The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible
You find what you expect to find
The book is, essentially, an argument for the ordination of women. The author claims that, years before writing the book, he met the respected Bible scholar F. F. Bruce in England, and Bruce (the author says) supported the ordination of women. If that was indeed the case, I wonder if Bruce would have approved of this authorÃ¢ÂÂs somewhat eccentric approach to the Bible.
He begins the book with his big Ã¢ÂÂdiscoveryÃ¢ÂÂ: Ã¢ÂÂwe all pick and chooseÃ¢ÂÂ (p 11) what parts of the Bible to obey. Ã¢ÂÂNo one does everything the Bible saysÃ¢ÂÂ (p 12). True Ã¢ÂÂ the New Testament itself makes it clear that the first Christians were freed from the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. Jesus and the apostles make it clear that the MORAL laws of the Old Testament still applyÃ¢ÂÂnotably the Ten Commandments. But the author claims we donÃ¢ÂÂt even follow thoseÃ¢ÂÂwe donÃ¢ÂÂt keep the Sabbath holy. Ã¢ÂÂI found numerous references in the Acts of the Apostles to the Christian observance of the SabbathÃ¢ÂÂ (p 14). No, he didnÃ¢ÂÂtÃ¢ÂÂthere are none. The only mentions of the Sabbath in Acts are Paul going to the synagogues on the Sabbath because thatÃ¢ÂÂs where the Jews and God-fearers gathered. There is NO mention of Christians observing the Sabbath Ã¢ÂÂ none. In all PaulÃ¢ÂÂs letters, the only time he mentions the Sabbath is in Colossians 2:16: Ã¢ÂÂLet no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.Ã¢ÂÂ None of the other New Testament epistles mention Sabbath-keeping. Clearly the Gentile converts were NOT told to observe the Sabbath. When the author states that Ã¢ÂÂI knew no one really practiced the SabbathÃ¢ÂÂ (p 14), he is trying to convince the reader that Ã¢ÂÂliving by the BibleÃ¢ÂÂ is never consistent.
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs one thing to say we think homosexuality is sin, but itÃ¢ÂÂs completely different when we know a gay or a lesbian and that someone happens to ask us why we believe in Leviticus 20:13a but not in 20:13bÃ¢ÂÂÃ¢ÂÂthe first part of the verse condemns homosexuality and the second insists on capital punishment for it. This is the old reductio ad absurdam skeptics use on the Bible: since we donÃ¢ÂÂt observe it all, donÃ¢ÂÂt observe any of it Ã¢ÂÂ or, letÃ¢ÂÂs observe the parts we like. The fact that we donÃ¢ÂÂt mandate the death penalty for something doesnÃ¢ÂÂt mean we approve of it. In various times and places, you could be executed for stealing livestock Ã¢ÂÂ does lessening the penalty mean we think itÃ¢ÂÂs OK to steal livestock?
Ã¢ÂÂThe pick-and-choose method is an exercise in hypocrisy or worseÃ¢ÂÂ (p 19). Why? IsnÃ¢ÂÂt it obvious to anyone with a brain that Ã¢ÂÂYou shall not murderÃ¢ÂÂ is more important than tithing? What he calls Ã¢ÂÂpicking and choosingÃ¢ÂÂ could be called Ã¢ÂÂdistinguishing between major and minor.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂIf Paul says women should be silent, our women should be silent. If Exodus says the death penalty is proper, then it is proper today (even for adulterers)Ã¢ÂÂ (p 26). Again, this is a familiar tactic of liberals: we obviously do NOT abide by every verse of the Bible, so weÃ¢ÂÂre all hypocrites. ItÃ¢ÂÂs disturbing to read something like this in a Christian book, for this idea has been used for many years by the enemies of Christianity. I donÃ¢ÂÂt think any Christian with a functioning brain can be convinced that, since we donÃ¢ÂÂt stone adulterers today, letÃ¢ÂÂs donÃ¢ÂÂt follow the teachings of Peter and Paul either.
Having supposedly convinced the reader that NO Christians really live by the whole Bible, he launches into his main subject: Ã¢ÂÂWhy do some churches ordain women and let them preach while other churches have folks who get up and walk out when a woman opens her Bible for some teaching in front of men?Ã¢ÂÂ (p 18). Lots of books refer to Ã¢ÂÂmen walking out,Ã¢ÂÂ but no one ever cites an actual case where it happened. It is typical in books like this to accuse conservative Christians of loutish behavior.
