McKnight: How Do We Read, Live Out Scripture?

Post a Comment » Written on January 9th, 2009     
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CHICAGO, IL (January 9, 2009) – Scot McKnight wants people to give a second thought to how they think about scripture.

“I’m concerned that most of us aren’t aware of how we read, apply, and live out the Bible,” says McKnight, the Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religion Studies at North Park University.

In his latest book, The Blue Parakeet, McKnight focuses on how we discern scripture. “It’s an attempt to lay bare what the average Christian thinks when he or she is applying the Bible to their life.”

The book is rooted in McKnight’s own biography. “I was taught, “God says it, I believe it, that settles it,” he recalls.

But that isn’t how anyone really behaves, he says. “The truth is we all sort of pick and choose among the scriptural admonitions, and we would do everyone – including ourselves – a favor if we just admit it.

“We have to take seriously how the authors in the Bible took seriously their predecessors.”

“We don’t stone homosexuals, greet each other with a holy kiss, wash each other’s feet, or make women stay silent in the church,” he observes. “Many don’t observe a Sabbath. By using thought processes they most likely are not aware of, Christians explain away these texts for various reasons, including that they are culturally time-bound.”

McKnight came up with the name of the book after seeing a once tame blue parakeet that had likely escaped its cage and staked a spot in his backyard. The sparrows didn’t know what to make of the strange intruder, but eventually adapted their behavior while allowing the parakeet to be itself. On occasions, however, a move by the bird would frighten the others.

“The texts that we easily explain away are blue parakeets,” McKnight says. “How we respond to these passages reveals how we approach scripture.”

McKnight hopes the book will be a guide to Christians on how they can do what Paul and other writers of scripture did. “We enter into the world of the Bible, and then we pop into our world,” he says.

Every author in the Bible went through the same process of discerning what scripture meant for their day. “We have to take seriously how the authors in the Bible took seriously their predecessors,” McKnight says.

Each of the writers saw themselves as a story (or wiki-story) within the grand narratives of scripture. They were constrained and freed by those grand themes, he says.

McKnight says he deliberately stayed away from developing a list of how people should do interpretation, which has frustrated some critics. “They would have liked for me to write a law book,” he says.

McKnight emphasizes that God has given the Holy Spirit to believers to help them discern how scripture should be applied for their day. “I think people are going to be nervous about discernment,” he says.

It is the same tension that has existed in the church since Paul started emphasizing the Spirit against legalistic interpretations of the law on issues such as circumcision, McKnight says.

In the final chapters of the book, McKnight takes the reader through the process of discernment by doing a case study on the question of women in ministry. He begins with the text, but not in the familiar passages.

He begins, not with the texts on women being silent in church, but by asking “What did women do?” in the Bible. By looking at the larger context of scripture, the “silencing” passages can be silenced as reasons against women in ministry.

McKnight says he knows some people will try to use the process he outlines as a way to justify their own favored views, including positions he does not hold. He is adamant, “That would not be fair to me or what I’m saying.”

To order The Blue Parakeet online, visit Covenant Bookstore.

To read the Covenant Resource Paper titled The Covenant Church and the Bible, click here. This paper, approved by delegates to the 2008 Annual Meeting, also addresses interpretation of scripture within the context of Covenant history and perspective. Click here to access Exploring God’s Word, a small group study guide designed to complement the resource paper.

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