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Dictionary of Christian Spirituality Hardcover – July 23, 2011
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“Scholarship with a soul! This is a book like no other---scholarly breadth with spiritual depth in a dictionary. So many have written so much about Christian spirituality that it is difficult to connect the parts. Here is a readable resource that brings everything together. I kept turning the pages … not to read through, but to explore. Every article led me to another journey on a different page.” -- Leith Anderson, , President
“The Dictionary of Christian Spirituality is a remarkable balance of broad, integrative essays and more than 700 succinct, informative dictionary entries. It combines a wide survey of the great movements in Christian spirituality while giving attention to the main contributors from all parts of the globe, past and present. The contributors include some of the great heavyweights of the movement while also incorporating significant voices from a variety of related disciplines and perspectives. The work is a must-have resource for every able scholar, pastor, and follower of Jesus.” -- Gayle D. Beebe, , President
“The very publication of this work speaks to the contemporary interest in spirituality. So much spirituality, however, is uninformed, shallow, and vague. All the more reason to welcome this important dictionary. It is impressive in its scope, wide in what is included, and deep in the intent to strengthen life in the Spirit of Christ. Scan a few entries, and it will be evident what a valuable resource this can be. I cannot imagine a dictionary on spirituality that is all prose. So I was delighted to see the entries on poetry and Hopkins, for example. Don’t miss them.” -- Leighton Ford, , President
“The combination of substantial reflective essays on major themes in Christian spirituality and sharply focused articles on major figures and topics provides a rich mixture of insight, information, and inspiration. ‘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.” -- Mark A. Noll, , Professor of History
“This is not the only dictionary about Christian spirituality in town. There are many around and some of them are very good. But this one, with its global interests and spiritual zeal, has an energy and breadth that lifts it into a new league. Moreover, as well as making a very good job of expanding our knowledge of Christian spirituality and all the sources that have shaped it, this important volume steers the reader through the people, movements, and issues with a reliable, generous, and grace-focused wisdom. It is a source not just of information about Christian spirituality but of real formation, through the Spirit, in the life of Christ.” -- Christopher Cocksworth, , Bishop of Coventry
“The more I read in the Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, the more I wanted to read more! The initial essays provide a thoroughly excellent foundation, and the alphabetized entries that follow leave us intrigued to read others. I highly recommend this dictionary for all Christians, especially those who want to grow in their active practices of various spiritual disciplines, their devoted love for God and neighbor, and their fervent thanksgiving for global saints and the myriad ways God works in the world.” -- Marva J. Dawn, , Teaching Fellow in Spiritual Theology
About the Author
Simon Chan (PhD, Cambridge) is Earnest Lau Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Theological College in Singapore. He is the author of Man and Sin, Pentecostal Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition, Spiritual Theology; A Systematic Study of the Christian Life and Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community. He is also the associate editor of the Global Dictionary of Theology and the Dictionary of Mission Theology.
Gordon T. Smith (PhD, Loyola House, Ateneo de Manila) is the president of reSource Leadership International and formerly dean of Regent College, Vancouver. His publications include A Holy Meal: the Lord’s Supper in the Life of the Church and The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer and the Witness of the Spirit.
James D. Smith III (ThD, Harvard) is associate professor of Church History at Bethel Seminary – San Diego, as well an adjunct professor of religion at the University of San Diego. A member of the Baptist General Conference, he is a former teaching assistant to Henri Nouwen at Harvard, and lectures frequently on Nouwen’s spirituality and related topics.
Top Customer Reviews
Some may find it strange then that Eugene Peterson is one of most favorite authors and one of my main teachers concerning spiritual theology. Through Peterson and others I have found that spirituality is not all manner of weirdness and that while they had their flaws like everyone else in the world, we evangelicals can learn a thing or two from the Christian mystics. Glen Scorgie underscores one of Peterson's basic ideas about spirituality when he says, "Christian spirituality is the domain of lived Christian experience. Its about living all of life - not just some esoteric portion of it - before God, through God, in the transforming and empowering presence of the Holy Spirit." (27) There it is, spirituality is not about the strange or esoteric. Indeed, ones spirituality is where does life `in Christ' and through the Spirit (to pull themes from the Apostle Paul) in the everyday, ordinary, and mundane stuff of life. Scorgie also give us a valuable matrix of Christian spirituality to keep in mind. He discusses the relational, transformation, and vocational dynamics of Christian spirituality in which there is one key to being spiritually deep. These three dynamics exist in an interdependent matrix in which Christ is with us, Christ is in us, and Christ works through us through the Spirit. (29-30)
With the emergence of authors of such as Richard Foster and Eugene Peterson, evangelical attitudes toward spirituality and Christian mysticism have greatly improved. The publication of Dictionary of Christian Spirituality is a testimony to this reality. But this is not JUST a dictionary. Before one gets to the approximately 600 pages of alphabetized dictionary entries there are 34 chapters comprising 240 pages of `integrative essays' that are well worth the price of the book as a whole. Covered are such topics as Old and New Testament foundations for Christian Spirituality, Human Personhood, Eschatology and Hope, Spirituality in Community, Liturgical Spirituality, Prayer, Mysticism, Spirituality in Relation to Psychology and Therapy, and Mission and Ministry, and four chapters devoted to the history of Christian Spirituality (just to name a few). The dictionary entries contain smaller article as covering a wide swath of subjects ranging from Baptist Spirituality to Methodist Spirituality to Anabaptist spirituality as well as people such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Karl Barth to an article each on the Cappadocian Fathers.
