Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Blue Parakeet: Chap 8

All right, I goofed. Chapter 7 is not the so-called Boring Chapter. That would be chapter 8 which is a little boring. I am not at all certain this material deserved a whole chapter. It basically re-iterates that the words in the Bible are meaningless unless lived. Got it!

One thing chapter 8 does do is introduce another McKnightian tortured metaphor. This one pictures the Gospel as a water slide with one wall being the Bible, another wall being Tradition (trusted mentors?) and the water being... wait for it... the Holy Spirit. If you knock down one of those walls you fall off the water slide! Now, first off, a water slide doesn't really have "walls". It is typically molded as an open pipe. Next, the only experience most of has with people falling off water slides is reading about tragic accidents in the newspaper. This aspect distracted me from what I assume is McKnight's point: keeping a balance of forces in following the Gospel NOT bringing up images of bloody teenagers being loaded into ambulances. I guess the water/Holy Spirit carries you forward in this analogy. What happens if you pee in the pool at the bottom? :0

Two more observations: 1) Scot McKnight is a Paul guy, not a Jesus guy. I am leery of Paul guys. 2) McKnight seems to accept the tradition authorship of every book in the Bible. Paul wrote Colossians and 1 Timothy. Jesus' brother wrote James. Moses wrote Leviticus. Never so much as an "alleged to have written" or "traditionally attributed to." I treat people like this as having completely shut down there critical faculties until shown otherwise (I'm not a complete curmudgeon - yet)

The next chapter starts to examine in detail how we pick and choose which parts of the Bible we are going to obey. This bit was the reason I picked the book up in the first place. Upward and onward!

The Blue Parakeet: Chap 6->Chap 7

Part of the problem between Scot McKnight and me is that he is a gung-ho Christian and I am, shall we say, not. So when I hear the reflections of a man thousands of years old in the struggles of Job, Dr MvKnight hears God. When I hear Paul in of 1 Corinthians furiously trying to work out how early Christians should live, McKnight hears God.

Chapter six of The Blue Parakeet examines the difference between the Bible and God. This is a welcome message that most Christians need to hear. God is revealed through the Bible but the words on the page are not objects of worship. This is good ol' Bibliolatry. Now, if God is so beyond human kenning, can we learn anything of any value from the shadow of himself that He has left between the lines? But that is a discussion for another day.

Chapter seven is getting to the meat of the topic: why do people claim to believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God and yet do not do what it says to do? McKnight makes a useful distinction - one that is starting to come forward in public debate - that having the right believes about God is not the same thing as following Jesus, doing God's work, loving God's commandments. The author's wife called this chapter the "Boring Chapter." I would say that it is the pivotal chapter and I am glad he put it in.

There is a chapter coming up called something like "Living Jesus-ly" that I am curious to read. Perhaps next time.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Blue Parakeet: Chap 3->Chap 5

In Chapter 3 of The Blue Parakeet , Scot McKnight lists out different ways that people read the Bible and, guess what? His way is the best! :) I suppose his slices are as good as anyone's. I liked his take on the distortion of a Daily Blessings Calendar and musings on a proposed "Wrath of God Calendar of Warnings".

Things pick up steam in Chapter 4. Here McKnight starts digging holes. First off I have to say that his concept of "wiki-story" seems really awkward to me. The Wikipedia to which he compares the books of the Bible is a collaboration of authors creating a unity. McKnight's wiki-stories are re-tellings of the same story (if I understand him). It would as if each Wikipedia contributor wrote a whole new article each time. Wiki authors may tussle over a subject but ultimately must collaborate. Wiki-story authors can ignore each other, take potshots or compete. The analogy doesn't bring anything to his point.

Chapter 5 attempts to map out the single story of the entire collection of books that make up the Christian Bible. Earlier in The Blue Parakeet, I appreciated the author's admonition that we must read each book as its own story. Unfortunately, the way we must read each story is circumscribed by a framework that is imposed from outside. When McKnight trumpeted reading the Bible along with Tradition, I got suspicious. My suspicions were justified. It just so happens the meaning of the Bible is... conservative evangelical theology! Surprised? We learn in this chapter (pg 77) that Jesus died to pay for our sins. I was hoping for insight and I got Substitutionary Atonement. What's more, McKnight informs us that the arch of the Bible is all about Oneness. We are treated to lines like this:
After splitting Adam into Ish [man] and Ishah [woman], God brings them back together in "One Flesh." [pg 70]
I suppose all the polygamy in the Old Testament is just a great big mistake that will be rectified in time for Mark 10:2 Oneness is slathered so thickly on the Bible that one wants to go read it cover-to-cover just to reassure oneself that the real Bible is still under there. I just feel that there is so much going on in each book of the Bible, so much behind each verse that boiling it down to such a pithy theme does violence to the many human lives presenting themselves to us across the millennia. I learned the word "noumena" from Carl Sagan, the deep wonder at a thing that is transcendant from everyday life. When I read Paul's letters or the Book of Job, I sense the gulf of time and share a oneness with those authors. When Scot McKnight wraps a thousand pages up with a nice, evangelical bow, I feel a loss.

I imagine Dr McKnight would say that he feels a sense of wonder when he reads each of his wiki-stories. Perhaps he even gets some of the flavor of wonder that I do. I fear, however, that his tether to Tradition keeps him close enough to Jesus that he is unable to explore the deeper shadows hinted at in each writing, the shadows where one encounters human nature unvarnished by theme or theology. Pity, really.

My overall take thus far would be:
  • If we read the Bible along with Tradition and all we get out is a traditional view of the Bible, why am I reading this book instead of attended the Episcopal Church?
  • If we are supposed to apply "that was then and this is now" liberally in order to justify ignoring the commandments that no longer fit our way of life, how are we better off than the people who get there Bible verses from calendars? Those who actually read I Kings end up in the same place.
My Sunday School class was reading 1 Corinthians' verses on divorce and marriage. We really struggled with how to deal with these and similar teachings and I hoped that this book would help put things in perspective. It doesn't sem to be moving in that direction. Let's see if it can redeem itself...

The Blue Parakeet: - Chap 2

In chapter two, McKnight lays out two ways of reading the Bible in a historical context, retrieving-it-all and retrieving-the-essence, with a pretty blatant disapproval of both. Then, on page 32 of my copy, he starts to let on that he is about to propose a middle way. He has set us up for a false-compromise where his solution will seem more appealing along side his (strawman?) extremes. My alarm bells are not yet ringing but they ARE humming a bit...

The Blue Parakeet: Chap 1

I'm not the kind to blog a book one chapter at a time. I'm more the type to drop sarcastic comments along the way... We'll just have to wait and see how this comes out. :)

I enjoyed the first chapter of The Blue Parakeet. I think Scot McKnight has setup his treatise nicely by taking on some low hanging fruit - Sabbath keeping, tithing, foot washing - with the promise of meatier discussions to come. In sharing his progression through his questions as a young man, the author displays a good deal of good humor and humility. Let's hope that it sticks!