Follow.Me

One.Life by Scot McKnight

imageThe time has come.

The kingdom of God has come near.

Repent and believe the good news!

Christians are well known for substituting legalism and activity for biblical discipleship of the kind that demands an investment of nothing less than your entire life. McKnight brings his always practical insight to bear on the question of what it should actually look like to walk in the Kingdom of Heaven that Christ announced.

At the core of One.Life is the notion of being all in. That is, life in Christ’s kingdom demands the full commitment of your one life. It was never intended to be a part-time or compartmentalized pursuit. To fully experience the full depth and breadth of the Spirit-enabled kingdom you must go beyond sampling it and make it your complete reality.

Scot touches on a wide variety of beliefs, thoughts and behaviors that generally form the contours of the Christian life, examining each in a kingdom light. In some ways, the book is The Jesus Creed part two. Where that volume helped us to flesh out what it meant to love God above all and love our neighbors as ourselves, One.Life challenges every area of life that we might be tempted to separate as outside of the kingdom.

One.Life is eminently practical on nearly every page. Professor McKnight has a lifetime of experience from which to share examples and the reader will find a variety of lives that mirror their own experiences from which lessons can be extracted. “…the Kingdom.Life only happens when you give yourself (your One.Life) to Jesus, and that means also to His kingdom dream and to those who are in that kingdom dream already.”

One.Life at Zondervan

I’m grateful to Zondervan who provided this copy for review.

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The Blue Parakeet Flies ~ Women in Ministry 5

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Loving the Bible means letting the blue parakeets that we encounter to fly free. It means learning, knowing, and loving all of the Bible rather than a few select passages. If we apply this notion to our final topic, we must bring the entire bible to bear on our process of discernment and the method that we use to decide our position on women serving in church leadership. For example, we improperly apply 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:8-15 without also adding Acts 2:16-18:

No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

“ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

Prophecy points to women being gifted and called, the Bible tells of women serving the Lord in leadership and teaching, and the fact that we selectively read the commands of the Bible all must lead us to question the manner in which we develop our position on this or any other tradition and command that we practice in our modern age. In this matter, our discernment is going to rest on whether or not we see the crimson thread of Oneness at creation, Otherness after the Fall, and the restoration of Oneness in the Messianic era.

So, what about Paul. Why did he write these passages that have caused so much confusion and consternation within the Church? We can apply historical research to the period in which Paul writes these letters and come to the conclusion that these commands were special and temporal to be applied to a specific situation but not intended to be applied through all of history. Paul himself gives us an insight into his personal process of discernment in 1 Cor 9:19-23 in which he explains that he will go to every end for the sake of the gospel:

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Would Paul put women in the pulpit if it had been advantageous for the gospel? I believe he would. In this same fashion, we must consider what we do today in the context of the good of gospel. It’s all in how we understand the Bible and learn to address the Blue Parakeet’s as they appear.

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Blue Parakeet 8

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If you have been following this series on Scot McKnight’s book The Blue Parakeet or just read the book, you will have arrived at the self-analytical conclusion that you and I don’t do everything the Bible says to do. We don’t do this out of any lack of love for God or simple disobedience, rather, we have read, analyzed, and in light of the traditions that surround us, we have decided which of the hundreds of commands apply to us and which were intended for application in another era. This is the practice of discernment.

Discernment answers the question, why do I not do what the Bible teaches? Each of us within the context of our church community and tradition approaches the answer to this question in different ways. We take God’s word in the light of the Spirit and the context of our immediate community and we hear Him speak to us in our way in our day. The conclusions that we reach and the way that we apply those conclusions reflect the best way in which we understand that God wants us to live out the gospel in our moment. There are dangers associated with this that become evident in practice. Cultic or abhorrent practices can result from individual discernment that does not take into consideration the long held traditions and beliefs that have guided the Church for centuries and that result in ‘new revelations’ counter-cultural to the Church as a whole.

Discernment is a messy process. Many modern controversies demand that we return again and again to the Bible and then prayerfully seek the Spirit’s guidance in how to understand and apply the truths that we find there. The church will decide countless matters that have profound effect on the life of the community. For example, will women preach and teach on Sunday and how will gay and lesbian followers participate in the life of the body. The remaining chapters of Blue Parakeet will address on particularly contentious issue within the body, women’s place in the ministry of the church but the pattern of discernment that McKnight highlights are applicable to numerous other issues. Let’s take a look at one, glossalalia.

