Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Story of God | What the Son of God Said About the Word of God

Brief introduction to, review of, and snippet from Unbreakable: What the Son of God Said About the Word of God by Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson's Unbreakable: What the Son of God Said About the Word of God is slightly brilliant. I pretty much loved every one of the powerful, punchy, and pithy 68 pages inside. If you want a brief and fun introduction to how the Bible could actually be the God's words to us and for us, Unbreakable is a whimsical place to start. 

Wilson is a strong writer with a great voice, and he helps the reader begin to view the lens of Scripture through Jesus' eyes, one of the greatest teachers the world has ever seen. But is He more? If you want to learn about how Jesus was not only a teacher, but also a king, check out the post, Kingdom Victory Through a Cross.

For some, you may want to go deeper into the history of Scripture, why the books included are considered to be more than just religious texts, and how we could consider that they are actually trustworthy and true. For a few possible answers, I encourage you to pick up The Heresy of Orthodoxy. A little bit more thorough introductions to scholarship are inside while still being accessible enough for a good-sized audience.

For today, just to give you a taste of the wit and tone of Wilson's potent little pocketbook, here is some selected content from the first few pages. Take a read. Enjoy the brevity. Laugh a little. And if you like a bit of what you've read and would like to chat more about Jesus and the Bible He believed and embodied, then hit me up. I'd love to meet you and and share some time together in Worcester.

Introduction: Where Do We Start? by Andrew Wilson

Books and talks on the Bible, in general, start from one of three places.

Some begin with the questions and problems people have with the Scriptures, and go through them one by one, explaining how to best think about them. I get that. The Bible contains puzzling details (swapping sandals in the middle of a love story), and upsetting stories (destroying Canaanite cities), and dramatic miracles (parting the Red Sea, really?), and factual difficulties (how did Judas die, again?), and unpopular teachings (sex is only meant for one man and one woman in marriage), and a confusing canon (what on earth is the apocrypha?), and so on. 

Therefore most of us have questions about the Bible  big, difficult, sticky questions – and engaging carefully with them is very important. But if we start from there, we risk putting ourselves immediately on the defensive and implying that our questions (which are different, as it happens, from the questions many cultures have asked) are the most important thing on the table. The chances are they're not. So that's not where this book begins.

Others begin with what the Bible says about the Bible. As circular as that might sound, it's actually quite sensible, because all sets of beliefs have to start somewhere; you trust reason because it's rational, you trust experience because it fits with your experience, you trust the Bible because it's biblical, and so on. Personally, though, I don't tend to do that, mainly because it looks suspiciously random (as in, why didn't we start with the Qur'an as our ultimate authority, or the Bhagavad Gita, for that matter the Daily Mail?). So that's not where this book will start, either.

Instead, this book will use Jesus as the starting point. (That's controversial, I know.) Ultimately, you see, our trust in the Bible stems from our trust in Jesus Christ: the man who is God, the King of the world, crucified, risen and exalted rescuer. I don't trust in Jesus because I trust the Bible; I trust the Bible because I trust in Jesus. I love him, and I've decided to follow him, so if he talks and acts as if the Bible is trustworthy, authoritative, good, helpful and powerful, I will too.

And God Said: The Story of Scripture by Andrew Wilson

You could summarise the biblical story like this.

In the beginning, God.

Everything was shapeless, and empty, and dark. Blobs of unsorted, unformed matter drifting through space. An enormous cosmic splodge. A scribble.

And God said, "Lights." And it happened.

And God said, and it happened. And God said, and it happened. And God said, and the earth did. And God said, and the animals did.

And God said, "Go, have sex, have children, explore, rule, guard, keep. Have the run of the place. Watch out for one thing  that particular tree brings knowledge of good and evil, and you don't want a piece of that – but otherwise, it's all yours. Enjoy." And the humans did.

And the snake said, "Did God really say that? Are you going to let your lives be restricted by what you think he said?" And the humans didn't. And it all went wrong.

And God said, and it happened.