I am well pleased with the Dictionary of Christian Spirituality. From what I have seen thus far it represents well the diversity of Christianity and covers not only Protestant and evangelical spirituality but also Catholic and Eastern Orthodox spirituality. I was especially pleased with the wide inclusion of Eastern Orthodox material (and discussions of theosis/deification even) not only because of the influence of Eastern Orthodox on me personally but because Protestants in general and evangelicals specifically (western as they are) have been guilty of ignoring or forgetting about our Eastern Orthodox brethren. As one who desires to learn from and incorporate a wide variety of Christian sources in my spiritual practice I appreciate the Dictionary of Christian Spirituality. This book is a great starting point and at the end of each chapter and article there are resources for further reading. With this book we have the opportunity to learn deepen our spirituality from the witness and testimony of the whole church (I just wish that it had an index).
Just to be official, everyone should know (in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising") that I received this book free from Zondervan as part of a give away to read and talk about on my blog. I was not required to write a positive review, a bad review, or an in between review. I hereby swear that the opinions I have expressed are my own and that I am solely responsible for any typos that appear.
Accessible and relevant to contemporary Christian practitioners
Generous in its regard for the full range of Christian traditions of spirituality
Attentive to otherwise neglected topics, concerns, and formative figures in the evangelical tradition of spirituality
Global and international in both topical scope and contributors
Reflective of interdisciplinary engagement with related fields of inquiry
The dictionary, divided into two parts ("integrative perspective" essays and shorter alphabetized articles more narrow in focus), generally attains these goals.
In surveying the extensive material in the dictionary, its strengths are readily apparent, many of which are foreshadowed in the goals stated in the preface. The attention paid to other traditions of spirituality is immensely important, given the increasingly pluralistic world in which many prospective readers of this work live. The inclusion of more recent persons (i.e. Richard Foster and Ronald Sider) and events of significance (i.e. the development of the internet) in the study of Christian spirituality reflects well the ever-evolving landscape of Christian spirituality, while not eclipsing the classic persons and events of established importance. The intentional incorporation of interdisciplinary engagement (especially in the "integrative perspective" essays "Music and the Arts," "Spirituality in Relationship to Psychology and Therapy," and "Spirituality in Relation to Creation") helpfully nudges the study and practice of Christian spirituality into the common life of the church, rather than allowing it to remain confined to a small segment of Christians. The biblical engagement of the contributors is evidenced throughout, with each "integrative perspective" essay and even many of the shorter articles being replete with Bible references.
The dictionary has its limitations as well. While the interdisciplinary engagement is helpful as far as it goes, it does not go far enough. The "integrative perspective" essay, "Spirituality in Relation to Creation," begins to address the interface of science and spirituality, but doesn't move much beyond questions of origins. Further, it is striking to recognize little in the way of such interdisciplinary engagement related to issues of economics, business, and politics. Additionally, the level of technical or specialized language raises questions as to the dictionary's accessibility. While the stated goal is to be accessible to "practitioners," many of the articles feature language that would be cumbersome to any practitioners not trained or well-read in the literature of Christian spirituality. Given the fact those already trained or well-read are less likely to rely on a reference volume such as this, the amount of technical or specialized language is surprising. Lastly, some of the shorter articles are so short and lacking in relevant insight, they are not helpful. It's not that the topics themselves are unnecessary, but that the content of the articles simply did not merit their inclusion.
Limitations of reference works are as frustrating as they are inevitable. Despite the limitations, however, the strengths of Dictionary of Christian Spirituality combined with its low price-point, make it worthy of inclusion in any minister's or church's library.
Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher, though I was not required to write a positive review.
While the nature and genre of the work are not conducive to reading straight through, I enjoyed flipping through the pages and seeing the varied entries in this large (850+ page) volume. Topics include Daoist Spirituality and the Dark Night along with Inner Healing and the Internet (and all letters before, between, and after), all with an eye towards furthering a uniquely Christian understanding of spirituality. Each entry ranges from a full column to a few pages and has a list of further resources for additional reference. The only thing missing is a comprehensive index arranged by topic and author which, while not necessary to the usefulness of the volume, seems an easy add-on to make the book that much more user-friendly. That aside, the book looks to be a great resource (perhaps more suited towards students and intellectuals though not entirely unhelpful for pastors) that I will spend more time with in the future.
This book was provided by the publisher for review.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
both valuable and well-written.
Thirty-four `integrated perspective' essays (contained in the first quarter of the book's 850 pages) and then nearly seven hundred alphabetically...Read more