Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Currently Reading: Blue Parakeet 4 (fin)

While on my . . . vacation? Sabatical? Study break? Whatever it was, I was able to finally finish Scot McKnight's The Blue Parakeet. Published by Zondervan, just came out, yada yada yada. When I last reviewed, McKnight had discussed how we read the Bible, compared it to how we should read the Bible, and suggests that the Bible is first and foremost, God's story.

The question becomes how do we live out the Bible? The final chapters of his thesis argue that we all discern aspects of the Bible whether we admit it or not. For example, what does the Bible have to say about abortion? about stem cell research? premarital intercourse? . . . nothing. They weren't around back then, and so the Bible cannot directly speak to them (premarital intercourse is impossible when intercourse is the action that makes one married). The issue is, if it is God's story, how can we discern proper actions in a world that is different than it used to be. In other words, how is God speaking in our ways in our days.

The problem: the Bible does not directly speak to all of life, so how do we choose?

The solution: "We discern--through God's Spirit and in the context of our community of faith-- a pattern of how to live in our world." (129)

Ultimately, all biblical interpretation must be done in community of some sort. If not, anyone can have a valid interpretation of Scripture simply because their discerner says so. However, not everyone agrees on how to discern. "Seeking unanimity on all things is unwise; permitting discernment at the local level can sometimes create too much diversity, but it is wiser to have local discernment with some problems than having everyone under lock and key. (130)"

An observation of this very thing: Vineyard 101...for Reno vineyard, it was important to focus on doctrine and right belief because of their context. For Yerington, it will focus less on specific doctrines because we pull from a greater variety of traditions since we live in a small town and are a melting pot of various church traditions, whereas reno is a bigger city with more options, and maybe less background in theology.

Scot makes a great key focal point here, it is much easier to take shortcuts. The shortcuts mentioned in chapter 2. It is way easier to "interpret the Bible literally" and make it into a rule book than to try to understand what parts are contextualized and what parts should be modified for a different culture. It's phariseeism vs. becoming all things to all men. McKnight suggests that "our discernment should never become rules or laws" (132). We need to become chameleons-changing our colors but keeping the same body (or core) (142).

Here is my biggest frustration with this book...there is never a "how to", just a "what we need." Surely it is important to read through tradition, but how? Sure God is speaking in our days in our ways, but how do we know? McKnight cops out by simply suggesting "in community". But then again, this isn't the purpose of the book. The book is more of an expose than a how to manual. He reveals what we do rather than how we should. It would be very long indeed if McKnight worked out all of these issues, and quite frankly i'm glad he doesn't.

What he does do: give a specific example of how to discern, and how various people have discerned. Regarding: women in ministry. McKnight uses this as a case study, and does an excellent job of showing how to discern the role of women in ministry today. I didn't agree with everything he said, but he lays a really convincing case for his position. Unfortunately, he also chooses to omit the other side because "most people know it". He also uses suspect dialog processes, by mentioning a very convicting evidence, and then saying it isn't valid for some reason. This is similar to asking a jury to strike a damning evidence from the record and just pretend like the prosecution didn't bring it up. It is imposible to do fully. It would be better if he was upfront before describing the evidence, to prepare the reader, but I digress.

What his discussion of women in ministry did do for me: give me evidence to feel free to believe what I knew was okay all along. I believe that women can be pastors and teachers mostly because I have been pastored and taught by women. If they can teach in colleges and seminaries, why can they not lead a church?

So what do I think of the entire book? It was excellent. Not Jesus Creed excellent, but a very challenging work for me personally. It is readable enough for a non-scholar, but well thought out in a way that the smartest of us can learn as well. If someone wants to know more about reading the Bible, and needs to rethink how we have always done it, this book is an excellent starting point. If you want an easy, non-challenging, cliche ridden read, turn to another book. This is for people who are willing to be kicked in the face in love.

I would give this book 4.5 of five stars because I disagree with some of his dialog techniques in his case study, and the meat of the book was fairly short in comparison to his case study (which would be a great book on its own if it were more flushed out). It is recommended reading for anyone who reads the Bible consistently, or is interested in what the Bible should mean for living today.

It's the kind of book that keeps me thinking at random times throughout the day, "How is God speaking today in our 2000's Western Nevada ways?" And any book that can engage me outside its normal reading is great imho.

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