When I first heard the title of Professor Scot McKnight’s latest book—The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible—I must admit I was both baffled and intrigued. What on earth does a blue parakeet have to do with reading the Bible?
The professor who (along with his wife) is an avid birdwatcher, found an illustration for some of our worst Bible reading habits in his own back yard when a blue parakeet suddenly appeared in the midst of his sparrow-dominated property.
At first, the strange little flat-beaked blue newcomer terrified the flock of sparrows. Bird psychologists would have been taking notes as they observed the sparrows’ nervous behavior. In time, however, the sparrows adjusted. Even though the blue parakeet remained—blue as ever—the sparrows carried on as though nothing odd or unusual was among them.
The Bible, according to Dr. McKnight, is full of blue parakeet passages—texts that disturb a first-time reader, but to which we grow accustomed over time, learn to ignore, and eventually don’t even see. Instead of allowing these blue parakeets to fly as they were meant to do, we domesticate them with methods that relieve our discomfort and put these awkward, disturbing, and seemingly disjointed passages to sleep. Instead of wrestling with what we’re reading, we grow comfortable with portions of Scripture that should jar us into asking hard questions and so we forfeit important opportunities intended to challenge our thinking and help us learn. In the process we’re muting the message God means for His Word to speak into our lives.
Dr. McKnight exposes the rampant tendency among believers to “pick and choose” verses they embrace and those they push aside. Everyone is doing this. He identifies five widely-accepted parakeet taming methods that keep us from digging deeply into God’s word and points us to reading the Bible as story—the grand story God is weaving, composed of “wiki-stories” told by the writers and characters of the biblical narrative.
He takes for a case study verses relating to the role of women. Given the fact that leading evangelical scholars can’t agree on how to interpret these passages, it is difficult to argue with the professor’s assertion that the subject of women in the Bible is classic parakeet territory. I must say it warmed my heart to read his sincere apology to the women of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for not standing up for them when he was a professor at that seminary. You may or may not agree with his conclusions about these texts, but don’t let that stand in your way of reading this excellent book. He’ll make you think about how you read the Bible and guide you into a richer reading of God’s word.
I love this post and appreciate the recommendation for Professor McKnight’s book. How familiar the scenario of the blue parakeet is to me! For years, without making a conscious decision to do so, I just skipped over many passages of the New Testament dealing with the role of women. Now, looking back over the last 20 years or so, I can say that those very passages I once avoided have become a treasure trove of blessing and freedom for me. Not that I have all the answers I seek! But I have discovered the Father heart of God in those passages. And the struggle, once confronted and then embraced, has brought greater intimacy into my love for Him. I am ordering The Blue Parakeet! Thanks.