Book Write-Up: Doing Theology with the Reformers, by Gerald L. Bray

Gerald L. Bray. Doing Theology with the Reformers. IVP Academic, 2019. See here to purchase the book.

Gerald L. Bray is an Anglican priest, author and editor of books about theology, and professor at Beeson Divinity School in Samford University.

This book is about Reformation theology. Among the topics that Bray engages are salvation, the relationship of Christians to Old Testament law, the relationship between church and state, ecclesiastical structure, and the sacraments.

Those with a basic knowledge about the differences among denominations will recognize a lot of what Bray says, but Bray fleshes those differences out and attempts to account for them. I learned new things from this book, such as Melanchthon’s view that good works play a role in salvation, and how the belief in common grace by Abraham Kuyper and Charles Hodge rejected the belief that Adam and Eve were under a covenant of works, which made salvation contingent on works. For Kuyper and Hodge, Adam and Eve were recipients of divine grace, even though common grace is not salvific. Because I attend an LCMS church, which believes in the real presence of Christ in the communion elements, the discussion in this book about communion interested me, as some believed that people ingested Christ by faith at communion, whereas others thought that even unbelievers ingested Christ when they partook of the sacrament, leading to their damnation.

A discussion in this book that was particularly effective concerned the education of the Reformers. Reformers, and educated Christians in general, learned Latin and communicated in that in their studies. Bray paints a vivid picture of that, one that engages the reader and allows readers to envision themselves as there, or at least relieved that education is not like that anymore!

One area of disagreement that I have with Bray is on the definition of supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism. Bray defines infralapsarianism as God electing people to salvation and damnation after the Fall. Based on my reading of Shao Kai Tseng’s Karl Barth’s Infralapsarian Theology, my impression is that this is a common mistake. Infralapsarianism does not teach that God elected people after the Fall, but rather that God made his election as a logical consequence of the Fall. God decreed the Fall, then God elected, but both decrees occurred before the foundation of the world, not after the Fall.

This is still an excellent book. It is a resource of information, but also a meaty, satisfying account of Reformation theology.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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