New Dictionary of Theology

Historical and Systematic

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Martin Davie, Tim Grass, Stephen R. Holmes, John McDowell, T. A. Noble
  • Westmont, IL: 
    IVP Academic
    , May
     1044 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


The second edition of the New Dictionary of Theology: Historical and Systematic is both a timely revision and a helpful expansion of what has become a standard reference work for students and scholars of theology. The updated volume contains over 800 articles, more than half of which are new or substantially rewritten, and retains versions of the most significant entries from its first edition, edited by Sinclair B. Fergusson, J.I. Packer and David F. Wright and published in 1988. The additional material makes the second edition significantly larger than the earlier work, and offers expanded coverage of contextual and global south theologies: new entries are offered, for example, on African, Arab, and Asian theologies (more specifically, Syrian, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese theologies). The dictionary also contains, as might be anticipated in a recent update, greater coverage of gender and interfaith matters (for example, “Shintoism and Christianity” and “Taoism and Christianity”). Curiously, despite the increase in contributions from and concerning the global south, the vast majority of contributors remain from the United Kingdom and US, perhaps reflecting the composition and networks of the editorial team itself. As the locus of contemporary theology shifts south and east, a future edition might further address the largely Western, and indeed male, predominance among contributors. Nevertheless, there is much to appreciate about this single-volume reference work.

The dictionary offers concise and largely up-to-date introductory scholarship on standard figures, movements, controversies, and classic doctrinal questions (for example, Gregory of Nyssa, Donatism, ordo salutis, and theodicy). This second edition provides new entries on theological trends or influences which have been seen more clearly in the last century: analytic theology, post-liberalism and the Yale school, alongside the theological influence of philosophers such as Michel Foucault, Martin Heidegger, and Jacques Derrida. Important but lesser-known nineteenth- and twentieth century theologians—from P.T. Forsyth and Herman Bavinck to Dorothee Sölle—receive treatment alongside better-known historical and contemporary peers (Karl Barth, Karl Rahner, and Eberhard Jüngel, for example). The new edition is further expanded in scope by entries on recent socio-politico-cultural developments: consumerism and human rights law are among the topics examined here in theological perspective. Generally, the balance between classical and contemporary subjects is well struck, with appropriate space being devoted to more significant subjects, and without ignoring a broad range of more obscure topics on which a quick reference tool frequently offers much of its greatest utility. One particularly notable entry on contemporary theological trends, by Daniel Treier and the late John Webster, offers an especially astute survey of the profoundly diverse theological landscape of the early twenty-first century, and is an example of the eminent scholarship in the volume.

In this regard, despite the noted criticism of Anglo-American contributor dominance, the editorial team is to be commended for eliciting articles from contributors of the highest caliber: Richard Bauckham, Anthony Thiselton, Mark Noll, I. Howard Marshall, and John Webster are among the 300 or more expert contributors. The volume’s technical expertise does not impede accessibility to non-specialists, however, and the entries are particularly targeted, it would seem, to undergraduates, while being of sufficient substance and breadth to be useful to postgraduates and beyond. The usual dictionary features such as entry cross-referencing, and brief (if sometimes overly minimal) bibliographies, remain standard. With the publication of reference works coming under pressure in the age of Google and Wikipedia, the strength and credibility of the scholarship, scope, and other virtues of this volume suggest that the new New Dictionary of Theology: Historic and Systematic will likely prove to be a valuable investment for serious students in and beyond its titular disciplines for some years to come.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Darren Joseph (DJ) Konz is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Aberdeen.

Date of Review: 
November 7, 2016
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Martin Davie has lectured at Oakhill Theological College and been theological secretary of the Council for Christian Unity of the Church of England and theological consultant to the House of Bishops.

Tim Grass (PhD, King's College) is lecturer in church history at Spurgeon's College in London, England. He is also a tutor in early and medieval church history at the Open Theological College, University of Gloucestershire.

Stephen R. Holmes (PhD, King's College London) is senior lecturer in systematic theology at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. His books include Listening to the Past: The Place of Tradition in Theology, andChristian Doctrine: A Reader, edited with Lindsey Hall and Murray Rae. Additionally, Holmes is editor of the International Journal of Systematic Theology, and he chairs the Theology and Public Policy Advisory Commission for the Evangelical Alliance UK.

John McDowell (PhD, Cambridge) is professor of theology at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

T. A. Noble (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is professor of theology at Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, and also senior research fellow in theology at Nazarene Theological College, Manchester, UK. He was recently president of the Wesleyan Theological Society.


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