Andrew Wilson, Unbreakable: What the Son of God said about the Word of God
(Notes from my reading)
1. The Art of War (Authority)
‘It is written’ (Luke 4:1-13, Matt. 4:1-11)
God’s word is i. enough, ii. coherent, iii. authoritative.
Jesus loved the Word with his heart (being satisfied by it), mind (understanding it), and will (obeying it).
2. True Like Jazz (Inspiration)
‘David, speaking by the Spirit’ (Mk. 12:35-37)
cf. 2 Peter 1:21, 2 Tim. 3:16
It’s not invention, nor is it dictation. It’s inspiration.
3. Dodging the Rocks (Unbreakability)
‘Scripture cannot be broken’ (John 10:30-36)
cf. Matthew 5:17-19
“Maybe I’m the one who is broken, rather than the Bible”
4. One Bride for Seven Brothers (Coherence)
‘You are wrong because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God’ (Matt. 22:23-34)
“There’s nothing wrong with being puzzled by the Bible… but the later bits don’t contradict the earlier bits”
And we can A. acknowledge tensions (Prov. 26:4-5), B. admit insufficient information (genealogies of Jesus: Matt. 1, Luke 3), C. harmonise differing accounts with imagination and patience without flattening different emphases (eg. Judas’ death Matt. 27:3-10, Acts 1:18-19; resurrection Matt. 28, Mk. 16, Lk. 24, Jn. 20).
5. It’s Not About You (Centrality of Christ)
‘Beginning with Moses and the prophets…’ (Lk. 24:13-33)
When you discover the Bible is mainly about Jesus, and God’s purposes for the nations through him, your heart catches fire and your eyes are opened.
6. Red and Black (Canon)
TaNaKh: Luke 24:44 ‘Law, Prophets, Psalms’; Luke 11:51 ‘from Abel [Genesis 4:8] to Zechariah [2 Chronicles 24:20]’
ie. not deuterocanonical Apocrypha
NT (He doesn’t mention much in the way of specifics, but to develop his argument one would have to draw on Jn. 16:12-15; 1 Cor. 14:37; 2 Peter 1:16-21; 2 Peter 3:1-2,15-16; Rev. 22:18-19)
Recommended: Michael J. Kruger, Canon Revisited
Two ideas: 1. the sixty-six books you have in your Bible are the uncontroversial ones; 2. all the Scriptures (OT and NT) are authoritative because of Jesus.
7. The Ship is Made for the Ocean (Fulfilment)
‘I have not come to abolish [the Law or the Prophets] but to fulfil’ (Matt. 5:17)
cf. Romans 10:4 ‘Christ is the *telos* of the law’
8. You Can Always Trust the Light (Clarity)
Q: Surely if the Bible was clear, we’d all agree?
A1: On the essentials, we do: Eph. 4:4-6, Nicene Creed.
A2: Because of ignorance, hardheartedness, sin, unbelief, etc. we don’t.
The problem is us, not Scripture. Cf. Matt. 13:15, 15:16, 16:9-11, 16:23, Mark 7:13, Luke 9:45, 24:25-26, Jn. 8:43, 5:39-40
9. Judgment, Miracles, Sex and Stuff (Challenges)
Sometimes difficulties from the text: “accounts vary, theology develops, tensions exist and authors bring different perspectives”
But “Most of these difficulties are fairly easy to resolve with study, imagination and honesty.”
“The biggest challenges for most people are not over issues where the Bible is unclear, but over issues where the Bible is very clear”, eg. Judgment, Miracles, Sex. “The answer, as ever, is to look at Jesus”.
Miracles: “all the historical evidence we have shows that Jesus was known as a miracle-worker”.
Judgment: Luke 17:22-37 (Noah’s flood, fire and sulphur on Sodom, Lot’s wife turned into pillar of salt) — ‘God sometimes kills people in judgment and when he does, it happens suddenly, and it catches people out. Well, the same will be true when the Son of Man comes. So make sure you’re ready’.
Sex: Matthew 5:27-32 — call to holiness, renouncing adultery, lust, divorce and sexual immorality; Mk. 7:21-23 – adultery and sexual immorality as prominent examples of what makes unclean; Matt. 19:1-12 – Garden Story foundational for sexual morality (one man, one woman, permanence of marriage, singleness).
“We have a choice. We can challenge the Bible, or let the Bible challenge us”.
10. Oh No They Won’t (Sufficiency)
‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone rises from the dead’ (Luke 16:19-31)
11. Restless Idol Factories (Danger)
‘You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life… yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life’ (Jn. 5:39-40)
emotional reasons: “a friend used to hug her Bible as a substitute for God, because she so struggled with the fact that God wasn’t physical”
intellectual reasons: “Scriptures easier to manage than the Holy Spirit”
Recommendation: Chapter on ‘Confessions of a Bible Deist’ in Deere, Jack; Surprised by the Voice of God.
spiritual reasons: “they had put the Scriptures in the place that only God should be”
12. Epilogue (Interpretation)
“Many people today cannot understand why Christians obey some instructions in the Bible but not others: why we seek to love God, love our neighbours, preach the gospel, only have sex within marriage and gather in local churches, while not feeling the need to abstain from shellfish, circumcise boys, stone adulterers, wear head coverings in church (if we’re women), kiss each other (if we’re men), rip our eyes out if we sin, avoid black pudding, and take trips to Troas to find Paul’s coat”.
Five interpretative principles:
1. When interpreted correctly, with careful attention paid to context, purpose, genre and authorial intention, the Scriptures do not contain mistakes.
2. The primary way of establishing the meaning of a text is to establish what the original author meant their original audience to understand.
3. The Bible is a big story, and the big story is authoritative for all Christians, although instructions given in one part of the story are not necessarily binding on those who live in other parts of the story.
4. We live in the same part of the story as the New Testament church, and therefore we should obey all instructions given to believers in the New Testament, unless there are clear indications that they only apply to specific individuals.
5. Obeying New Testament instructions will sometimes require cultural translation, where the meaning of symbols has changed across the centuries, in order to preserve the meaning of the original symbols.
+. Recommended Further Reading
Kevin DeYoung, Taking God At His Word
Tom Wright, Scripture and the Authority of God
Duvall and Hays, Grasping God’s Word
Fee and Stuart, How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth
Kevin Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine