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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, Second Edition: Revised and Expanded (Donald K. McKim)

TITLE: The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, Second Edition: Revised and Expanded
AUTHOR: Donald K. McKim
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014, (352 pages).

In order to understand theology, there is no running away from terminology, vocabulary, and theological words and phrases. Indeed, McKim says it very well: "Words are the building blocks for Christian theology." With nearly 7000 theological terms drawn from over 21 theological disciplines, McKim has provided brief 1-3 statements to describe each of them. The first edition drew from the following areas: "Bible, American church history, church government, general church history, ethics, evangelicalism, feminist theology, fundamentalism, general religion, liberation theology, liturgical theology, Lutheran theology, ministry, philosophical theology, Protestant theology, Reformed theology, Roman Catholic theology, social-scientific terms, spirituality, theology, Wesleyan theology, and worship." The second edition adds additional terms from the areas of contemporary and postcolonial theology.

Listed in alphabetical order, the dictionary of terms packed in terms described very clearly and concisely. Where appropriate, the word origins are described. It does not take long for any reader to adopt a posture of language humility, knowing that the English language today owes a lot to the Latin, the Greek, the Hebrew, German, Spanish, and others. Not only is the book ecumenical, it also incorporates some religious terms from other cultures and religious beliefs. I realize then that the book is not specifically about "Christian Theology" but about theology in general. Like the words "Tao," "New Age Movements," and terms used by non-Christian and the secular world. Due to the brevity and the page limits, some terms leave much to be desired. For example, the differences between "assistant pastor" and "associate pastor" are not easily discernible. More needs to be said in order to enable the terms to be more useful. Having said that, the purpose of the terms is basically a primer to spark greater interest and heighten the awareness of the meaning of the term. Thus, it is not to give in-depth coverage of each term, but to give an initial nudge for one to do further research. Personally, I find the volume very engaging as it helps me link many areas of theology and the doctrines together. At the same time, it is a convenient reference where I can refresh my understanding of terms learned in the past. For theological students, this volume will be a life saver to give them a handle on some of the more difficult theological texts they have at seminaries.

I deeply appreciate the annotated bibliography that gives students a list of theological resources, one-volume commentaries, biblical criticism, Church history, theological dictionaries, and the various works cited. Moreover, with an increasingly online world, the websites for theological research will only continue to grow. I suspect that the web listing will grow longer in future editions.

Incredibly extensive, this volume leaves me gasping for more.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Westminster John Knox Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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