Whose Bible Do We Live By?

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A couple of days ago, this tweet came up from Jim Wideman:

Immediately after that he tweeted this:

Now, I’m not trying to criticize Jim Wideman. He’s been around a lot longer than I have and has mentored many a children’s pastor. You can find out more about what he does at JimWideman.com.

I think, though, that we short-change the kids, families, and volunteers we minister to by simply telling people to “do what the Bible says.” If it were that simple, then why are there so many dedicated and intelligent Christ followers who disagree with each other on what is written within the pages of the word of God? That is exactly what Scot McKnight examines in his book The Blue Parakeet.

Scot McKnight challenges our assumptions that the Bible is simply a list of rules or a puzzle to be put together or a some kind of theological guide that needs to be systematized. He starts off by admitting to the elephant in the room of Christendom: we pick and choose how we read and apply the Bible. Now, I can hear the gasps of disbelief. What about inerrancy? What about being inspired by the Holy Spirit? McKnight isn’t saying the Bible isn’t the word of God. What he is saying, though is that the Bible isn’t meant to be read in parts but seen as a whole. The Bible is God’s story of bringing redemption to man and creation culminating in the death and resurrection of Jesus and continuing on into today as we join with the Holy Spirit in his ongoing redemptive work leading to his return. As we read the Bible, we need to interpret what is read through the backdrop of the entire story. Even then, we have to admit that each of us have lenses that we interpret scripture through and still don’t come to the same conclusions all the time.

Is this muddy? Doesn’t this allow for a subjective interpretation of scripture? I don’t think so because we also use the backdrop of history and tradition and creeds to inform our interpretations. What this way of reading and interpreting scripture does do is to help us to actually think through what we believe certain scriptures teach and not always opt for the “easy” or culturally popular answer.

As we begin to view scripture in this way, it becomes more alive and more dynamic than “Basic Instrcutions Before Leaving Earth.” The Bible becomes a living story which points us to the infinite God who created us and paid a huge price for us to be able to be in relationship with him again.

What does that mean for children’s ministry? It means that we help children learn the God story told in the Bible. It means we help children understand that the Bible is not an instruction book; it is not a guidebook. We help children understand that the Bible is God’s story written for us; it is his love letter that reveals who he is and points us to him. It means we stop telling kids, “Just do what the Bible says.”

I highly recommend Scot McKnight’s book The Blue Parakeet. It is easy to read and gives you a new perspective on how to read the Bible.

  • What goes through your mind when you hear someone say something like, “I just do what the Bible says”?
  • What do you think about McKnight’s method on reading the Bible?
  • What do you do to help children know the overall God Story of the Bible?


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9 thoughts on “Whose Bible Do We Live By?

  1. Timothy says:

    I dunno….
    I haven't read the book yet, but your point is well taken. In fact, re-reading your post, I found myself nodding more in agreement than disagreement.
    That being said….
    I believe the intent of "doing what the Bible says" is to live in a Biblically congruent manner. I tend to get uncomfortable with those who make lists of rules and regulations from the Scripture, particularly when those rules are out-of-context. But we must never forget that, among other things, the Bible is "profitable for teaching, rebuke, correction, and instruction in righteousness." Since it is impractical to teach the entire 66 books in one sitting, we have to concentrate on the parts.
    To me, one of the thrills of Bible teaching is when we take the parts and show how they fit in the whole. It's an ongoing process of surveying the forest, then dropping down to examine the trees, then pulling back to look at the forest again, and so on.
    I'm looking forward to getting ahold of the book.

    • Henry Zonio says:

      I agree. One way McKnight puts it in his book is that the individual stories are like "wiki-stories" of the overall story. While this analogy isn't perfect, I liked the picture. We need to relate the individual stories back to the overall big picture.

  2. @mattguevara says:

    This work is heavily based on NT Wright's seminal speech, "Is the Bible Authoritative?" (http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Bible_Authorit… Wright argues for looking at the Bible as the first four acts of a five act play. It's pretty interesting and slightly controversial. From my research on Emergent theology, many Emergents look to NT Wright (certainly Rob Bell does – they posted the aforementioned article on their church website years ago).

  3. Christen says:

    Is this a bad time to tell you that this Sunday's 'special words' are 'I will listen to the Bible and do what it says'?!! I'll try to do it justice while your away!

    • Henry Zonio says:

      Ha! That is too funny! The important thing is to explain what you mean by "I will listen to the Bible and do what it says." Too many times we just leave it at that and expect that people will read it and understand it just like we do, when that isn't the case. If it were, we wouldn't have multiple denominations, etc.

  4. jim wideman says:

    I think that Jim Wideman guy is on to something on a return to an emphasis on the Bible s a way of life for kids and families! 😉 thanks for the mention

    • Henry Zonio says:

      Ha! Hopefully most of us never stopped emphasizing the Bible as a way of life. My point was that we cannot simply teach kids and families that the Bible is an instruction book or manual. It is a dynamic story of God's redemptive work throughout history. It lets us know who God is, how much he loves us, how we can best follow him and how we can be a part of changing the world around us.

      We all need reminders, though. So, thanks for that.

  5. […] This past Tuesday, Eric Bryant hosted a teleseminar with Scot McKnight as his guest. If you don’t already know, I have a man crush on Scot McKnight. He’s one of the best articulated theologians on this whole Third Way/Third Culture/Missional way of viewing things. Anyway, someone asked about how to best help people with not theological education read, interpret and understand the Bible for all its worth. One answer he had was to encourage people to read the Bible in its entirety and be familiar with it. That way we can interpret scripture in light of the whole. McKnight wrote a book entitled The Blue Parakeet which goes into that method of studying the Bible in more depth. I highly recommend it! […]

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