Wednesday, December 10, 2008

When Scot McKnight met F.F. Bruce

I have recently read the outstanding and thought-provoking book Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight. I believe Scot has spoken somewhat prophetically in this book on what the Bible is, how it is to be read, and specifically, the role of women in ministry. Do go out and purchase this book if you have not. I believe you will be challenged, provoked, and inspired by what Scot has to say.

In the chapter (15) entitled "Silencing the Blue Parakeet (2): Women in Church Ministries 5" has an interesting story of when he and his family met with F.F. Bruce for some afternoon tea. It is worth quoting the story in full and pay close attention to what Bruce says in this conversation.

In the Spring of 1981, as a doctoral student in Nottingham, England, I piled Kris and our two kids, Laura and Lukas, into our small car and drove to Buxton. Professor F.F. Bruce, perhaps the most widely known evangelical scholar of the previous generation and a specialist on Paul, had invited our family to his home for some late-afternoon tea. When we arrived, we were welcomed into the home by Professor Bruce, and we sat in the living room for about two hours. During that time our son managed to spill a glass of orange squash on the Bruce's rug, which Professor Bruce dismissed with a 'whatever can be spilled has been spilled on that rug.'

During a break, as Kris was talking to Mrs. Bruce, I asked Professor Bruce a question that I had stored up for him (and I repeat our conversation from memory): 'Professor Bruce, what do you think of women's ordination?'

'I don't think the New Testament talks about ordination,' he replied.

'What about the silencing passages of Paul on women?' I asked.

'I think Paul would roll over in his grave if he knew we were turning his letters into torah.'

Wow! I thought. That's a good point to think about. Thereupon I asked a question that he answered in such a way that it reshaped my thinking:

'What do you think, then, about women in church ministries?'

Professor Bruce's answer was as Pauline as Paul was: 'I'm for whatever God's Spirit grants women gifts to do.' (italics original; 206-207)

All I can say is 'wow'! Oh yeah, and another thing...go pick up this book!


Mason said...

I have to second your recommendation of “Blue Parakeet”.
I reviewed it about a month ago and thought it was an excellent book which really makes you think.
Unfortunately, I have seen a number of reviews that, since they disagree with his take on women in ministry, do not take seriously the rest of what he says.
I happen to agree with him on that issue, but even if someone doesn’t it seems there is a lot to take from this book that should not just be dismissed.
Have you read his "A Community Called Atonement"? I thought that one was quite good as well.

Matthew D. Montonini said...


Thanks for your comments. I have not read his "A Community Called Atonement" but I have been itching to do so.

The women in ministry thing is a contentious issue, but I think Scot raises many "blue parakeets" that have to be reckoned with by those who hold to the complementarian position. I told him in an email that I hope he gives this subject a full-volume treatment somewhere down the road.

Blessings to you yours,


Charles Savelle said...


My review was apparently not as positive as either yours or Matthew's. And although I cannot speak for other, less than positive, reviews I can tell you that I did take the entire work seriously. That being said it is hard not to view the book in some sense through his the discussion of the women's issue for at least two reasons. First, about a quarter of the book is devoted to the topic. Second, the issue is presented as a test case of sorts and as such provides a basis for evaluating the philosophy and methods in the first part of the book. In any case, you can read my review if you like at

Mason said...

Certainly you don’t need to agree with how I felt about McKnight’s latest work.
That said, your review seemed at times to see as flaws things that are inherent to writing a more popular level work. Whether we like it or not he is simply not going to have pages of footnotes confirming his assertions if he wants your average person to stick with the book. That criticism is not really fair to the purpose of the book which Scot made clear a number of times, writing an accessible work which makes people think about important issues.
Also, I felt that you might have passed over some of the complexity of the women in ministry issue and some of the important evidence he gave for his case. You might in the end decide that he is wrong and some form of patriarchal system or complementarianism is more biblical, that’s fine and your right. Yet, I think that it is far too common and easy for people to dismiss some seriously challenging data on this topic which simply will not fit into many takes on women’s roles.

Just a rejoinder, I was by no means intending to say that anyone who gave the book a negitive review did not take it seriously, sorry if it came off that way. I was just saying that some of the articles I read gave him bad reviews based on just the one issue, without seeing the value in the other 3/4ths of the book.

Charles Savelle said...


You are correct that this was a popular level work, but even a popular level work that is worth reading has to support its assertions. This is especially the case since McKnight is arguing for a new/different way of reading the Bible.
I indeed did not deal with the complexity of the women's issue. I don't believe that a review is the proper place for that. I am evaluating the arguments presented in the book under review. The issue here is not the complexity of the issue at a broader level, nor which position I support, but whether my critiques of McKnight's argumentation were valid. I obviously believe that they are. If they aren't where are they wrong specifically? It also seems a bit strange that you appeal to the popular level of the book as an excuse for McKnight not supporting his assertions on the one hand and then suggest that I have not taken into account the complexity of issues in my review on the other.