For those of you who enjoyed my series on 10 Ways We Must Read Scripture Differently (#1 starts here), I thought it might be nice to see a different perspective on how not to read the Bible! In this case, by someone far more qualified than me to write on this topic – New Testament scholar Scot Mcknight!
I recently started reading Mcknight’s The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible and found some very similar thoughts to mine, but his list only contains 5 concerns (that he refers to as “shortcuts” – see p. 42-54 of Blue Parakeet), which I will summarize here. (Actually, better yet, stop reading now and go order the book).
1) Morsels of Law – This approach is pretty straightforward. We simply reduce the Bible to a set of rules to be obeyed. The pitfall in this approach is that we:
“become intoxicated with our own moral superiority.
become more concerned with being right than being good.
This approach distorts the Bible as God gave it to us – in the form of story – into “a collection of little more than commandments.”
2) Morsels of Blessings and Promises – The underlying cause here is verse numbering! McKnight also points out here that the marketing folks have yet to compose a “Wrath of God Calendar of Warnings” (I guess he thinks it wouldn’t sell that well)!?! Sure the blessings and promises are there a plenty:
“But the blessings and promises of God emerge from a real life’s story that also knows that we live in a broken world and some days are tough. The stories of real lives in the Bible know that we are surrounded by hurting people for whom Psalm 22:1 echoes their normal day.”
3) Mirrors and Inkblots – With the mirror approach, we always seem to end up with a Jesus who looks a lot like us. On the other hand, the Book of Revelation is a favorite of Inkblot readers:
“Instead of being swept up into the Bible’s story, Rorschach thinkers sweep the Bible up into their story… instead of finding the Bible’s story to be our story. Instead of entering into that story, we manipulate the story so it enters into our story”
Just about every denomination, group and movement in Christianity is guilty of this approach to one degree or another, by what (in the Bible) they emphasize, highlight, de-emphasize, ignore or explain away.
4) Puzzling Together the Pieces to Map God’s Mind – The great thing about this approach is that once we’ve solved the puzzle “the job is done – forever and a day.” Or to put it another way “If we know what the Bible teaches, we don’t have to read it anymore” but:
“God did not give the Bible so we could master him or it; God gave the Bible so we could live it, so we could be mastered by it.”
5) Maestros – Here McKnight recalls his former life in a Pauline-centric version of Christianity wherein Maestro Paul informs “us about what Jesus was really doing and saying” (emphasis mine). Of course those of us who read the Bible through a Jesus-centric lens should be challenged here as well:
“Reading the Bible through a maetstro’s eyes gives us one chapter in the story of the Bible. One-chapter Bible readers develop one-chapter Christian lives.”
So what do you think of McKnight’s approach? Although there is a lot of overlap with mine, it is definitely a different approach to the problem. Has he left anything out? One final challenge to the Vineyard-ites out there? Should McKnight’s challenge in 5 (and to a lesser degree 4) above cause us to reconsider our Kingdom of God centric reading of scripture as too limiting? Could we be reading our own kingdom presuppositions into the Bible in places where it’s just not there? Shouldn’t we just let John be John, let Paul be Paul, and let Moses be Moses. Let me know what you think in the comments below!