I mentioned in the previous post the publication of Gerald Bray's new biblical and systematic theology, God Is Love, and I provided some of the endorsements for it there.
To continue helping spread the word about Bray's new book, I asked him a few questions that he was kind enough to answer. I hope you'll find his answers helpful and informative, and I hope they will encourage you to get the book and read it.
Many of us who have sat under your teaching in the classroom (and benefited from it) are thrilled that you have decided to distill your theological thoughts in print. But there are no shortage of theology books in the Christian world, so what motivated you to write God Is Love and what makes it unique among theology texts?
Bray: I was motivated to write God Is Love because although there are indeed many theological books out there, none of them seems to put this theme at the center, even though it is what the Gospel message is all about! I also felt that most systematic theologies are only marginally connected to the Bible and that they tend to be written for a specialist audience. My book is for ordinary people!
This is both a biblical and systematic theology. These two disciplines are often treated separately, so what made you want to connect them? And how does God Is Love treat both of them together?
Bray: The separation of biblical from systematic theology is a tragedy, especially in the Protestant world where "the Bible alone" is our standard of faith and practice. Modern biblical studies are so analytical that it is often hard to see how the different books hold together. I wanted to overcome all that by pointing out that there is a big picture that makes the Bible a single, coherent narrative of God's love. It revealed who he is, what he has done, how he has responded to our rebellion against him and what he plans for our eternal destiny. That's what God Is Love is all about.
You mention that your aim in the book is "to reach those who would not normally find systematic theology appealing or even comprehensible." How do you seek to accomplish that aim, and why do you feel it is important?
Bray: I accomplish the aim partly by keeping technical terms to a minimum and by referring to as few obscure theologians as possible. I try to back up everything I say from the Bible, which all my readers will have close to hand, I'm sure. I also make a special effort to deal with subjects that are on people's minds but don't often get treated in theological books -- things like drugs, astrology, homosexuality, evolution and so on.
How and why did you decide to make the love of God your central theme for this work?
Bray: I asked myself what the Bible was all about and came back to John 3:16: "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son." If Tim Tebow can paint that verse on his cheeks and everybody gets it, how would I dare say that it is not central? But there is also the great theological tradition -- Augustine, Luther and Calvin all thought the same thing.
What would you want readers to know about the book before they pick it up? What would you want them to remember as they're reading it?
Bray: I would like them to know that it has been written by one sinner saved by the grace of God in the hope that other sinners will be comforted and instructed in their faith. We are pilgrims on our own journey through life, but we are also part of the longer pilgrimage from the garden of Eden to the New Jerusalem. If we keep that in mind, then it will help us get other things in perspective.
You are also working on a companion volume to this one that is a historical theology. Can you tell us a little about what we can expect from that book and why you feel like it will be a helpful addition? When can we expect it be published?
Bray: I am working on a historical theology that will be called God Has Spoken. It starts with the Jewish inheritance of Christian theology and then goes through the person and work of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, showing how each of these in turn has shaped the development of the church as we see it today. Finally I conclude with a chapter on the Trinity as a whole, a subject that has been revived in recent years and seems to tie the threads together nicely. It should appear in 2014.
How can we pray specifically for your labors in writing God Is Love to be blessed and used of God?
Bray: Please pray that people will read it in the spirit in which it was written and that they will not hesitate to share their impressions -- both positive and negative -- with me. My only aim is to offer the church a useful tool for growing in Christ, and in that, every reader has a part to play.
Thank you, Dr. Bray, for taking the time to answer these questions, and thank you for writing this book. May it be used greatly by the Lord!
To purchase a copy of God Is Love, click here.