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What facts can we begin our examination with? The early Christians spoke in tongues (Acts 2), Paul spoke in tongues quite a bit (1 Cor 14:18) and Christians throughout history  have received the gift of tongues. BUT, because the gift and practice have been limited in their scope to some smaller pockets of the body, a pattern of discernment arose that said that tongues are not for today, they were a sign gift for the first century alone. In spite of this, the Pentecostal movement of the early twentieth century, the charismatic believers and even the Vineyard churches have demonstrated a different pattern of discernment than the rest of the Church saying, ‘that was for then and it is also for now.’

Some with a narrow pattern of discernment will challenge this understanding and yet, the evidence of this practice is difficult to dispute. Is there something in our immediate context that forms our pattern of discernment such that we are unable to accept a truth that others have embraced? McKnight suggests in this example that those who grow up in a body where speaking in tongues is accepted are more likely to receive the gift while others with less experience continue to view it as foreign. Our context affects our interpretation and our discernment and because we have numerous unique traditions and practices to which we have become accustomed we should be cognizant of this fact, not only for ourselves but for understanding others as well.

The Blue Parakeet 7

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A collection of laws from Leviticus, chapter 19 includes the following:

19:2 Be Holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.

19:3 You must observe my Sabbaths.

19:9-10 When you reap the harvest of you land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. . . . Leave them for the poor and the alien.

19:16 Do not spread slander.

19:19 Keep my decrees.

19:26 Do not eat any meat with blood still in it.

19:27 Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.

19:28 Don’t put tattoo marks on your bodies.

19:32 Show respect for the elderly.

19:37 Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them.

So, how’re you doing on keeping this list along with the hundreds of other laws spread throughout the Bible? Most Christians will claim that if the Bible says it, they make their best attempt at following the law.

Except for those they don’t.

The question that we must answer to ourselves is why. How have we come to decide that some of the biblical laws are no longer applicable in our modern day and age? More importantly, how have we come to decide which ones to put aside? There are some who will read the bible within the framework of God’s holiness and His requirements being unchanging and therefore, His laws remain unchanging. This prism does not take into account that despite the unchanging nature of His holiness, God’s will for his people does.

Christians have developed a discernment rooted in Jesus and the New Testament and this way of discerning what applies to our lives and what is to be left to history. This stands us up to accusations of picking and choosing what applies and to some extent, this is true. In fact, the Church as a whole has historically taken this approach to the commandments of the Bible. Our goal then is to identify the patterns of discernment that lead us to the choices we make. Anyone want to start the conversation?

 

The Blue Parakeet 6

BPkeetDo not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22)

The Lord’s brother reminds us that although having a correct view of the Bible regarding its inspiration, inerrancy, and authority are essential, because the Bible is God’s personal word to each of us we must also be doers of that word. Our training in reading the Bible has a goal of developing our listening skills. We want to be more than information gatherers. We want to approach the words in love, with attentiveness and intention so that our thoughts and behaviors become naturally driven by the voice that we hear emanating from those words. In this week’s chapter of  The Blue Parakeet, Scot McKnight devotes a short chapter to the importance of listening intentionally.

God speaks to us through His bible for a reason. He speaks so that we might know Him and enter fully into relationship with Him. In the context of that relationship we tend to listen differently. If we were to happen upon a cache of love letters between two strangers, we might sit and read them marveling at the turn of a phrase or the depth of emotion expressed but they would not necessarily speak to us as an outsider. On the other hand, finding the letters that we received from our husbands or wives early on in our relationship we hear a different voice. It is no longer our own voice reciting the words but the soft, gentle voice of our wives telling the story of the letter. It speaks directly to us because we know and love the person who put the words to paper.

The Bible is intended to be read the same way, in the context of a love relationship. God speaks through the story directly to you and I in order to move us. It may be for the purposes of mission or it may be to put up a guardrail in our lives by hearing Him tell the story of others who failed to do His word. Either way, the voice we hear is personal and loving, not the technically disconnected voice of the Greek interpretation of Paul. We aren’t moved by Paul or John or Micah, we are moved by the story that God tells through them.