And God said, and Abraham did. And God said, and it happened. And God said, and Israel didn't, although sometimes they did, but mostly they didn't. And God said, and it happened.

And God said, "Here's my boy. I love him. Listen." 

And the snake said, "Are you really the Son of God? Why not do this, then?"

And Jesus said, "It is written."

And the snake said, "Well, what about this, over here?"

And Jesus said, "It is written."

And the snake said, "Or this?"

And Jesus said, "It is written."

And the humans said, "Who do you think you are? What are you playing at? Nobody can do that, except God. If you go there, you'll be killed. Are you mad? Are you demonised? He's blaspheming! No, Master, this will never happen to you." And stuff like that.

And Jesus said, "It is written in the Scriptures."

And the snake said, "Give it up, Miracle Boy."

And Jesus said, "How else will the Scriptures be fulfilled?"

And the humans said, "Crucify him." And it happened.


And the humans waited.

And so did the angels.

And so did creation.

And so did the snake.

"Did God really say?"


And God said, "Lights."

And it happened. 

The Art of War: The Authority of Scripture by Andrew Wilson

That was the story in outline. We now need to go into it, a bit deeper. 

At the start of the story, humanity is formed, then blessed, then sent, and then immediately tested. The snake, as we've just seen, goes straight for the issue of authority: "Did God really say ... ?" Um. Ah. Well, you see, it's ... Come to think of it, he ... No, perhaps he didn't. And it does look juicy, doesn't it? Crunch.

From now on, God says to the snake, there will be warfare between your seed and the woman's. You'll damage his heel, but he'll damage your head. One day a "seed" will come, born of woman, who will resist your temptations, stand firm in the face of trials, and crush you and all you stand for. Crunch.

As the Old Testament continues, we get increasing clarity about who this "seed," this snake-cruncher, is going to be. He's descended from Abraham, via Isaac, via Jacob, from the tribe of Judah, in the line of David, born of a virgin, in Bethlehem ... 

As the story reaches its climax the seed is formed (in Mary), then blessed (at his baptism), then sent (into the wilderness), and then immediately tested. The snake is confident, seeing as Jesus hasn't eaten for six weeks: "If you're the Son of God, command these stones to turn to bread." But Jesus is ready. "It is written," he says, "man doesn't live on just bread rolls, but on the words of God." Crunch.

If you're going to quote the Bible to me, thinks the snake, then two can play at that game. "If you're the Son of God, prove it. The Bible says that God will protect his chosen one  so jump off the temple, and watch the angels swoop in to catch you." But again, Jesus is ready. He knows Psalm 91 inside out, and he knows it doesn't mean that. "It is also written: don't test God." Crunch.

The snake's final roll of the dice, then: "I'll give you the kingdom, but without the suffering, if you just worship me." Jesus doesn't hesitate. "It is written: only worship the Lord your God." Crunch. Game, set and match. 

It's a great story, and there's a huge amount we can learn from it, but for now, just consider the way Jesus fights. He has the resources of heaven available, yet he fights by using the authority of the Scriptures. Not as a one-off, or as a change of tactics, but each and every time. "It is written ... it is written ... it is written" he repeatedly emphasises. His position is unequivocal: "You're trying to tempt me, but the Scriptures have spoken. That's the end of the conversation."

Not only that, but each skirmish reveals a different aspect of Jesus' commitment to Scripture. In the first exchange, he shows that God's word is enough: whether you're wandering in the wilderness for forty days or forty years, you'll find that bread alone doesn't satisfy, but only the words that come from God's mouth.

In the second, faced with an attempt to distort the text's meaning, he shows that God's word is coherent: yes, Psalm 91 says that God protects his people, but Deuteronomy tells us not to test God, and we need to hold those two things together (which certainly does not involve jumping off a building just to show off).

In the third, he shows that God's word is authoritative: if God tells us to do something, then we do it, no matter what anyone says.

Jesus, it seems, loved the word of God with his heart (being satisfied by it), his mind (understanding it), and his will (obeying it). If that was true of Jesus, I really want it to be true of me.

Recent posts on overviews of the Story of God found in the Bible:

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