Sunday, November 16, 2008

Introducing the Blue Parakeet: On Reading the Bible Well

There are very few authors (presently two), who when they write a new book, I automatically pre-order it through Amazon. One such author is North Park University’s Scot McKnight. He is most widely known for The Jesus Creed, and his blog by the same, name I didn’t have to pre-order his latest book, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, thanks to an advance reader copy mailed to me by Zondervan (after the release date, by the way). As we review chapter two, we will discuss why he has titled the book, The Blue Parakeet. But now onto his presentation in chapter one of the problem that his book addresses, namely the complicated issue of HOW we go about reading and especially applying the Bible.

Have you ever considered the complexity of applying a document that was not written directly to you? Basically, evangelical Christians are united in their commitment to the authority of Scripture. “We believe the Bible.” “It has authority in my life.” All this sounds simple enough. But how that authority moves from what Moses and Jeremiah said to Israel or what Jesus said to the Pharisees or what Paul and Peter and James and John said to 1st Century Churches to us in a 21st Century Church in Northern Illinois is quite a sticky issue! Conservative evangelicals, who believe in the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, often accuse “liberals” of picking and choosing which texts to follow. McKnight, however, demonstrates that all of us deal with the complexity of applying Scripture by taking some texts seriously and conveniently ignoring others, or at least stripping them of their direct authority on us today. For example…

Do you keep Sabbath in a way that is faithful to the biblical command (Exodus 20.9-10)? Keeping the Sabbath according to the OT Law meant not working from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday? Do you obey this command in this way? Do you obey this command in a modified way (e.g. Sunday morning through Monday morning)? Do you ignore the command entirely? What reasoning, if any, leads you to your conclusion?

Do you tithe in a way that is faithful to the biblical command (Deuteronomy 26.12)? Tithing according to Scripture is not giving 10% of your income to a local church or other religious organization. According to OT Law, tithes are supposed to be given to the Levitical Priests and furthermore, to the poor, alien, orphan, and widow. As a Baptist preacher I can’t believe, I’m about to write this but the NT doesn’t even mention the tithe. So how do you respond to the OT command to tithe in the way described above? Again, what is your reasoning?

Do you wash feet in a way that is faithful to Jesus’ command (John 13.14)? In this passage, Jesus tells his disciples that they should wash each other’s feet in the same way he has washed theirs. Do you obey this command? Why or why not (And aversion to others’ feet is not an option)?

After citing several more examples, Scot encourages us to think about and ask questions about how we read the Bible and what method we follow in understanding Scripture and applying it to our context. This is why I have such an appreciation for his ministry. His overarching concern is for the Church to live out the Bible in our day. Because I have the same concern, I encourage you to think about and ask yourself the above three questions. Think about the way you read and apply the Bible. I’d love to hear what you learn about yourself and the story God is telling in Scripture.

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