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The Blue Parakeet – Scot McKnight

14 Jul 2011

I recently read The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight.  Here is an unpolished review I wrote mostly for myself.

Great book about how Christians read the Bible – in addition to encouraging a historical, cultural, literary approach, McKnight emphasizes the “picking and choosing” that all Christians do when reading the Bible.  He repeatedly points out that we all do it.  It is not wrong, but it is important to understand the reasons why we do it the way we do.  He lists five ways that Christians have read the Bible:

  1. Morsels of Law
  2. Morsels of Blessings and Promises
  3. Mirrors and (Rorschach) Inkblots
  4. Puzzling together the pieced to map God’s mind – creating the “grand system”  McKnight emphasizes God revealed the Bible as story, not as systematic theology. But his real problem with this approach seems to be that it can result in people thinking they have the Bible figured out or have mastery of it – they know what it says – they have “caged and tamed the Blue Parakeet” (p52) (IMO, this happens when people’s first question is not what does this mean, but how do I make this fit in my system (as Fee has observed in Reading the Bible for all Its Worth).  But many of us do this to some extent – esp. in the West where system is such a huge part of our culture.)
  5. Maestros – reading all of the Bible through a favorite Bible person (e.g. Paul, or even Jesus).  The problem is ONLY asking What would Jesus do? or What would Paul say? or How do I understand this using Paul’s categories and ways?

(ch 3)

He encourages a reading “with” rather than “through” tradition.

He also encourages an understanding of and reading informed and shaped by the story of the Bible –

  1. Creating Eikons (image bearers) – Oneness – Gen 1-2
  2. Cracked Eikons – Fall – Otherness – Gen 3-11
  3. Covenant community – Otherness expands – Gen 12-Malachi
  4. Christ, the perfect Eikon, redeems – One in Christ – Matt – Rev 20
  5. Consummation – Perfectly One – Rev 21-22


The “wiki-stories” (as he calls them) that make up the big story also reflect this overall story (or parts of it).  The importance of keeping it all in mind as we read – or we can get off track.

In the last section of the book, McKnight applies these principles in reading the passages about women and leadership in the church.  He defends an egalitarian – or what he prefers to call a “mutuality” position.


Overall the book was a great presentation of these ideas at a basic / popular level.  However, I did feel that McKnight was at times a bit too dismissive and perhaps a bit unfair with others. While I think I understand the underlying reasons for it (related to typical hermeneutics and interpretive practice of different groups), the blurb on the back of the book was OTT – presenting McKnight as the first to offer middle ground between “out-of-touch fundamentalists [and] unrealistic liberals”.  I actually saw this turn someone off of the book.  While this kind of unfairness / hero-solving-huge-problem does not happen this egregiously in the book, there are hints of it.  (find and include example here)

Also in the book, we can see that McKnight obviously enjoys teaching the Bible to undergraduates and it seems he does a great job.  As a not-young-person who teaches undergraduates, I do wonder how some of his attempts to be “hip” come across to young people.  I can’t say.  I either never try or fail when I attempt this.  If he is succeeding, that is great – I just don’t know.

I do think the content is needed and useful for young people – even if they disagree with his position / application re women in the church.  I think the content is presented in a friendly, readable way.  I am giving the book to a couple of high school graduates at our church.


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