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...

No comments: