It’s not often you get to quote Spinal Tap when reviewing a book on Scripture. But the Rothko-minimalist front cover of Andrew Wilson’s latest offering can be best summed up by paraphrasing Nigel Tufnel:
It’s like, how much more red could this be? And the answer is none. None more red.
Unbreakable is a punchy little book on the doctrine of Scripture. 65 pages (plus endnotes), cheaper than a Starbucks latte, and with less froth too!
On a subject so large as the Bible, you might wonder what one could possibly hope to achieve with such a short word-count. The answers is: much. Andrew Wilson’s approach is innovative and extremely helpful for changing the shape of the conversation on the trustworthiness of the Bible. He summarises his position succinctly:
I don’t trust in Jesus because I trust the Bible; I trust the Bible because I trust in Jesus. (p10)
Taking Jesus’ own view of Scripture as the starting point, Andrew looks at the authority, inspiration, unbreakability, coherence, centre, canon, fulfilment, clarity, challenge, sufficiency and danger of Scripture, before ending with some guidelines on how to interpret Scripture.
To be honest, your best bet is just to go and read the thing, as I’m currently in danger of writing a post longer than the book itself! But if you’re curious while you’re waiting for the postman to deliver a copy, check out this interview Andrew did with Trevin Wax. You can also hear Andrew debate this topic with Brian McLaren, if you wish, although personally I’d just read the book and their exchange of articles, as a good deal of the conversation essentially goes:
Brian McLaren: I think we will really disagree on this!
Andrew Wilson: I’m not sure we disagree quite as much as you might think…
Justin Brierley: Please can’t we find something you disagree on, lest my show be rendered pointless!!
(I’m being a little flippant, of course. But not a lot…)
Here are three things I particularly liked about Unbreakable:
The Story of Scripture.
Andrew’s summary of the Bible is great. Simple, short, creative and compelling. And a brilliant way to open the book. You can check it out here on The Gospel Coalition blog.
The Clarity of Scripture.
I personally found chapter 8 both challenging and helpful. It is so easy for us to assume that when Christians disagree over what the Bible teaches, it’s because the Bible is unclear. But as Andrew shows, when Jesus encountered misunderstanding in the people he was teaching, he never blamed the Bible for being unclear; he suggested the problem was something to do with the hearers themselves (e.g. Matt 13:15; 15:16; 16:9-11, 23; Mark 7:13; Luke 9:45; 24:25-26; John 5:39-40; 8:43).
As someone who teaches the Bible and is regularly asked my opinion on difficult topics, I found this a refreshing reminder that the ‘problems’ of Scripture may not be to do with Scripture at all. Maybe the Bible wasn’t written to answer every one of my questions? Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions in the first place? Maybe the problem is my end – I’m not thinking clearly enough, or my ego is getting in the way of what should be obvious.
This chapter should humble us all!
The Interpretation of Scripture
The epilogue provides five simple principles for interpreting Scripture. I personally think they’re fairly uncontroversial – although of course they may lead to some controversial discussions and conclusions! – and in two-and-a-half pages Andrew has managed to lay out a good, clear common-sense framework for doing theology.
The brevity of the book – and of the epilogue in particular – will leave you wanting more, and with a lot of questions unanswered. And of course, I would love to hear how those five principles get applied to a whole range of theological questions! But it should also leave you feeling challenged to approach the Bible a bit more like Jesus did: as the coherent, trustworthy, life-giving, unbreakable word of God.