Five new titles for your consideration this spring.

Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walter A. Elwell (Baker Book House, 1984, 1204 pp.; $29.95)

Thomas Corneille published the ancestor of modern theological and philosophical encyclopedias in 1696, but it was Peter Bayle’s Dictionnaire historique et critique (which came out the following year) that established the genre. Bayle used his alphabetized collection of articles to attack anything he thought was superstitious, irrational, or stupid—especially Christianity. In fact, he meant to destroy the Christian faith, but would do so by intellectual undermining, not bludgeoning.

The theological dictionary, then, came into being as an antidote to the faith—making it all the more ironic that the latest member of the species, the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (EDT) avows intent to educate Christians from an evangelical point of view.

Editors of such works, Christian or otherwise, must have sure-footed, broad understanding of both theological studies and the concerns of the Christian community if their projects are to flourish. Walter Elwell, editor of the EDT and professor of Bible and theology at Wheaton College (Ill.), merits a high grade on both counts. Exemplary skill marks the ways in which he chose items for inclusion, enlisted qualified authors, and kept a specific reading public consistently in view.

Elwell tells us in the preface that his original list of topics ran to 8,000. Reducing that list to the present 1,200 must have produced exquisite intellectual torments. What Elwell does not tell us is how he made his decisions for inclusion, exclusion, or cross referencing, though it is clear that he got help from the 1983 Beacon Dictionary of ...

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