The recently published Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (Zondervan, 2011), edited by Glen S. Scorgie continues the trend of evangelical Christians engaging in spiritual formation and spirituality.  General Editor, Glen G. Scorgie of Bethel Seminary, San Diego, along with Consulting Editors Simon Chan, Gordon T. Smith, and James D. Smith co-ordinated over 200 contributors including many of the top names in the field of Christian spirituality/spiritual formation.  For example, contributors include Bruce Demarest, Christopher Ellis, James Houston, Todd Johnson, Glenn Myers, J.I. Packer, Richard Peace, Eugene Peterson, Clark Pinnock, Mark Strauss, Scott Sunquist, and Dallas Willard.  This wide selection of authors provides the Dictionary with the grounding and breadth it seeks to convey.

As Mark Noll from University of Notre Dame says:

Spirituality’ can be a subject that wafts into the ether, but in this broadly ecumenical and very well-balanced work, it is presented with real substance and genuine edification.”

The first part of the book has thirty four essays on major themes in Christian spirituality, totalling some 240 pages, written by experts in each topic.  The range of topics include seven essays on the history of Christian spirituality, below are some examples of titles from this section:

  • Approaches to the Study of Christian Spirituality
  • Old Testament Foundations of Christian Spirituality
  • New Testament Foundations of Christian Spirituality
  • Jesus
  • The Holy Spirit
  • Spirituality in Community
  • Liturgical Spirituality
  • Prayer
  • Grace and Spiritual Disciplines

This section would lend nicely to being used as a textbook for an introduction to Christian Spirituality class.

Part 2 has nearly seven hundred entries listed in an alphabetical format, giving details on topics impossible to include in the larger essay section.  Topics include not only historical and current spiritual masters, spiritual disciplines, and a variety of theological concepts but also a variety of topics related to the fields of Christian counselling.  Unlike many other dictionaries this has attempted to include a wide range of topics and contexts from around the world and from many theological streams.  Each entry is a minimum of one column long with several extending to several pages in length – each providing a good introduction to the topic.  At the end of of many of the entries other related sections are sign-posted, and a short bibliography of further reading is provided.

My only criticism of the work is the lack of an index.  The Dictionary would be even more useful if it had a series of indexes focussing on biblical, author and subject references.  The contents of part 1 articles is easy to scan read, but there is no such tool for the alphabetical section.

This book is a great resource for anyone desiring to understand the long and broad scope of Christian spirituality.  Certainly a book I will be dipping into time and time again.

Chris
chris@dibdenchurches.org
Married to the amazing Sarah and raising Jakey, Daniel, Amelia, Josh & Jonah in our blended family. Passionate for Jesus, social work & sport.

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