Feb 21, 2011

Book of Note: Blue Parakeet

Our book club just finished reading this book. It is actually the required text for Biblical Foundations Year Four of the ThoughtWorks Curriculum. Scot McKnight, the author, is a New Testament scholar and professor at North Park University in Chicago. I've been following Scot's blog for a few years now as he is a great thinker and friendly critic of the emerging church movement. What is great about this book is that it is written for a non-academic audience, and it is quite readable. What I dislike about this book is that he leaves a lot of assumptions unexamined - such as a notion of tradition that he fails to adequately explain. Despite this, the value in the book is that Scot provides an alternative hermeneutic lens by which we can read scripture. In simple terms he shows what is possible when we take seriously scripture as story instead of a self-help book.

I really appreciate Scot's notion of the blue parakeet. He uses the illustration of an unusual bird that shows up so that we would pay closer attention. He complains, and rightly so, that we want a tame Bible, we want all the blue parakeets safely in their little cages so that they won't rock our world. But the Bible is what Metz would call a dangerous memory. It should be a revolutionary text that constantly challenges us to dig deeper into the heart of God. I think this is what frustrates me most about looking to the Bible for simple answers, by that I mean answers that don't shake our worldviews, instead of letting it upset us and spur us on towards love and good works. When we read Jesus saying "go" or realize the implications of Jesus' response to the woman caught in adultery it should challenge us. It should make us question what we want to cage up for the sake of our comfort. The Bible should be like Lewis' Aslan, not a tame lion. Or, as Scot tells it, like a blue parakeet set free to change our perspective.

McKnight also develops a methodology by which we can allow scripture to be living story in our midst. He insists that the fear that such an approach will lead to chaos is unfounded - rather that the culturally shaped readings (he wants us to be honest about the world we bring to the text when we read it) will allow us to preach the gospel effectively in our culture (p. 206). This shouldn't be confused with capitulating to culture and watering down the gospel - but finding ways to frame the gospel so that it can penetrate the culture more effectively. In fact I think that this is actually something evangelicals are good at.

Scot gives us a great entrance into a much needed conversation about how we read Scripture. While it does present some problems for more critical readers, like myself, I think what he does is accessible and well worth reflecting on. His encouragement to not settle for a tame Bible is so important for those of us longing for more of God's Kingdom (as opposed to our kingdoms).

3.5 out of 5 stars.
Frank Emanuel (Freedom Vineyard)

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