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Just before Christmas I received a copy of Scot McKnight’s latest offering, intriguingly titled, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible. I would tell you why it has such a strange title, but that would steal some of Scot’s thunder. It would also take longer to explain than I’d want to do here. What’s more, while Scot may have drawn on this reoccurring metaphor for his title, it wasn’t for me the most important aspect of what he had to say. Indeed, if I was being totally honest, I would probably say that it didn’t work for me – but that’s a personal thing, not a criticism of Scot’s book. After all, I didn’t get on with the literary vehicle Brian McLaren employed for his New Kind of Christian trilogy, and yet it remains for me one of the most important Christian books of recent years, and one I’ve recommended more times than I can recall. And that is going to be true of the Blue Parakeet. Indeed, I had to get my copy back from a friend so I could write this review.
My post-grad studies were about aspects of biblical interpretation – hermeneutics – those factors that impinge and shape our reading and understanding of Scripture and so allow us, as Scot puts it, not to simply ‘apply’ the biblical narrative, but to live it out, to let it become part of who we are, part of our story – to transform us as human beings.
Now, I am 100% convinced that the vast majority of Christians could do with a better understanding of biblical interpretation. It’s not good enough to claim you have a high view of Scripture, or that you believe the Bible to be the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God if you’ve never really thought about what you mean by such things, or even know how the Bible came about historically.
Let me share a story. I can’t recall where I got it from, but it illustrates an important point.
A few years ago, my friend Brian McLaren coined a phrase: Generous Orthodoxy. I guess for some, this simply meant ‘fudge’ or ‘compromise’ or the polar opposite of ‘orthodoxy’ – heresy. But that’s not what Brian meant. Generous orthodoxy is the uncompromising pursuit of Jesus – faith seeking understanding – by the Christian community. A search for truth that doesn’t simply affirm our entrenched positions, but one that is open, an intentional knowing of Jesus that ensures that we, and the world we live in is changed for the better. Generous orthodoxy can sound like the easy option – be open to all so you don’t have to make any boundary-setting doctrinal or theological decisions. Actually, it’s a hard path to walk. It’s the desire to value and recognise orthodoxy within the breadth of Christian tradition. It’s a vision few have done justice to- something that can’t be said of Scot McKnight.