Monday 8 March 2010

Global Dictionary of Theology: A Resource for the Worldwide Church

William A. Dyrness and Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (eds.), Global Dictionary of Theology: A Resource for the Worldwide Church (Nottingham: IVP, 2008), xiv + 996pp., ISBN 9781844743506.

I’ve dipped in and out of this dictionary over the last year or so, and enjoyed its different take on a number of items.

It was conceived ‘to provide a general overview of theological reflection and practice around the world’ from a self-conscious evangelical and ecumenical perspective (xiii). It has come about through a recognition that Christianity can no longer be exclusively identified as a western religion, and that theology needs to take account of this, ‘negotiating differences and seeking new ways of framing questions and answers’ (ix-x).

To this end, the editors, combined with the expertise and experience of Juan Francisco Martinez (Hispanic) and Simon Chan (Asian), have pulled together 250 articles from over 100 international contributors.

They begin their Introduction by talking about the implicit claim to universalism in different types of theology, each one insisting that ‘this is the way theology ought to be done’ (vii). Instead, they say:

‘Our only claim is that theology is by nature contextual’, that trinitarian theology carried out by, say, Colin Gunton (in his context), is no less neutral than that carried out by the Tanzanian Roman Catholic Charles Nyamiti (in his context) (viii).

Given the nature of the globalising world, one of the ways forward in theology is to acknowledge the diversity of Christian difference:

‘We would argue that such an approach is necessary today. In the light of religious resurgence, complex flows of migrants, capital and technology, and the dramatic growth of Christianity in some areas and its retraction in others, we believe we are in the midst of a massive re-formation of the Christian church at the global level’ (ix).

There are entries on standard areas of theology (Trinity, ecclesiology, eschatology, etc.), some of these quite lengthy and by multiple authors, reflecting different contexts. Although there are no entries on individual theologians (except that such contributions could be tracked through the full index at the back of the volume), the dictionary carries entries on themes, country and area studies, movements and traditions, as well as topics not normally covered in theological dictionaries, such as ‘terrorism’ and ‘children at risk’.

I’m glad to have this resource near my desk.

No comments: