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Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms Paperback – May 26, 1999
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About the Author
Stanley J. Grenz (1950-2005) earned a B.A. from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1973, an M.Div. from Denver Seminary in 1976 and a D.Theol. From the University of Munich (Germany) in 1978, where completed his dissertation under the supervision of Wolfhart Pannenberg.
Ordained into the gospel ministry in 1976, Grenz worked within the local church context as a youth director and assistant pastor (Northwest Baptist Church, Denver), pastor (Rowandale Baptist Church, Winnipeg), and interim pastor. In addition he preached and lectured in numerous churches, colleges, universities and seminaries in North America, Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia.
Grenz wrote or cowrote twenty-five books, the most recent of which is Rediscovering the Triune God: The Trinity in Contemporary Theology (2004). His other books include The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei (Westminster John Knox), Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context (with John R. Franke; Westminster John Knox), The Moral Quest: Foundations of Christian Ethics (IVP), A Primer on Postmodernism (Eerdmans), Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry (with Denise Muir Kjesbo; IVP), Revisioning Evangelical Theology: A Fresh Agenda for the 21st Century (IVP), and The Millennial Maze: Sorting Out Evangelical Options (IVP). He has also coauthored several shorter reference and introductory books for IVP, including Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God (with Roger E. Olson), Pocket Dictionary of Ethics (with Jay T. Smith), and Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (with David Guretzki and Cherith Fee Nordling). He contributed articles to more than two dozen other volumes, and has had published more than one hundred essays and eighty book reviews. These have appeared in journals such as Christianity Today, The Christian Century, Christian Scholar's Review, Theology Today and the Journal of Ecumenical Studies.
For twelve years (1990-2002), Grenz held the position of Pioneer McDonald Professor of Baptist Heritage, Theology and Ethics at Carey Theological College and at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. After a one-year sojourn as Distinguished Professor of Theology at Baylor University and Truett Seminary in Waco, Texas (2002-2003), he returned to Carey and resumed his duties as Pioneer McDonald Professor of Theology. In 2004 he assumed an additional appointment as Professor of Theological Studies at Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle, Washington.
David Guretzki (PhD, McGill University) is professor of theology, church, and public life at Briercrest College and Seminary in Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada. He is also a coauthor of Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms.
Cherith Fee Nordling (PhD, University of St. Andrews) is associate professor of theology at Northern Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. She has also taught at Regent College, Vancouver, as well as Kuyper College, Cornerstone University and Calvin College and Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is the author of Knowing God by Name.
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Top Customer Reviews
Whether you are new to theology or not, I definitely recommend this little dictionary! I do wish it had more terms in it, but it is a worthwhile investment for the small price you pay. It is great if you are looking for a book that simplifies the most common theology terms - whether for your own use or to explain them to someone else.
It need hardly be said that a book which tries to squeeze a world of theology into a mere 122 pages will have its limitations. Nonetheless, it is surprisingly comprehensive, and refreshingly clear and concise. So, for example, it covers the Council of Nicea, the theology of Karl Barth, the meaning of fundamentalism, and more than 300 topics besides.
The authors state that their purpose is simply to "provide you with a foundational, working knowledge of the concepts". In this they certainly succeed - and with language that should be within the scope of most beginners. While most of their definitions would find general acceptance, they state that they give preference to a "broadly evangelical, Protestant perspective".
The one obvious shortcoming of the book is that it would sometimes seem to be capricious in its selection of terms. For example, salvation is defined, yet mission is not. The imago Dei is defined, yet the imitatio Christi is not. Adolf von Harnack receives an entry, yet Jürgen Moltmann does not. And finally - wait for it - Protestantism is defined, yet Roman Catholicism is not!
Having said this, many of the omissions (e.g. Roman Catholicism) would come into focus with a complete reading of the book, and this does not seriously detract from the usefulness of the book as a whole.
A full theological dictionary can "cost a ton", besides being difficult for beginners to cope with. This small book provides a cheap and handy alternative, and has the endorsement of leading evangelical seminaries. For what it is worth, it is a good reference work well written.
And then I came across this nacre of doctrinaire clumsiness:
atheism. A system of belief that categorically asserts that there is no God. Atheism usually affirms as well that the only form of existence is the material universe and that the universe is merely the product of chance or fate.
If this is the kind of willful distortion coming down from the top in evangelical academia, it's no wonder why interfaith discourse is so heavily deformed in this country. The trinity of authors here have of course misdefined atheism.
Very few atheists say, "God definitely does not exist." The vast majority say, "It's unlikely that gods exist, and I see no good reason to believe that they do." Just as most Christians don't sashay around claiming Amun-Ra, Hermes, Zeus, Quetzalcoatl or unicorns don't exist, neither are most atheists in the business of making the positive claim that no gods exist. It's just not something they concern themselves with, just as most people don't concern themselves with belief in unicorns or other cryptids.
As many an atheist are wont to emphasize, positive disaffirmation is a spectrum's length away from nonbelief. Most inclusively, then, atheism is simply a linguistic placeholder we use to denote the nonbelief in personal deities. Often enough, it is a conscious conclusion based on the consideration of available evidence.
