Monday, December 29, 2014

God Has Spoken

God Has Spoken: A History of Christian TheologyGod Has Spoken: A History of Christian Theology by Gerald L. Bray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are not many tools that are as neglected and as important as the historical survey of whichever discipline you seek to study.  Learning how established truths came to be established is almost as important as coming to grips with the fact that there have been others who are studying what we have and there are reasons why the understood/assumed aspects are often understood and assumed.

Theology is a discipline that is ripe with “personal truths”, “direct revelations” and “that’s always been”s.  Coupled with an unhealthy desire to remain virtually ignorant of 2000 years of development and distinctions, many people know what they believe, but not why they believe it(pretty sure I am ripping of R.C. Sproul on that one)  This survey will not help the average reader, at least not directly.  Due to its size and depth, this work will remain out of the hands of many.  That is disappointing for a couple of reasons.

Bray does a terrific job of writing this in a way that allows anyone willing to pick up and read to learn a great deal.  He is not overly technical and it is not dry.  The chapters are long….long.  The book is long….long.  I really believe that this could have been split into 3 volumes and the chapters broken up to make them much more accessible.  When your chapter has reached the 300 footnote level, you have exceeded my attention span by quite a few references.

Bray’s writing is approachable and enjoyable and he makes the topic he writes on just the same.  Many people would be challenged and encouraged, just as I was.  Bray referenced Allison’s Historical Theology early on and he made a point that, while covering the same topic, these are not the same book.  Allison’s order is systematic and very, very logical.  Bray presents the topics in their historical context.  I am still not sure which way I prefer.

Allison’s presents you with a very linear progression of specific beliefs but Bray has produced a work that gives you a sense of empathy for those going through the formalizing process.  This does a lot to limit chronological snobbery and made me put more than a few pre-labeled heretic stones back in my pocket.

I am not sure how to organize any deep thoughts on this work because it was often like drinking from a fire hose.  But, there were a few things that I really enjoyed.

*His treatment of Barth and those influenced by him was extensive and a fun read.  He also dealt pretty extensively with those who followed Barth and Process Theology.

*I enjoyed reading about how the doctrine of the Trinity developed, both in the Fathers and beyond.

*I felt his interaction with Schleirmacher was not as extensive as his legacy warrants.  But maybe I am overly influenced by Mike Horton who seemingly attributes everything negative from the 19th century on (including wars and crop failures) to Freddy S.  That might be a stretch.  Might be.  But I do think his influence was/is quite far reaching and would have enjoyed a bit more interaction with him.

*I really enjoyed reading about the Eastern Church and seeing its influence even after the Schism.  His section on the filloque has me thinking and studying about double procession and questioning what I have just assumed.

Much of what I remember is either towards the end of the book (did I mention it is long) or issues that I have been or will be studying more.  There is a ton of information to be found in this work and, although it is long, it is probably worth more than one trip through.  At the very least it will remain a good book to consult when studying different topics.

God Has Spoken is a great book.  It is an undertaking.  Reader be warned, it is 1200 pages and it is rich.  You are going to have to work through it, but you’ll find much that makes the effort worthwhile.

I received a review copy from Crossway.


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