This concept is amongst the easiest to understand when we ask ourselves what our significant others want from us more than anything else…to be heard. Listening is loving (thank you Alan Jacobs.)

Blue Parakeet 4

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If you’re reading this, chances are you’re also familiar with Wikipedia. The title of the web sites come from the practice of publishing a data dump of your knowledge on a particular topic. It is a loosely constrained document that can take any number of shapes so long as it stays within the framework of the defined topic. Though the modern idea is credited to Ward Cunningham, the concept is centuries old and found in the Bible. Scot McKnight brings this concept to the discussion of reading the Bible as story in The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible’ target=_blank>The Blue Parakeet.

The Bible has a unique composition as we are all aware. Numerous authors writing over many, many years in a wide variety of environments and genres tell a single, continuous story. God superintended His story across this swatch of humanity and time to express His relationship with the world and His people. Rather than a systematic theology, He elected to tell the story as a series of ‘wikis.’ Each of the Bible’s authors is free to tell the story the way they see fit as long as it conforms to a consistent, sacred plot line. The authors may use poetry, history, or even a personal letter to tell the story but each remains based on the same plot.

Scot outlines the plot line as follows, using the Greek word Eikon. This becomes our anglicized ‘icon’ and means image, specifically in the Bible, the image of Christ into which we are being transformed. The storyline will be our creation as Eikons which become broken and finally restored. He suggests this order:

    • Creating Eikons – Genesis 1 and 2   (Oneness)
    • Cracked Eikons -  Genesis 3 to 11   ( Otherness )
    • Covenant Community -  Genesis 12 to Malachi  ( Otherness Expands )
    • Christ, The Perfect Eikon Redeems – Matthew to Revelation 20  ( One in Christ )
    • Consumation – Revelation 21-22

Each author works with this outline but does not necessarily have to use each one. When we view the Bible in this fashion, our understanding changes. Rather than sixty six different stories, we can understand the interaction of the authors as variations on the same story. This unity is missed when we use another approach to reading and can tempt us to pull books or passages out of the whole context, leading us to misinterpretations, something we should desire to avoid. Any impressions on this idea?

Blue Parakeet 3

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Scot McKnight establishes a key idea in The Blue Parakeet mid way through chapter four. He posits that the Bible that God gives us to read is presented as the unfolding story of His ways with His people. When we approach the text as something else, we lose the power of reading the book as a story. In doing so, we lessen its impact on our lives and may even ‘discover’ interpretations that differ from the original intention of the authors or The Author.

Context is everything in reading the Bible as we’ve seen countless times. Context can be viewed as the concentric rings of a pebble in a pond; there is an immediate ring or context, and then one a little further out, and so on. Each of the verses exists in a context of a passage and that exists in a book and so on until we can see that each of the smallest contextual markers contributes to the whole of God’s story. Rather than standing on their own trying to carry the full weight of biblical revelation, the stories contribute to The Story. McKnight gives us a valuable example in asking us to consider our perspective on paying interest on a loan. Many of us have home mortgages or car loans on which we have agreed to pay a certain percentage of interest. We do this as Christians despite the clear biblical prohibition against it in Leviticus 25:35-38. Why? How do we justify dismissing this (and many other) passage when we claim the whole Bible as the Word of God? We do so saying “that was then, this is now” pointing out culturally how our time in God’s story is different from that of the Israelites. We stand correctly in this assertion because we read the Bible as a story with many different eras and cultures represented for the purposes of God’s expression of His relationship with His creation.

The question that we must address is what determines “what was for then?”  If we read for promises and blessings or morsels of law we lose sight of the story and we are tempted to say that ‘this was for then’ and ‘it is also for now’ to everything, despite the obvious cultural differences. Tempering this is the easily remembered device: God spoke to Moses in Moses ways in Moses days, to Amos in Amos’ days in Amos’ ways and to us in our days in our ways. If we are able to read the Bible as story and we understand the thread that runs throughout, we see that same thread running through our own lives in our own modern ways. Each author reworked the bigger story for his audience and we should read what God has left for us in our own context.

I struggle a bit with this chapter. Is it for everyone to decide what ‘was for then’ on their own? Is it only in the context of reading as a community that we can discover that? I’m interested to hear your views on this and on the book as a whole.