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The Blue Parakeet — pick, choose, and apply

March 20, 2009

In these early chapters Scot McKnight helps us recognize there is a disconnect between what we say we believe and what we actually do.  Some of us might have our feathers ruffled but part of being truthful with God (and ourselves) is to recognize that we don’t always hold to what we say.   Quite intentionally Scot forces us away from the word “apply” toward the world “live out.”  If you are living out something, it has become part of you; if you apply something it can be like putting sunscreen lotion on your arms so you don’t burn.

Do we live out what the Bible teaches?  Check out James 1:26-27.  You will pretty quickly realize that we “qualify” these verses.  There are many Bible-believing Christians that do not practice their faith in the way James describes.  James provides a different standard of measurement than what we today think of as a “successful” church.  Go ahead answer what comes to mind.  If you thought of how good the music is on Sunday mornings (“we have wonderful musicians”) or how many attend this or that church program or attend church on Sundays or how much money is given or how big the budget is, or how many programs we have, or what type of facilities are on the church campus then you are thinking of the typical ways we measure success today.  Some churches measure how many people accepted Christ as Lord and Savior.  I think you get the idea. McKnight doesn’t “judge” whether we’re right or wrong (and it’s not my intent either).  That misses the point.

What Scot highlights for us by helping us look at this portion of Scripture (and when you study the “whole” Bible you recognize that what James wrote about is a consistent thread throughout all of Scripture) is that we do in fact adapt Scripture to fit our “culture” or our particular time and place.  Oh.

How else do we pick and choose?  If you’ve read Scot McKnight before you know that he is at his best when he reveals Godly truth but doesn’t “shoot the reader” in the process.  I’ve been “nailed” before and I get “nailed” again but in such a way that I don’t feel like I’ve been nailed to the wall.  That’s simply not Scot’s intent.  McKnight reveals truth so that we can recognize where we are and then seek to live out our lives in such a way that we love God and love others.  It permeates everything he writes (and says — I’m guessing since I’ve never heard him “live”).

So when Scot unpacks the Sabbath, surrendering possession, tithing, charismatic gifts or even contentious issues (like should women be ordained?) he reveals that we pick and choose because we often end up saying, “that was then, but this is now.” (Page 16). In looking at these particular areas (realize this is a synthesis) McKnight helps us see that:

  • Regarding the Sabbath: “We sometimes, rightly or wrongly, live out the Bible, by not doing something in the Bible (Page 14).
  • Regarding tithing: “We live out sometimes, rightly or wrongly, by morphing one thing into another (Page 14).  This draws you into the Old Testament text to realize the intent of the tithe was a combination of spiritual support for the temple and social service for the poor (check out Deuteronomy 26:12).  Our tithe today is most often associated our local church. (Pages 14-15).
  • Regarding foot washing: “Sometimes we look behind the text to grasp a timeless principle and the principle is more important than doing the actual words.”  (Page 15).
  • Regarding charismatic gifts: “This expression sums up the way many read the Bible, “that was then, this is now.” (Page 16).
  • Regarding surrendering possessions:  McKnight refers us to several places in Scripture — Luke 12 and 14.  The words of Christ.  We know from church history that those before us took these words quite literally and there are those today that do the same.  So how do we live out these words of Christ — given without apparent conditions?  “How do we decide such things?  How do we know what to do and what not to do?” (Page 17).  Scot McKnight informs us these two questions have provided the energy to his study throughout his adult life.

Personally I realize that I could never be “the Bible answer human.”  There are too many questions and I realize there is a disconnect that we must face.  If we say on one hand the Bible is the infallible and inerrant word of God and we imply that we are going to follow exactly what it says we must confront the reality that we do not.  Scot forces us to simply own where we are.  I am grateful.

Rather than be defensive.  These “encounters” (as Scot calls them) provide us with an opportunity to think about what we believe, why we believe it, how we read the Bible and ultimately (and let’s face he’s right) how we live out the Bible today. (Page 21).

Please note all page references refer to the book by Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan 2008)

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