Ã¢ÂÂWhat weÃ¢ÂÂve got in the pages of the New Testament are first-century expressions of the gospel and church life, not permanent, timeless expressionsÃ¢ÂÂ (p 26). To be precise, heÃ¢ÂÂs referring to Paul, since Paul penned those passages about women being silent in church and being submissive to their husbands. On p 53, he states the familiar liberal Ã¢ÂÂfactÃ¢ÂÂ: Christians honor Paul more than Jesus. Ã¢ÂÂI had been tutored under Maestro Paul and found JesusÃ¢ÂÂ (p 54).
Paul, he says, did not see himself as the creator of rules that would be binding on Christians for all time. On p 136, he cites an example of Ã¢ÂÂdiscernmentÃ¢ÂÂ: Paul, raised an orthodox Jew, Ã¢ÂÂdiscernedÃ¢ÂÂ that the mandate for circumcision did not apply to Christians. Like Paul himself, Ã¢ÂÂWe have learned to discern how to live out the Bible in our world todayÃ¢ÂÂ (p 123).
On p 156, he launches into the old patriarchy tirade: Ã¢ÂÂHe who writes the story controls the glory.Ã¢ÂÂ Here are the evangelicals, finally playing catch-up to the feminism that affected the mainline denomination 30 years ago. Men wrote the Bible, and theyÃ¢ÂÂve used it to oppress women. ThatÃ¢ÂÂs known as the Ã¢ÂÂhermeneutic of suspicion,Ã¢ÂÂ and obviously it has done serious damage to the churches. Oddly, though, this author doesnÃ¢ÂÂt quote Ã¢ÂÂsexistÃ¢ÂÂ verses from the Bible. Instead he quotes the Jewish author Josephus, who said woman is inferior to man, and concludes that all Jewish men in ancient times believed that Ã¢ÂÂbut he doesnÃ¢ÂÂt quote the Old Testament to back that up. He cites evangelical scholars who insist the Bible is sexist, yet when it comes to proving it, he cites Josephus and the theologian Augustine instead of the Bible itself. (In fact, he never actually quotes Augustine in this context.)
He rejects both Ã¢ÂÂhard patriarchyÃ¢ÂÂ (women donÃ¢ÂÂt work outside the home) and Ã¢ÂÂsoft patriarchyÃ¢ÂÂ (women can work, but the husband is still in charge). He says his own enlightened view is Ã¢ÂÂmutuality,Ã¢ÂÂ based on what I call the BFV (Big Feminist Verse), Galatians 3:28: Ã¢ÂÂThere is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.Ã¢ÂÂ I worked for one of the mainline denominations in the 80s and got accustomed to hearing this verse used to justify any demand that feminists cared to make (including abortion, lesbianism, and government-funded daycare). Like this author, feminists claim the verse teaches Ã¢ÂÂequality.Ã¢ÂÂ On p 166 he claims that in Galatians 3:28, Paul Ã¢ÂÂis contending that life in Christ creates unity, equality, and oneness.Ã¢ÂÂ The verse does nothing of the kind, as we can see in PaulÃ¢ÂÂs other letters where he tells Christian slaves to work hard and obey their masters. Obviously a Christian slave and Christian master are Ã¢ÂÂone in Christ Jesus,Ã¢ÂÂ but that doesnÃ¢ÂÂt mean they become social equals. The late Donald Bloesch, a much more capable scholar than Scott McKnight, denied the Ã¢ÂÂequalityÃ¢ÂÂ interpretation and affirmed that Paul acknowledged Ã¢ÂÂa differentiation in roles either in society or in the family of the church.Ã¢ÂÂ To interpret Ã¢ÂÂall one in Christ JesusÃ¢ÂÂ as meaning Ã¢ÂÂboth men and women can be ordainedÃ¢ÂÂ is as rash as saying that it means Ã¢ÂÂmen and women are equal in upper body strength.Ã¢ÂÂ
Chapters 12 and 13 focus on women of the Bible, emphasizing WDWDÃ¢ÂÂWhat did women do? However, he makes the false assumption that Junia (Romans 16:7) is a woman (which is probably, but by no means settled) and that she definitely was an apostle (also not settled, nor does he mention that, if indeed she was an apostle, she would be the only women referred to as one). (Feminists get a lot of mileage out of this name that is mentioned only once in the Bible.) Also in chapter 13 he makes some rash assumptions about Phoebe, who was Ã¢ÂÂthe firs commentator on the letter to the Romans.Ã¢ÂÂ He devotes way too much space to Deborah, implying that she was practically queen over all Israel, which is not the impression from Judges. In the same section he calls Huldah Ã¢ÂÂProphet above the Prophets,Ã¢ÂÂ based on the fact that king Josiah consults her because she outranked other prophets living at that time. In discussing women in the Bible, he seems to have no grasp of the basic rule, Exceptio probat regulaÃ¢ÂÂthe exception proves the rule. Granted, there are great women of faith in the Bible, and we need to honor these women. But to point to Huldah, Phobe, and Junia and make the leap to Ã¢ÂÂletÃ¢ÂÂs ordain womenÃ¢ÂÂ is rash.
