The Encyclopedia of Christianity/The Dictionary of Historical Theology

By Doenecke, Justus D. | Anglican and Episcopal History, December 2002 | Go to article overview

The Encyclopedia of Christianity/The Dictionary of Historical Theology


Doenecke, Justus D., Anglican and Episcopal History


ERWIN FAHLBUSCH, ET AL., EDS. TAe Encyclopedia of Christianity. Volume II: E-1. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001 (originally published in German, 1986-97). Pp. xxx + 787. $100.00.

TREVOR A. HART, GEN. ED. The Dictionary of Historical Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000. Pp. xxx +599. $50.00.

Two years ago, a landmark in Christian reference books was established, for volume one of The Encyclopedia of Christianity was published. It is the third edition of lhe Evangehsches Kirchenlexicnn: Internationale Theologische Enzykopddie, a classic and monumental work. The English translation is being directed by Anglican theologian arid historian Geoffrey Bromiley, for years a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. One of the five editors, Yale's Jaroslav Pelikan, is undoubtedly the most respected church historian in the United States.

In Volume II, which spans the letters E-I in some 326 articles, we have the same mix of books of the Bible, church offices, practices, and ceremonies, as well as denominational, ecumenical, and parachurch movements. Other world religions, philosophies, and cultural movements are described, this volume containing articles, for example, on Hinduism and Hellenism. Extensive treatment of nation-states includes square kilometers and miles, population growth and fertility rate, life expectancy, and a percentage breakdown of religious affiliation. Most of the 200 contributors remain German and Swiss, though we do have such Anglo-American luminaries as James Barr on fundamentalism, Paul A. Crow on the Faith and Order movement, Alien C. Guelzo on Jonathan Edwards, Max L. Stackhouse on economic ethics, and Geoffrey Wainright on eucharist. Certain psychological states are described, including ecstasy, fear, grief, guilt, and happiness. The category "Faith" has eleven pages, "Eucharist," thirteen. Germany and its churches take over twenty pages. Intriguing articles are written on topics as varied as ego psychology, fish, flagellants, genetic counseling, hedonism, homosexuality, and incense. The article on episcopacy covers the variety of views within Anglicanism (esse, bene esse, and plene esse) and offers close to a page on Anglican-Lutheran ecumenical agreements.

Some observations are particularly interesting, among them the claim that liberation theology is waning (see "Economic Ethics"), that God is Dead Theology is largely forgotten, that the Church of North India now includes Baptists, and that in 1995 the International Council of Christians and Jews formally decided to develop a trilateral dialogue with Muslims. Curiously enough, though volume two has thirteen pages on "European Theology (Modern Period)," offering a nation-by-nation description, volume one had no entry for "American Theology (Modem Period)."

If the volume has a weakness it is in the realm of biographical entries, for they are so infrequent it would have been better to have eliminated them totally. The letter H, for instance, only gives separate articles to Johann Gottfried Herder, Hildegard of Bingen, and Jan Hus. There are a few minor faults: Anglican layman and Boston lawyer Robert Hallowell Gardiner, a major ecumenical figure, has his name spelled correctly in one place (274) and incorrectly in another (53). The correct last name of the militant fundamentalist leader is Carl Mclnure.

The Hart volume is equally strong, though as British in focus as the Fahlbusch volume is German. Thomas A. Hart, general editor, is dean of the divinity faculty at St. Mary's College, University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Of the four consulting editors, one is an American: Paul D. Molnar of St. John's University, Jamaica, New York. Among the 173 contributors, the United States has some representation. Max L. Stackhouse, for example, wrote the essay on Paul Ramsey, Avery Dulles the one on Henri de Lubac. …

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