The Blue Parakeet: A review

A pet parakeet wanders the yard of author, blogger, North Park University professor, birdwatcher and Cub fan Dr. Scot McKnight. The other backyard birds were terrified of the bizarre blue visitor’s quick movements and strange birdsong.
The parakeet made its home in and around the McKnights’ suburban yard most of the summer, and McKnight watched as the birds’ social order gradually changed: “Instead of being shocked by the odd sounds and sudden flights of the parakeet, they gradually became unfazed…When it flew to the feeder, they joined it – not because they were hungry, but because they wanted to be near the blue parakeet…one time I saw about thirty sparrows surrounding the blue parakeet on the neighbor’s garage.”

McKnight contends that the Bible is full of “blue parakeet” passages – shocking, surprising, provocative passages that fly into our lives, squaking and singing and challenging our cozy backyard religious status quo. The central question of this book: “How do you read the Bible? What happens to you when you encounter blue parakeet passages in the Bible will reveal all you need to know about how you read the Bible.”

The first half of The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How Your Read The Bible offers readers a great discussion about the overarching Story of the Bible, as well as a thought-provoking exploration about the ways people often read the Bible (Morsels of Law Morsels of Blessing and Promises, Mirrors and Inkblots where we look for images of ourselves in the Bible, Puzzling Together the Pieces to Map God’s Mind, and Maestros, those who read the Bible through the lens of a single character). He invites readers to push past some of the old categories many of us have experienced, particularly in evangelicalism:

I grew up with a specific kind of approach to the Bible, and it has taken me a long time to develop a more complete understanding of the Bible. I grew up with what might be called ‘the authority approach’ to the Bible. Simply put, it works with these words: God, revelation, inspiration, inerrancy, authority, and submission…I believe this is an approach that fosters a relationship with the Bible.

Deep inside I knew there was something wrong with framing our view of the Bible like this. It took me years to put my finger on it. Perhaps I can say it like this: When I read my Bible, the words ‘authority’ and ‘submission’ don’t describe the dynamic I experience. It is not that I think these words are wrong, but I know there is far more to reading the Bible than submitting to authority.

Even those who claim to read the Bible literally aren’t wearing tunics of mixed fibers while stoning false prophets. The Blue Parakeet’s user-friendly discussion about how we discern how to obey God’s words is the heart of the book. This conversation about the discernment process leads into the second half of the book – an exploration of what Scripture has to say about the role of women in the church. McKnight’s choice of this issue serves to illustrate the principles he’s laid out in the first half of the volume.

McKnight begins by telling the story of his experience teaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School from 1983-1995. (Let the reader note: my husband is a TEDS grad, and the school is my current employer.) During the years McKnight taught at Trinity, the “role of women in ministry” issue was a highly polarized, emotional and frequently-divisive front-burner affair at the seminary. Those on all sides (which is pretty much another way of saying “both sides”) of the issue claimed that their interpretation and application of the blue parakeet texts about women was THE ONE which best captured God’s intent and direction on the issue. I loved McKnight’s courage in talking about the way he navigated the turmoil at TEDS, and appreciated his thoughtful, faithful analysis of what the New Testament both reports and commands about women’s role in ministry. The book concludes with a couple of great appendices, and some interesting first-century thoughts about women.

This 235-page book is written for a popular audience, and McKnight’s warm writing style and touches of humor transform what is usually dense, academic subject matter into the kind of material that everyday Christians like you and I can apply…and which will transform us, if we let it, into people that welcome blue parakeets into our own backyards.
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About Michelle Van Loon
  • Eric Nygren

    Not a bad book. I posted my review today too. I may need to give it a reread, but I agree, a very conversational approach.

  • Michelle Van Loon

    Hey Eric – Nice job on the review. I actually had the same thought you did about about whether it might have been more effective to treat a few different “blue parakeet” issues rather than focusing on just one. But I guess I needed to hear what he had to say (and I needed to think about how he got there) in depth on the one issue.

  • Tim Aagard

    Thank you for the review. I have not read the book yet. From what you have described, God has led me to several parakeet verses. I have 2 reasons for parakeet scripture.

    1. I think part of the parakeet dynamic is that the scriptures are “spiritually diserned”, not mentally discerned. The Spirit has sovereignty over when we realize a given truth from a given passage. Only He knows of our readiness to hear and obey. I think it is very easy for believers to digress into assuming they understand a scripture because they mentally understand the words. This is specially true in the seminary setting where things can get so cerebral with Greek, Hebrew, and walls of commentaries with thousands of words of technical nuance. God does not funnel his wisdom through those who professionalize in this stuff. God has outright told us he has not chosen many wise after the worlds standards of academia.

    2. God has instructed us to always test what we are told by the experts or any believer, compare it with the scriptures to see if it is true. Acs 17:11 The Berean Dynamic. From my life, when I did this, God’s Word was revealed to my life that is not available from any book, preacher, etc. It was as simple as checking out the wider context. Sometimes it was from looking up a word in Vines. These were parakeet moments. So many believers ignore this dynamic and suck in a lot of distorted opinions of men. Thus, they flock only with birds of their own feather and miss the beauty God has designed for them to experience.

  • Michelle Van Loon

    Tim – Based on your comments, I believe you’d really enjoy this book. McKnight doesn’t reference the academics of biblical interpretaion in this book (though he could – he’s an academic by vocation) – he actually builds an really good discussion about how each of us, no matter how literally and simply we believe our approach to Scripture is, invokes some other grids through which we decide what is for us in the here and now. Thinking through these issues is part of being a Berean, don’t you think?


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