I've taken a few weeks off from my review of The Blue Parakeet. It is time to return.
To recap, Scot has divided this book into four parts. The first two parts were: Story: What is the Bible? Listening: What Do I Do with the Bible? This post is the first for the third section: Discerning: How Do I Benefit from the Bible?
The first chapter of section three (chapter 9) is The Year of Living Jesus-ly: What do we do and what do we not do in the Bible.
He begins with the question, “How do we apply the Bible to our lives?” It seems that we pick and choose what to believe (especially when it comes to the Old Testament and passages like the “Holiness Code” in Leviticus 19). For all of us who say we strive to apply the whole Bible to our lives, we have to admit that we do pick and choose what to follow and what not to follow. While looking at Leviticus 19, we have to admit that we don’t worry about wearing garments made of more than one substance. We don’t have moral issues in cutting our earlocks. We don’t stand up when older folks walk into the room. Before we dismiss this passage as from a bygone era, this chapter also has the command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Either we are completely wrong in our dismissal of these commands or we have some categories in our Christian minds to help us know what to apply to our lives and what not to.
Essentially the church has always taught that the times have changed and we have learned from the NT patterns of discernment what to do and what not to do. Sometimes this is easy, at other times it is difficult.
The next section gets a little frustrating for me. He begins with a valid discussion on the prohibition of premarital sex. Someone asked him how do we deal with this now in our time. When this prohibition was given, people were married off not too long after puberty. There was not an idea of adolescence. There was no delay in marriage. Haven’t the times changed? Wasn’t the prohibition of premarital intercourse shaped exclusively for a culture in which young adults got married at the onset of puberty? These are valid questions and this is a valid debate. But McKnight drops it here. This is not the time for a test case. He will reserve that for a more hot button issue (women in ministry). I wish he would have dealt with it at least a little, but he dropped it immediately after he acknowledges that these questions are valid.
Let’s Stick to the Teachings of Jesus
Most of us would be willing to admit that we do what to follow Jesus. We even claim that we do apply Jesus’ teachings to everything we do (or at least strive to apply them). If we are honest, though, we acknowledge that we pick and choose even with Jesus and the NT. Scot wants to get behind the reasons we have for our adopting and adapting of the message of the NT.
This is the pattern of discernment. Another valid question “Once you acknowledge that we pick and choose from the Bible, doesn’t that destroy its credibility? Doesn’t’ that knock the legs out from under it? Why should we put stock in any of the Bible?” (These questions come from AJ Jacobs’ book, The Year of Living Biblically.)
Scot provides several instances where we may not live out Jesus’ words as literally as we think. One is the Lord’s Prayer. Scot believes that the best way to translate Jesus’ words, “When you pray, say…” is “Whenever you pray, recite this…” That is, Jesus is actually telling us to use those words that follow in the Lord’s Prayer. Many of us balk at that because that sounds like liturgy and we don’t believe in scripted prayers, so we apply the general principle of what Jesus said, not the literal words. He also does this with requirements to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. One of which is to abandon riches. We usually look to a greater principle of not loving wealth over God or being generous with our money, very few of us actually abandon riches.
What he hopes to accomplish here, before he moves on, is to get us to think harder about how we are reading the Bible, not necessarily resolve all of these issues. What we must discover for ourselves (and our community) is: What principles do we use to adopt and adapt the Bible? When we do, we will discover that we use various patterns of discernment.