Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 141:562 (Apr 1984)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology. Edited by Alan Richardson and John Bowden. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983. xvi + 614 pp. $24.95.

This work is Bowden’s large-scale revision and expansion of Richardson’s work, A Dictionary of Christian Theology (1969). Bowden is managing director and editor of SCM Press. The large number of contributors are philosophy and religion scholars, mostly from England and America. The end product is a remarkably coherent, ecumenical dictionary in the “Richardson tradition.”

The purpose of the work is to modernize Richardson’s Dictionary, though the latter’s articles are the most numerous here as well. Since “it is with the theological issues of today that this Dictionary is primarily concerned” (p. v), the reader can find articles on pluralism in multicultural societies, political theologies, and the psychology and sociology of religion.

A distinctive emphasis of WDCT is a “focus on theological thinking against a historical background rather than on historical events or figures” (p. vi). As a result, biographical entries have been replaced by subjects of contemporary interest.

The articles are of uneven value. The ones by Barr (“Semantics”), Clements (“Old Testament Theology”), Frend (“Martyrologies”), Hebblethwaite (“Incarnation”), and Macquarrie (various philosophical subjects) are helpful. The volume as a whole reflects impressive scholarship. Most of the articles have helpful syntheses of historical developments and especially contemporary debates. This will probably be its primary value for Bibliotheca Sacra readers, though WDCT is not for popular reading.

Two weaknesses may be noted. First, some of the articles are too brief (three or four lines) to be valuable for any student. Second, a

number of the articles are biased against the orthodox viewpoint, which one might expect. Several examples illustrate the point. Hanson’s essay on “Canonicity” concludes, “But the nature of the documents themselves, as well as the manner in which they were canonized, make it very difficult, if not impossible, to describe each of these documents as possessing some quality of inspiration lacking in other Christian documents” (p. 82). The article on “Creationism,” by Cobb, is really a refutation of the biblical account and contemporary creationists’ efforts for representation in education. According to Newlands, in his article on “Christology,” the New Testament contains diverse viewpoints about the Man Jesus and the Christ of faith. The “classic solution” to the hypostatic union is t...

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