God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology. By Gerald Bray. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
Gerald Bray is research professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School and an ordained clergyman of the Church of England. He is a keen theologian and a devoted churchman—the ideal combination for a writer of a systematic theology. Bray has written this work for students of the Word throughout the world. He hopes to reach those who would not normally find systematic theology appealing, and his goal is to “speak with equal clarity to believers in China, Indonesia, and Africa as to those in Europe, America, or Australasia” (13). The book is devoid of scholarly jargon, and the reader will not once be asked to spectate “the kind of theological ping-pong that sets one man’s views against another’s” (13). Certainly Bray realizes the value of critical argumentation, but here he concentrates on the eternal truths of Scripture, rather than summarizing the debates of the specialists. By my estimate, ninety percent or more of the footnotes contained in the book direct the reader straight to the biblical text. A refreshing pattern indeed.
Bray, a Reformed Anglican who has previously provided us with a helpful study of the beliefs held by those within his particular tradition (see his The Faith We Confess: An Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles), chooses to focus here on what he, along with John Stott and C.S. Lewis, refer to as basic or mere Christianity. By basic Christianity he means a faith that “draws deeply on the revelation of God’s Word and seeks to embrace all who submit to its authority in sincerity and truth” (12-13). This focus makes the book more ecumenical than any other systematic theology I have read. But Bray does not confuse theological hospitality with an unwillingness to confront heresy; he carefully articulates and defends the boundaries of Christian orthodoxy.
This is an exceptional work, written for the benefit of pastors and church members alike. It would be a great text to use in discipleship groups/classes in the local church. A small group of college students could read through the book together. A group of businessmen could commit to meet and discuss a chapter every Friday morning before work. The book is appropriate for believers of just about any stage of life.
I encourage you to take the time to work through this book. And I’m confident that if you do so, you will be better equipped “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Pet 3:15).