Title: Knowing me, knowing God
Author: Richard Brash
Book Review: Tony Fowler
When you hear the words ‘systematic theology’, you might expect them to be followed by the shout, ‘Wake up! Stop snoring!’ I remember vividly the difficulty I had struggling to keep my drooping eyelids from closing while wading through some dense theological tome in the New College Library. ‘Do we really need theology at all?’ is one of the headings in the introduction to Richard Brash’s book. (Spoiler Alert: his answer is yes!) But a book whose title gives more than a passing nod to the name of a popular Abba song is hardly likely to be dull! Professor Donald Macleod says it ‘quickly gripped me as a fresh, stimulating and enjoyable plea for systematic theology.’
Richard Brash is a Scot who serves as Assistant Professor of Theology at Christ Bible Seminary at Nagoya in Japan, and is a Mission Partner with Japan Christian Link. The starting point of his book is John Calvin’s assertion that true wisdom has two aspects: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. With this in mind, Brash enumerates six theological keys that enable us to interpret the Bible correctly – keys that can unlock our minds to understand God’s truth. The keys form three balancing pairs: God is not like us but God made us like himself; We cannot comprehend God but God makes himself known to us; Our sin separates us from God but God overcomes sin and makes us his own. These pairs cover Being, Knowing and Acting: divine and human nature; how we are enabled to understand something of the God who is beyond our full comprehension; and how we behave in response to what God has so graciously done for us in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The book is always readable. As someone who has learned to explain complex ideas in a foreign language, Brash is adept at expressing himself in a way that the ordinary reader can understand. He helpfully illustrates the points he’s making, and frequently finds a fresh way of expressing age-old and well-known truths. When technical theological terms have to be faced, he explains them clearly; and a glossary at the end of the book is a useful reminder when those terms are repeated.
Brash is adamant that theology isn’t something to stimulate our minds alone. It will have failed if it remains nothing more than words on the printed page. Its purpose is to transform our lives. This book will help us all to grow in our understanding of God and his word, and of ourselves and our place in his world. It will stimulate our minds, warm our hearts and enrich our lives. I would commend it to anyone who wants a clearer grasp of what it means to be Jesus’ disciple in today’s world – because that’s what theology is all about!