January 7, 2013
Has some issues
Although the book is easy to read, by the time I read 50 pages I realized I was once again on the familiar turf of "All Christians pick and choose which parts of the Bible to believe" and "Everything is just a matter of individual interpretation." Usually books like these are intended to convince Christian readers to take a more liberal view of social issues. I don't get the impression that this author is that much of a "stealth liberal" (like, for example, Brian McLaren and his crowd), but the space he devotes to women in the church definitely show him to be left of center - and since he has already tried to convince the reader that there is no certainty in interpreting the Bible, why should we put any stock in his views of women in the churches? The problem with taking the position that there is no definitive interpretation of the Bible is that there is really no reason to read books like this, is there? Or, for that matter, why buy any commentary or any book on the Bible, since we can't be sure if the author is interpreting correctly - or if there IS a correct interpretation.
Since I'm a former book editor, I give the book two stars instead of one because the writing is not bad. Having edited books by professors, I know that most of them don't write well at all, so my praise goes not to the author but to his anonymous and capable editor.
December 11, 2012
Excellent Book on Reading Scripture
I like Scot McKnight and was intrigued by the title Ã¢ÂÂ what exactly does Ã¢ÂÂThe Blue ParakeetÃ¢ÂÂ have to do with how we read our Bibles? So I picked up a copy and soon found out why.
Without giving too much away, the image of the blue parakeet symbolizes the problems that arise when anyone claims to read the Bible literally. McKnight unpacks much of the discussion surrounding things like inerrancy, inspiration, literalness etc in relation to Scripture. Basically, Christians claim that the Bible is Ã¢ÂÂthe Word of GodÃ¢ÂÂ and we believe it to be true and exact in all it teaches, but the fact of the matter is that we all pick and choose how literally we apply itÃ¢ÂÂs various teachings.
For those unfamiliar with McKnight, he is not some crazy scholar with an agenda to destroy our Bibles, he is a man who deeply loves Scripture and is saddened by our misunderstanding of how we talk about it. There is a discernment process that happens in our reading of the Bible and he does a wonderful job in outlining what this process is like for us and he gives us some guidance and insight into how to make decisions on difficult texts. There are many parts of the Bible we simply do not live out with one hundred percent literalness but that doesn't make us hypocrites. We all do this but donÃ¢ÂÂt even realize it.
The final section of this book is all about women in ministry today. He essentially takes what heÃ¢ÂÂs been writing about for the first three sections and uses that in outlining why he believes women should play a vital and lead role in the modern church. So not only is this a Biblical interpretation book, itÃ¢ÂÂs also a text about women in ministry Ã¢ÂÂ you get two works for the price of one! He could have tackled numerous issues in the modern church, but I believe this is one near dear to his heart. I would love to hear his thoughts on some of these other issues.
This book will do well to help in answering the question of Ã¢ÂÂHow do we read and apply our Bibles as modern Christians?Ã¢ÂÂ It would help to serve as a down-to-earth counter-balance to many of the more systematic works that exist that dogmatically claim inerrancy as the sole option for Christians. I think this would be a great addition to any seminary interpretation curriculum but also is easily accessible for the average lay-person. It also helps to answer the question of Ã¢ÂÂWhat about women in ministry?Ã¢ÂÂ McKnight does a marvelous job in giving empowering answers to those who believe women can and should serve as leaders.
November 24, 2012
A blessing for every woman in ministry
If you are a woman in love with Jesus and desire to serve him according to the gifts and passions he placed in you...read...and release the blue parakeet in you. Thank you Scot and thank you Lord for leading me to Scot's work.
September 26, 2011