Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions.
It has been thirty years since the Concise Dictionary of Christian Mission appeared (Abingdon, 1971). The Dictionary of Mission (Orbis, 1997) focused principally on mission concepts and mission theology. This new volume (EDWM), under the editorship of A. Scott Moreau of Wheaton College, intends to be comprehensive in its scope. While decidedly evangelical in its perspective, it is irenic in tone and interdenominational in scope. It demonstrates how far evangelical theology and missiology have come over the last several decades, clearly evincing both the range and depth of scholarship of other branches of Christian academia.
The EDWM is indeed comprehensive, with over 1,400 articles, covering history, missiology (as both an academic and an applied discipline), biographies of missionaries past and present (the living being limited to those born in 1930 or before), theology, related social science material, world religions, and reports on Christianity in countries around the world (even Liechtenstein merits an entry). Although written from an evangelical perspective, the EDWM includes biographies and other entries from across the Christian spectrum. Its 330 authors are mainly evangelical in persuasion, but conciliar Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox have contributed to the volume as well. Efforts have been made to include women, as well as contributors from outside North America. Most entries have a short bibliographic entry (all in English) to aid further reading and research. The volume is intended for a wide range of readership, not simply missiologically professional or academic types. The volume succeeds quite well i n maintaining this accessibility.
As one would hope to find in a dictionary representing an evangelical perspective, there is a strong emphasis in the missiological and theological entries on biblical foundations and warrants. Current standards of biblical scholarship are maintained throughout. In theological entries on controversial topics (either controversial within evangelical circles or between evangelicals and other Christians), care is generally taken to set out the different opinions, even as the author opts for a certain position. An exception to this pattern is the entry on the homogeneous unit principle, where the author simply dismisses the considerable controversy surrounding that topic. The article on the powers, in contrast, respectfully reflects the range of opinion on that controversial topic. In taking on some of the more controversial theological topics in the dictionary himself, the general editor is exemplary in his exposition and judgment.
In terms of both its comprehensiveness and its accessibility, the EDWM is a signal achievement, not only for evangelical missiology but for Christian missiology as a whole. It will be consulted widely.
The editors appear to have applied a fairly light hand in editing. As is admitted in the preface, terminology not yet agreed upon (such as what to call the collective area outside Europe and North America) is left to stand as individual authors wrote it. This extends even to the question of whether to speak of mission in its singular or its plural form in the title of the volume itself. Perhaps this indecision represents the flux still characteristic of the discipline itself, and it does honor the range of positions in evangelical thought today.
Considerable variation is evident in tone in the articles. While the rhetoric of most articles maintains the quiet and measured tone one usually associates with dictionaries of this type, some authors do adopt a more preaching mode. There were more typographical errors than I expected to find, although eliminating these in a dictionary of this size is a herculean task.
The dictionary closes with a master outline of entries, grouped by subject matter. This extremely helpful guide to what the dictionary contains is further supplemented by an index to personal names appearing in the dictionary.
All in all, the EDWM is an important work and deserves to be used widely.
Robert Schreiter, C.P.P.S., is Professor of Theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and Professor of Theology and Culture at the University of Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
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|Publication:||International Bulletin of Missionary Research|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2001|
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