I recently received an advance copy of The Blue Parakeet, the latest book by Scot McKnight. The sub-title pretty much sums up the subject of the book; it reads, “Rethinking How You Read the Bible.” When describing The Parakeet, I use the term “pretty much sums up…” because I think a second question the book posits is part of the bigger picture of The Blue Parakeet; that is for me, anyway. The bigger picture question is “How do I (we) live out the Bible today?”
Scot proposes the “how do we live it” question while tossing out a number of difficult passages from the Bible. These difficult passages are what he calls the “blue parakeets” (you’ll have to read the book to find out the story behind that label; it’s a pretty cool illustration). Without giving a definitive answer to how we live it, Scot suggests the answer to “how we live” can be found in “how we read” the Bible.
The opening chapters describe some of the various methods people employ for reading the Bible. Each of these methods produces unique outcomes which bring with them certain challenges when the reading moves to life application. I enjoyed the descriptions of the different styles (or ways) that people read the Bible and was able to personally relate to what was being described. I have approached reading the Bible in some of the ways that Scot illustrates, and I have experienced the general outcome (incongruous application) which results from reading the Bible in a way that was not intended. McKnight proposes that the Bible was meant to be read as a story and he walks the reader through his reasoning for this belief. Although I do not need convincing (I share the same belief), I think the points put forth by the author to build his case are very persuasive.
The book moves quickly from its foundational premise of “problem” (the generalized understanding that most of us in contemporary society approach the Bible incorrectly) to “nuts and bolts” solution (embracing the Bible as humanity’s story). McKnight finishes his book with a response to the question of how the story approach relates to life-application in “real-life” with a case study illustration.
This is a high-level overview of The Blue Parakeet; however, before I complete my review, I’d like to share a few points from the book that really stood out for me. As a disclaimer, please note that these points are my subjective interpretations and “your mileage may vary…”
The methodology and/or way that we approach reading the Bible. I really enjoyed reading about and peering into the thinking of Scot when he shared his thoughts on how to read the Bible. His dialectic approach in presenting his case was fair, thorough, and thoughtfully presented. Throughout his exploration and presentation I was continually asking questions, making reasoned deductions, and examining my own habits when approaching the Bible. I was effectually “drawn in” to the conversation. I was not a casual observer. I think this is the aim of most writers.
I connected my style and approach to the Bible in a similar fashion with that of the author’s. While this may not be the case with every reader, I was affirmed and challenged at the same time. I am an adherent of the Methodist approach to Bible reading. This approach, attributed to John Wesley, is known as the Wesleyan-Quadrilateral and can be described as follows:
- Scripture – the Holy Bible (Old and New Testaments)
- Tradition – the two millennia history of the Christian Church
- Reason – rational thinking and sensible interpretation
- Experience – a Christian’s personal and communal journey in Christ
(For a more thorough explanation of the Wesleyan-Quad, there are any number of references online) The gist of the process can be summarized as Scripture holding authority, but not ultimate authority. Tradition and history of the people of God weigh-in when interpreting scripture. Reason comes into play as we ask questions and wrestle with Scripture to make application of it in our lives. Finally, experience gives voice to interpretation as we live God’s Word today. I think this approach of reading and applying the Bible connects with the heart of The Blue Parakeet. This is, however, only my opinion. Personally, I advocate and employ an additional approach and view when interpreting and applying God’s Word in my life. I prefer to use the Wesleyan-Quad as a base or foundation for my reading. I use inductive study and lectio divina as a dual path support of the WQ for a three-point methodology; it works for me and serves as a check and balance keeping my reading honest.
Intimate and Personal God…Oneness and Unity with God. From “Wiki-stories” to the One Story, McKnight engrosses the reader (at least this reader) in the unity-story of God-man-eternity-relationship-community. Knowing this Story and living it are two entirely different ends of the spectrum. Scot reminds us that it is paramount for our focus to remain fixated on the Story of God-the Story of Man and our relationship and role in the His-Story.
A Teacher. Showing his gift and calling as a teacher, Scot devotes a large segment of the book to a case study of reading the Bible as story and wrestling with application of the precepts and teachings of God’s word in a changing world. This “lab practical” is an excellent exercise and the case study alone is worth the time and energy of reading this work. (I won’t ruin the story by sharing what the nature and text of the study is)
There are a number of other delightful discussions awaiting the readers of The Blue Parakeet. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with it and continue to carry it in my book bag, finding myself flipping through pages and re-reading passages here and there. It has prompted thought, affirmed some methods, and challenged me in areas as well. I recommend the book with both thumbs up. Thanks Scot for another great book, and thanks Zondervan for allowing me the privilege of an advanced review of it.