the gospel with skill and tact.

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