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The Blue Parakeet: Part Three

October 10, 2008

Applying scriptural teaching requires discernment. We know this but still it can be challenging. This is the area where I see the most difficulty within the church, and where I have the most “How to” questions. We respect the Bible, but I wonder if sometimes we tend to fear engaging it? Hence the reason for The Blue Parakeet and McKnight’s thesis (Can you tell I think this book is timely!). Often scripture can be seen as an instruction manual or rule book rather than a Story, accompanied by the temptation to create overarching, hard and fast policies for how to deal with any situation we face. McKnight talks about the drawbacks of such approaches, and explains, “there’s a lot more discerning going on than we thought” (120). It again comes back to being honest that there is a lot of “adopting and adapting” going on. From all of us. And the author contends that the Church has always done this. I believe he is right, and that this practice predates the New Testament church, which was adopting, adapting, binding, loosing, and discerning together.

It is at this point in my experience (evangelical congregations in the US) that some folks get a little nervous or upset, feeling that the Bible is being knocked down a peg or that the authority of scripture is being challenged. There can be a temptation to fall back to hyper-literal readings of scripture. But what if we’re supposed to be more involved in interacting with the words of scripture? What if we had a better understanding of the “patterns of discernment” that we use? (128). Here’s what McKnight means by a pattern of discernment:

“as we read the Bible and locate each item in its place in the Story, as we listen to God speak to us in our world through God’s ancient Word, we discern—through God’s Spirit and in the context of our community of faith—a pattern of how to live in our world” (129).

What do you find to be the most challenging elements of discerning Bible teachings in community?

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