Breaking new ground, InterVarsity has published an enormously interesting and extremely helpful religious dictionary. 2,400 articles and 1,500 biographical entries cover the ideas, events, people, movements, traditions, institutions, and denominations that have made up the history of Christianity in the United States and Canada. The work is thorough, scholarly, incisive, and generally accurate. The preacher, seminarian, and Christian schoolteacher will find it the best single source of information on Christianity in America available. No layman will have any difficulty understanding it. It is abundantly cross-referenced. Every article concludes with a select bibliography.
Reformed readers will recognize some of the 400 contributors: James D. Bratt; Harvie Corm; Richard B. Gaffin, Jr.; and George M. Marsden, among others from the Reformed and Presbyterian community.
A random sampling of the articles indicates the scope of the dictionary: Baptism in the Spirit; Separation of Church and State; Four Spiritual Laws; the Auburn Affirmation; the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy; Louis Berkhof; M.R. DeHaan; C.G. Finney; Kathryn Kuhlman; the Biblical Theology Movement; the Charismatic Movement; the Great Awakening; the Altar Call; the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC); and the Christian Reformed Church.
Many of the articles are fascinating, especially those on the various theologies or religious movements. The article on “Arminianism” correctly states that the “distinguishing feature” of Arminianism is “a conditional view of grace” (p. 78).
Some are controversial. Norman Geisler, who is not Reformed, writes the article on “Predestination.” With reference to the doctrine of predestination taught by the Synod of Dordt, Geisler speaks of “Dortian, or Extreme Calvinism.” Evangelicalism, on the other hand, which believes “in unlimited atonement”; teaches “some form of cooperation between people’s wills and God’s grace”; and holds “that only predestination to life is made, denying any implication that God ordains people to hell,” Geisler describes as “Moderate Calvinism” (p. 928). On this reckoning, the theory of political liberty that came out of Philadelphia in 1776 was “Extreme Democracy,” whereas the political views of V.I. Lenin represented “Moderate Democracy.”
There is no entry in this volume for the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. No doubt, the editors will rectify this omission in the next edition. If they do, they should characterize the theology of these churches as “Dortian, or Genuine Calvinism.”