I’ve never met Gerald Bray, but based on many stories I’ve heard about him from friends, he’s an eccentric genius. Some have told me that he’s the most brilliant person they know.
Bray is an Anglican theologian who knows something like two dozen languages. The bachelor has one of those English accents that, to many Americans, makes him automatically sound intelligent—though it’s acquired because he is Canadian by birth. And I’ve heard that native Russians can’t tell that he has a foreign accent when he speaks Russian!
His latest book is about as eccentric as he is:
Gerald Bray. God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012. 768 pp.
The book is definitely worth owning, but it’s not your typical systematic theology:
- The organizing theme of God’s love is unusual (see the contents above).
- The organizational layout is more informal. It’s not outlined (like Grudem’s ST), and it doesn’t have many subheadings and numbered lists. It feels like a polished transcript of Bray talking to a group of lay people who don’t know much about theology and who certainly don’t understand technical terminology (cf. p. 12). It would make a better audiobook than most STs. (I’ve spent about five hours dipping in and out of it, and I’ve categorized it many places in my Zotero system. But I don’t plan to read every word with my eyes at this point. I would, however, gladly listen to the whole thing straight through as an audiobook on double-speed.)
- The only source Bray interacts with in this book is the Bible. He doesn’t interact with modern secondary literature at all. Footnotes include only Scripture references or short explanations and clarifications.
- Bray does not spend much time explaining current theological controversies, especially ones that he doesn’t think will last very long, but instead attempts to write with long-term impact (cf. p. 13).
- Bray is an Anglican who takes theological positions that are more generic. Here’s how he puts it: “Although it is firmly Protestant, classical Anglicanism does not promote devotion to a particular founder or doctrines and practices that distinguish it from other churches. It is best understood in terms of what John Stott called Basic Christianity or what C. S. Lewis called Mere Christianity, the titles of two influential books that have been read far beyond the bounds of the church that produced them” (p. 12). Cf. Bray’s section entitled “Different Types of Christians” (pp. 679–83).
- Bray gives more space than usual to addressing demonology and other religions to help the book better serve people internationally.
- Since Bray has written a superb book on the doctrine of God, it’s not surprising that his section on the Trinity is one of his finest.
He’s preparing a companion volume to this systematic theology: a historical theology that considers the writings of influential theologians.