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A Mixed Bag
on September 25, 2005
This book has a strong bias towards higher criticism. This need not have detracted from the value of the book. Higher criticism has, after all, been very mugh a part of the Christian Church during its more recent history, and has often enriched it.
In this case, however, it seriously influences the content of the book, and tends to exclude other perspectives. For instance, with regard to the Fall, the book notes that in the past Christians "regarded the Fall of Adam and Eve as a historical event" -- as though the belief were no longer common. With regard to angels, "the whole concept of such supernatural beings has been challenged" -- and demons receive no entry at all. Further, a great deal of the text is devoted to higher criticism issues. With regard to the resurrection, for example, nearly half the text deals with the way in which critics have "questioned its historicity" and the Gospels "disagree over the details".
A major strength of the book is its scope. For example, it has special entries for the Church in virtually all of the major countries of the world: the USA, Angola, Russia, Vietnam, and so on. It is also strong particularly on less common terms in the Church, which are precisely those which one might wish to look up, e.g. the illuminative way, or banns of marriage. However, it falls down on more recent Church history. For instance, it omits the Lausanne Congress, or Gustavo Gutierrez. Other important entries are merely skimmed over, e.g. the Keswick Convention (one sentence), or the Charismatic movement.
In short, this book would seem to be too fixated with issues of veracity, and to reflect too little of the true life of the Church over past millennia. For a scholar to whom issues of higher criticism are important, this may be just the book. Broadly speaking, however, it is a mixed bag.