Likewise, atheists do not have an ideological bias toward materialism. It's just that a material universe is all that can be supported by the evidence. To persuade a materialist to accept some form of dualism, supernaturalism or paraphysical causality, the advocates of those views would need to produce probative evidence (or at least a soundly reasoned case) in their favor. The burden of proof lies with those positing alternate dimensions of reality. At any rate, atheists are usually not in the habit of making universal or absolutist claims, but of simply voicing skepticism in the face of unchecked fanaticism.
Another area in which the authors' doctrinal commitments seep through is in the various definitions connected to Christology (the nature of the Jesus of Scripture). One example is adoptionism:
adoptionism. The theory that asserts that God adopted Jesus as his Son...This theory fails to reflect scriptural texts that point to Jesus' eternal relationship with the Father (e.g., Jn 17:5).
If only it were so simple. Of course, in order to defend your favorite theology as "biblical" or "scriptural", you have to advertise a univocal, monolithic view running throughout the Christian New Testament, a view which fails to hold up under any modicum of scrutiny or grasp of Christian history.
Examination of early Christian documents reveals that as stories about the historical Jesus developed, a diverse spectrum of thought began to take shape. The surviving exchanges and the manuscript tradition of the canonical gospels and other New Testament texts provide a window into these 1st-4th century conversations. The gospel narratives, for example, originated in different communities from different authors speaking to different issues to address different needs. These men had their own perspectives, their own beliefs, their own needs, their own concerns, their own desires, their own theologies. And this kaleidoscope of inspirations is what we see preserved in the Christian New Testament.
It should also be emphasized here that none of the Greek writers thought they were writing (what was later to become known as) `Scripture' or imagined that their writings would one day be canonized and subsequently compared, contrasted and hyper-scrutinized alongside other period texts. How could they? Such foresight was alien to them. As we might expect, once these disparate texts were smashed together and consolidated many centuries later, the multivocality came along for the ride. Given this scenario, it should not be surprising in the least that the gospel writers, in several respects, did not agree with each other; they expressed different views about Jesus, God, and the linkages therein.
As a result, adoptionist Christologies, widespread in early Christian thought, along with docetic and separationist Christologies and others, all made it into the eventual Bible. Moreover, when we compare later manuscripts with earlier manuscripts, we find dozens of examples of where those holding anti-adoptionist, anti-docetic, anti-separationist perspectives, and everything in between, altered the words in an effort to bludgeon the texts into an artificial conformity. (Ostensibly, antiquity's concern for internal harmony was anticipatory of modern day evangelicals.) If there were not this diversity of voices, there would have been no motivation to amend the texts in the first place.
To recap, where did this mishmash of views come from? They originated with the texts (and any associated oral tradition from which they derived), ideologically dissimilar as they were. Because the New Testament documents, taken together, are inconsistent, conflicting and contradictory on several matters of theological importance, of course there are passages in one book which suggest against adoptionism, just as there are passages in others which gesture toward adoptionism. This is what happens when you consolidate texts from different authors. Ultimately, doctrine is best organized by text, not by denomination.
This is also why "prooftexting"--mining for verses in an effort to extrapolate a biblical-wide perspective--is irretrievably flawed in approach. Pointing to passages like 2 Timothy 3:16 or 2 Peter 1:20-21 as denoting biblical ‘infallibility’ or ‘divine inspiration’ is a naive way of using the Bible to inform theological beliefs. How could the authors of one text make any claim for texts that had not yet been written and for texts they had no clue would one day accompany their own? Nowhere in the Bible does it mention which books it should include (its authors had no forethought of ‘canon’).
Prooftexting thus fails as a hermeneutical device, not least because you are using the words of one author to interpret the words of another, while papering over the local context within the text itself (i.e., the specific needs, concerns and issues the author is addressing), all while ignoring the complex, arduous and interesting history of the formation of the biblical canon, itself the product of a long line of human decisions. There can be no substitute for, and no escape from, working out meaning and context for oneself.
Instead of suppressing these facts or deeming them a problem, those in thrall to evangelical tradition might try accepting the Bible for what it is instead of forcing it to be something it isn't. The Bible isn't a book; it's a library (the very word `Bible' means "library"). And hence contrary to the reflexively tendentious language plastered up and down this handy dictionary, the Bible is not an ideological monolith; it contains a wealth of competing ideas and mutually exclusive viewpoints. That such diversity of voice and dialectic tension were preserved demonstrates that the editors of the biblical texts were not overly concerned with conveying a single, consistent message or doctrine.
To push against this fact is like a library patron complaining that something she read in a book from one part of the library contradicts something she read in a book from another part of the library. We would probably question this person's mental maturity. Just as we expect different perspectives from different books in a library, so we should not be surprised or otherwise disturbed by the presence of discrepancies and inconsistencies in the biblical texts. Like so much of evangelical scholarship, this resource is contaminated with theological insularity. Gatekeeping in dictionary form.