I’m currently working my way through a fascinating and challenging book by Scot McKnight. It is called, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible. I really need to blog about this one because, even though it is relatively short and simply written, there is a lot to process within these relatively few pages.
For example, take the first chapter. In it, McKnight maintains that, as much as we might claim to revere and follow the whole Bible, the truth is that
we all pick and choose the verses that we follow.
To make his point, the author highlights several examples of clear commands and examples of the New Testament that most Christians today have no trouble disregarding: the Sabbath, the tithe as “combination of spiritual support…and social service” (not just a check written to the church), foot washing, the practice of charismatic gifts, and surrendering possessions (14).
Even though I still don’t like the sound of it, I have long known that we “pick and choose”; I think most Christians would acknowledge that, even if they didn’t use those particular words. After all, even as a member of a biblically conservative tradition, I was raised regularly hearing sermons explaining why verses like “greet one another with a holy kiss” and commands about female head coverings did not apply to us, but verses on baptism and women’s roles did. It seemed obvious to me even as a young teen that anyone who had even a passing knowledge of the Old and New Testaments understood that Christians did not follow every command within those sixty-six books.
The question that was never satisfactorily answered for me, however, was how do we pick and choose? The one tool I never received from my upbringing, as biblically centered as it was, was a consistent hermeneutic, a framework through which to read the entirety of Scripture and to understand how to interact with all the verses.
As an adult, I have read a few histories of the churches of Christ and now know that “we” do have a hermeneutic, known as the Baconian hermeneutic. If you are
a nerd interested in learning about the Baconian hermeneutic, you can read a good description here. The author, John Mark Hicks, sums up not only the basics of the hermeneutical model, but also identifies my problems with consciously using it as a guide for Scripture. In fact, I now realize that most of the things I have over which I have disagreed with the church have come directly from the application of that model to Scripture. If nothing else, reading the post will explain many of the “quirks” of the churches of Christ!
That said, I love my church, and I don’t foresee me ever leaving this faith tradition that has given me so much. It has given me my love for Scripture, my hunger for studying and knowing the Bible through and through. It has also given me an anti-traditional, theologically-independent streak, which, to be honest, has its drawbacks, but overall, I’m glad I have it. And more than anything else, the church of Christ has given me a great desire for the unity of all believers, for us to embrace ourselves and others as Christians only, irrespective of denomination. Over our relatively short history, I think that the actual practice of the churches of Christ has diverged from that noble goal (depending on who you are, that statement is either disrespectful to the churches of Christ or the world’s biggest understatement). However, despite our inability to live up to our own lofty standards, those standards are still very much present in my heart.
What my membership in the church of Christ has not given me is a consistent hermeneutical model, as I was never explicitly taught “our” model and as I now reject it as an adult.
Thus, I’m in the market for a new one.
And so I’m interested in hearing what Scot McKnight suggests.
Do you have a consistent hermeneutical model? If so, please share!