Friday, October 10, 2008

Blue Parakeet part 3

Since I don't have immediate access to my pictures today, i will throw in another Blue Parakeet post. Eventually I will sum up the entire book into one review, after I finish it.

After McKnight points out the fact that we all come to the Bible with our own assumptions and presuppositions, suggests various errors we use when reading the Bible, and presenting the idea of wiki-stories, he gets to the meat of his ideas. How do we read the Bible as story?

McKnight frames this portion of his book in the crazy idea that our relation to the Bible is ultimately a personal one. For far too long, evangelicals in particular have engaged in Bible worship. That is, we worship the Bible and not the God who gives us the Bible to commune with Him. He uses my ever-favorite imagery of artist/creation analogy. I can feel that he is setting us up for some good ole fashioned imago dei theology. I think that comes in the next section. What is most important in this section is the fact that if God is truly relational, then everything we do as Christians should cause us to grow closer to Him. My new model for spiritual formation (which I'm totally psyched about) also reflects these thoughts.

"Too many stop short by asking only, 'how can I learn to understand the Bible? ' . . . The real question at the bottom of all them is this: "what is my relationship to the God of the Bible?" (84)

Ultimately, the Bible is a tool, an act of communication, what have you. Any communicative act is useless unless the listener understands that the act itself has little meaning, but the relationship between the speaker and listener gives true meaning. This is a step short of deconstruction (completely listerner-centered communication). Instead of asking, what can the bible do for me? we should ask, how does what I just read bring me closer to God by loving Him and loving others?

"The Bible invites us to listen to God (the person) speak in the Bible and to engage God as we listen" (89)

"A relational approach to the Bible believes our relationship to the Bible is transformed into a relationship with the God who speaks to us in and through the Bible" (90). I hate the cheasy image of the Bible as God's love letter, probably because I am lactose intolerant, but it is really a good illustration.

So what's the point? When we read the Bible as a story, we learn to listen to God as we read, are attentive enough to recognize God's voice, absorb what God says, and then act on it (99). God always speaks so that it will change us. His words are not empty and void (unlike this blog), but are full of tangible, redemptive, creative power. The Bible itself demonstrates what happens when we choose not to truly listen to God. i.e. David and bathsheba.

A true relationship is based on love. Love lets the other person's ideas and beliefs in front of my own. In other words, love is listening. Listening ends in a transformed mode of operation.

In his chapter labeled "the boring chapter", McKnight describes what he calls missional listening. The basic idea of the chapter is this: God speaks through the Bible for a reason and expects us to listen enough to act on our hearing. "Any method of Bible study that doesn't lead to transformation abandons the missional path of God and leaves us stranded" (105). So how do we know if we listen well? We listen in community. Both now and in the community who came before us. We listen with tradition. Every person should have at least one book by an early church father (if you are looking for one, try Augustine's Confessions).

Here is how McKnight breaks it down: If you are doing good works as a result of reading the Bible, you are reading well. If you are not (or your works are misdirected), you can probably grow in missional listening.

It's down and dirty discipleship. God allows us to join his redemptive process if we would just lay down our agendas and listen for His. If reading the bible is a waterslide, "the slide is the gospel, the walls are the bible and our wise mentors (tradition), and the water is the Holy Spirit" (112). The goal is to make it to the bottom of the slide in the place the slide directs (the soaking presence of God).

How many colleges, seminaries, teachers, pastors, etc. get this wrong? We say "read the Bible because that's what good Christians do", "learn the inductive Bible study process so you can understand it in its original context", "right belief comes before right action". We miss the point. Understanding is vital, but more vital is allowing God to transform us.

My personal favorite quote of this section: "What makes missional listening powerful, what leads the reader into a life of righteousness and good works (the outcomes Paul mentions), is the promise that the SPirit who hovered over the author is the same Spirit at work in the reader. Unfortunately, too many of us spend too much time arguing about the meaning of "inspiration" and not enough on the point of it all" (109).

I know I get bogged down in the details, historical context, meaning of greek participles, etc. Sometimes I need to just sit down, be quiet, and listen to what God is saying. Surely those previous things help me understand the Bible, but that's an awfully easy goal to attain. It is much easier to understand the Bible, and not let it through the fences erected in my mind of what God might require me to do. The sermon on the mount becomes an ethic of acting as Christians in a Christian community. Only once we let it into our hearts does it change our acting as a Christian community.

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