Book Review: Dictionary of Christian Spirituality

Book Review: Dictionary of Christian Spirituality

By: Glen G. Scorgie; Gen. Ed.

Publisher: Zondervan ISBN: 9780310290667

Dictionary of Christian Spirituality

I’ve only had a week to spend with this Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, but I know that I will refer to it often. I think it is very good and I’ve had to remind myself on the few occasions where I have been critical over items I found missing which I thought should have been included, that the book is (1) a compendium and not an exhaustive resource (2) a single volume and not a library. I make this comment because I have found the efforts of the editing team and the great team of contributors (over two-hundred) to be very impressive. I think this especially with understanding of the breadth and the depth of the subject covered (Christian Spirituality) and the diversity represented in the various “streams” of Christianity. I certainly would have appreciated a more comprehensive work, but understand there have to be parameters when restricted to a single volume. I believe this is a laudable effort when considering what the editors were aiming for with their finished work.

I appreciate the diversity of Bible translations used in the quotations and citations; among the versions used were: TNIV; Today’s New International Version, ASV; American Standard Version, ESV; English Standard Version,  KJV; King James Version, NASB; New American Standard Version, NRSV; New Revised Standard Version, and the RSV; Revised Standard Version. Similarly, there is respectable diversity in major sources used for the dictionary. Some of the representations included the following: Ancient Christian Writers Series, Ante-Nicene Fathers, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Classics of Reformed Spirituality, Classics of Western Spirituality, Theological Dictionary of Old & New Testament (Botterweck, Ringgren, and Kittel), and The Westminster Theological Journal. As mentioned earlier, there are over two hundred contributors to this work also impressively diverse representing “the full spectrum of Protestants, including Calvinists and Wesleyans, Episcopalians and Anglicans, Pentecostals and Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists and Dispensationalists; also some Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox; and even a few who are not going to church at all right now” (pp 10-11).

The dictionary is presented in two major sections; Part One is titled Integrative Perspectives and consists of thirty four short essays spanning a broad range of spiritual theology topics. There is coverage of general terms and ideas (Spiritual Theology, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit), coverage of the historical development of Christian Spirituality (generalized, geographically, and culturally), and there are there are essays addressing experience and practice of Christian Spirituality as well. I have not found any of these essays that I’ve read to date uninteresting and I’ve appreciated the thorough list of sources cited as well as recommendations for further reading that are included at the end of each essay.

Part Two of the Dictionary of Christian Spirituality consists of nearly seven hundred alphabetized dictionary entries. There are some terms, names, and subjects that I have found missing, but believe the collection is more than satisfactory for an overview of Christian spirituality.

I think the editors of this resource hit the target they set for themselves. There are more comprehensive resources available; this is true, but it might be difficult to find a more accessible, academic, and affordable resource in a single package. This Dictionary can be equally useful for the scholar or new explorer. It is worthy of any bookshelf.

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