Hermeneutics and Blue Parakeets: Missional Listening

bible.jpgMcKnight argues that if we love someone, we’ll listen to his words. Therefore, our Bible reading must be a listening reading.

Now, this seems pretty elementary, but consider what it contradicts —

* Reading to prove yourself right

* Reading to prove your opponent wrong

* Reading to answer your questions (as opposed to reading to learn what the correct questions are!)

All these are plainly in contradiction to love for God. Rather, in acting this way we set ourselves up as the standard by which God’s will should be judged. We pick those verses that defend our preferred views and don’t bother to listen to the others.

And so, McKnight offers some tips on how to listen well.

* Missional listening begins with the wisdom of the ages.

Wise mentors are critical to successful Bible study. Obviously, we study with our mentors, not through them. They are imperfect and cannot replace God’s own wisdom. But they have experience and education that speeds the process for us. Why be so arrogant that we can’t learn from others?

Of course, this means we have to choose our mentors wisely. Nor may we limit our mentors to the professors at our preferred college or the scholars of our preferred denomination. Rather, we should combine their scholarship with the brilliance of other men from other traditions. I mean, we don’t have to be Anglicans to learn from N. T. Wright or Dutch Reformed to learn from Ray Vander Laan or Methodist to learn from Stanley Hauerwas … or Anglican to learn from C. S. Lewis or Lutheran to learn from Luther. 

After all, we can hardly pretend to be open-minded if we judge such men useless before we’ve even read their writings!

* Missional listening is empowered by inspiration.

McKnight reminds us what Paul actually says about inspiration —

(2 Tim 3:16-17)  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The point of inspiration isn’t to argue about how to define it or how to phrase a confession of faith. The point is to let the inspired writings equip us for every good work! And God’s breath — his Spirit — isn’t limited to the pages of the scriptures. In concert with the scriptures, the Spirit empowers us to be the man or woman God wants us to be.

* Missional listening is a process.

Go back and re-read 2 Timothy 3:16-17. What is God’s word really good for? Fighting and dividing over every nuance and silence? No. It’s useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness. In other words, we are to come to the word prepared to be wrong and to be rebuked and corrected. There’s no other approach to listening that truly respects inspiration.

* Missional living blossoms into a life of good works.

Inspiration makes us righteous, and our righteousness produces good works. If we are people of faith who do good works, then we listen to the scriptures well. If not, not.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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One Response to Hermeneutics and Blue Parakeets: Missional Listening

  1. Joe Bagget says:

    It has been said that we have lost the ability to be accountable well I believe we have lost the ability to listen. I believe it is truly one of organized Christianity's failures. We need to remember the verse from Samuel that says speak Lord your servant is listening. The good works are not religious acts or rituals but rather works of transformation and love.

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