Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
MTJ 4:2 (Fall 1993) p. 181
Gerald Bray. The Doctrine of God. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. 281 pp. Paper.
Gerald Bray is the editor of the Anglican Quarterly, The Churchman. This book is part of a series, edited by Bray, entitled “Contours of Christian Theology.” The purpose of the series, according to the preface, is to complement the traditional textbooks on major theological themes, but not to copy them. The series also aspires to give “top priority to contemporary issues, some of which may not be dealt with elsewhere from an evangelical point of view” (preface, p. 7).
The discussion of the book is framed in historical theology. Much of what is called Patrology or Theology Proper is not under discussion today by orthodox Christians. In understanding how Christians in the ancient Church and Reformation worked through the issues of Theology Proper can give a greater insight into the basics.
The book is laid out in six basic sections. The first chapter, entitled “Our Knowledge of God,” moves from the possible types of knowledge about God that we may have (debating the nature of theology as a science) to the origins of Christian theology, to the distinctions to be made between Christian theology and Platonism, Mysticism, Stoicism and the like, to an understanding of the emergence of what he labels Western Classical Theism. Bray argues that Christian theology developed in the context of both ancient Greek philosophy and Roman law (51). One wonders what role Jewish law plays in this equation as so much of what the New Testament reveals about God is based in a culture prior to what most of us think of as “Greek culture.” It may be true to argue that Roman law and Greek culture have framed much of modern expressions of God, but it seems an overstatement to leave out the influence
MTJ 4:2 (Fall 1993) p. 182
of Jewish monotheistic culture.
The second chapter focuses on what can be known about the nature of God. Bray divides the attributes into spatial, temporal, material and qualitative attributes and offers lucid discussion of the main points. Covering such topics as evil and freedom, Bray is not afraid to relegate complete understanding of certain mysteries to the future. unlike certain others who rquire that a certain attribute of God predominate, Bray writes:. “The divine simplicity assures us that there is no such thing as a non-essential attribute in God’s being, a position which is in no way compromised by logical rearrangement.” (103–104). A treatment of the failure of natural theology is well written in the span of but five pages. Natural theology can never take the place of a personal encounter with God, though the proofs may provide corroborative ...
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