On Monday morning I received an advanced reader copy of Scot McKnight’s latest book, “The blue Parakeet.” I read it in almost one sitting and anticipate rereading it a few times. This book will definitely become a standard text for our community’s engagement with Scripture. The book is clear, positive and very practical. One thing that continually struck me was Scot’s honesty and the lack of despair. Scot voices an overwhelming excitement in this book even in the midst of very difficult matters (like women in ministry).
I will interact with some of the aspects of this book in the following few weeks.
So here goes …
Scot makes the observation that,
“Every one of us adopts the Bible and (at the same time) adapts the Bible to our culture. In less appreciated terms, I’ll put it this way: Everyone picks and chooses. I know this sounds out of the box and off the wall for many, but no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, it’s true. We pick and choose. (It’s easier for us to hear “we adopt and adapt,” but the two expressions amount to the same thing) – p13.
Scot notes that:
“I believe there is an inner logic to our picking and choosing, but I believe we need to become aware of what it is.” – p.19
So we pick and choose what texts are applicable to us, and this is done according to some kind of system. It is here where I want to introduce the term “rationalization”. Scot uses “inner logic.”
All of us have some rationalization running as an operating system when we read and apply the Bible. Kierkegaard made the same kind of observation in his unique way.
When I went to school, teachers could still give us corporal punishment. Usually with a rod. The maximum was six shots. Some school boys would take the inner tubing of a bicycle tire, cut a circle out of it and then punch some holes in the tube. This was called ‘n “gatvel” in Afrikaans (a literal translation will be a ‘butt skin’). The holes would muffle the sound of the tubing (but woe to those who were caught).
This is the image Kierkegaard used. He said that all of us have become accustomed to facing the reality of the Word with a “but skin.” Here’s how Kierkegaard said it:
Can’t we be honest for once! We have become such experts at cunningly shoving one layer after another, one interpretation after another, between the Word and our lives (like a boy putting padding under his pants when he is about to get a spanking). We then allow this preoccupation to swell to such profundity that we never come to look at our lives in the mirror. All this interpreting and re-interpreting is but a defense against God’s Word.
It is all too easy to understand the requirements contained in God’s Word (“Give all your goods to the poor.” “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the left.” “Count it sheer joy when you meet various temptations” etc.). The most ignorant, poor creature cannot honestly deny being able to understand God’s requirements. But it is tough on the flesh to will to understand it and to then act accordingly. Herein lies the problem. It is not a question of interpretation, but action.
In the first part of the book, Scot heeds Kierkegaard! He deals honestly with our extra butt skins and he also aims at action, “How, then, are we to live out the Bible today?” – p.21