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The Lost Q&A Text–Dictionary of Christian Spirituality

Posted July 24th, 2011 in Books by Emily Varner

I’m sending review copies of Zondervan’s Dictionary of Christian Spirituality out presently. This is another one of those titles I’m delighted to be associated with. The general editor, Glen G. Scorgie, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me , which I edited and used for a media piece. The text of this piece is posted on Glen’s personal blog here. Below I’m posting the one question and response that didn’t make the final cut. I still think it’s worth sharing:

Some in the evangelical community might suggest that a reference work of this sort should be of one opinion on doctrine and Christian practice, but in the introduction you say the contributors encompass “the full spectrum of Protestants, including Calvinists and Wesleyans, Episcopalians and Anglicans, Pentecostals and Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists and Dispensationalists; also some Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox; and even a few who are not going to church at all right now.” Why do you see this as making a stronger resource? What “core” beliefs are represented in the volume?

This book is not a polemical rejoinder in some intramural debate. We have no axe to grind. Instead, we have tried to produce a volume that represents a generous evangelical identity and voice. It has been gratifying to have already received appreciative emails from people who have sometimes been de-legitimized through exclusion from academic reference works of this nature. In times of great global challenge and opportunity, as we find ourselves as Christians today, much more is to be gained by solidarity and mutual respect than by partisanship. We are certainly not relativists, for not all views are equally meritorious, but our embrace should be as large as that of the Spirit of God.

What unites us, amid all the diversity of our backgrounds, is agreement on what Christian spirituality is all about—living all of life before God in the transforming and empowering presence of his Spirit. Some of the shorter, historical entries are ones into which one’s personal faith commitment does not intrude at all. All that is needed is solid scholarship. But in other instances, interpretation and nuance are important, and there, I think, our diverse company of contributors shared a high regard for core Christian doctrines—Scripture’s authority, Christ’s supremacy, the cross’s “cruciality,” the Spirit’s enlivening, to name just some—and a respect for the overarching contours of Christian experience and practice through the centuries.

Having said that, there are some minor “inconsistencies” in the volume. One reason is that the evangelical tradition itself is fairly diverse, and the volume reflects that. We decided that the contributors should not be forced to sing in absolute unison; instead, we allowed them to create something more like a harmony.

Nevertheless, as I say in concluding the overview chapter, “Beneath our [many] surface idiosyncrasies are the strong, subterranean continuities of a shared life with God. The dynamics of Christian spirituality are known to all those who are embraced by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and open to the Holy Spirit.”

 

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