If I could I would require every Free Methodist (and encourage all other serious followers of Christ) to read Scot McKnight's, The Blue Parakeet. Let me tell you why.
One of the crises, perhaps near (if not at) the root of all our crises, in the church is the inability to make good on our claim that the Bible is, in fact, God's Word. We're not even sure what it means to say that. When I say "we" I'm talking about most of our people and some of our pastoral leaders. In what sense is this book–The Holy Bible–God's Word? And, so what? What differencee does that make? Aren't there as many interpretations as there are interpreters? Doesn't everyone just support what they already think by finding it somewhere in the Bible? The list of questions goes on.
Scot McKnight observes that no one applies everything in the Bible and everyone "picks and chooses," or "adapts and adopts." That is, everyone treats some parts of the Bible as God's Word for today and totally binding, and other parts as not applicable any more, and for various reasons "safe to ignore." In some cases, totally binding portions are to be found surrounded by numerous portions that most confidently ignore as no longer of consequence for today. For example, the second command to love neighbor as self is found in the book of Leviticus (see 19:18). On no less than the authority of Jesus we recognize the claim this command has on any serious Christ-follower, at the same time we ignore most of the specific commands surrounding it in Leviticus.
We all pick and choose–that's a fact we cannot deny. We all also recognize the principle: "That was then and this is now" when it comes to the application of the Bible. Though all of us who take Scripture seriously do this, we seldom pay attention to how or why we do it, and we often disagree in our treatment of specific texts in the Bible.
McKnight notes that many people read the Bible primarily as:
- a collection of laws or
- a collection of blessings and promises or
- a Rorschach inkblot onto which we can project our own ideas or
- a giant puzzle that we are to puzzle together or
- orchestrated by one of the authors in the Bible as the Maestro for the others.
The problems with each of these are clear upon reflection:
- The Bible is more than laws, and each law connects to a context.
The Bible is more than blessings and promises; there are some warnings and threats as well.
The Bible is something that comes to us from God and not something onto which we can impose our wishes and desires.
The Bible is a story to be read, not a divinely scattered puzzle to be pieced together into a system that makes sense of it all.
The Bible is a collection of retellings of the Story (McKnight calls them "wicki-stories of the Story") and each author, each Maestro, is but one voice at the table (see p. 209 for both lists)
In The Blue Parakeet, we have an excellent description of how to read the Bible that makes sense of the whole Bible as God's Word. He elaborates the themes of Story, Listening, and Discerning as key components for God's people to read the Scriptures with tradition (not through tradition) so that we may faithfully tell the story in our day in our way (i.e., in a way that is appropriate for the current circumstances facing us. Scot McKnight offers here not only a description of how to read and apply the Bible, but then also shows us how it works in relation to the question of women in ministry.
As I say, if I could I would make it required reading. But, then, I really can't do that. And, I'll leave it for you to learn what all of this has to do with blue parakeets!