Global Wesleyan Dictionary of Theology, Al Truesdale, ed. Kansas City: Beacon Hill, 2013. ISBN: 978-0-8341-2837-8.
Dr. Vic Reasoner
THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE. Issue 2. Fall 2013. Volume 31.
Date Posted Nov., 2013
Global Wesleyan Dictionary of Theology is an ambitious project containing 360 articles by over a hundred scholars in twenty countries. These articles cover twenty categories. Categories such as Christianity and other religions, Church and culture, Church and society, ethics, historical traditions and topics, liturgy/worship, missions/missiology, philosophy, natural sciences, social sciences, and theological movements are broader categories than Wesleyan theology. These articles are helpful because they give a contemporary appraisal of current trends globally. However, these articles do not necessarily reflect a Wesleyan theology because there is not necessarily a Wesleyan position on some contemporary topics in comparative religions, ethics, history, philosophy, science, or missiology.
Most articles run about 300-500 words, so they are a basic introduction to the topic. Sometimes the conciseness of the article causes the author to paint with too broad a brush. I found most articles to be objectively written. I was pleased to see that William Abraham told it like it was, that Wesley accepted penal substitution, refusing the extremes of limited atonement and universalism. However, his article on "Baptism with the Holy Spirit" is very noncommittal. The article on hell was not adequate. Sometimes I felt the contributors tried too hard to be politically correct in dealing with such evils as communism, socialism, enlightenment, homosexuality, evolution, and Islam.
However, the objective consensus approach is abandoned when the contributors deal with Bible-believing Wesleyans. The article on biblicism/bibliolary was a reaction against 24-hour days of creation and biblical inerrancy, as well as an accusation that we worship the Bible. Elsewhere we are told that Wesleyans avoid the extreme of biblical fundamentalism in which the Bible's words are thought to be dictated by God. However, we are assured that every type of biblical criticism is a legitimate tool for Wesleyan scholars.
While we are told that Wesleyans accept the Reformation principle of Scripture only, we are also told that authority is not based on the Bible's very words. Apparently, biblical authority is in process within the church and through the Spirit.
The assumption of soteriological inerrancy permeates the whole dictionary. "Wesleyans reject using Scripture as a textbook for biology, anthropology, cosmology, physics, or geography." We are assured that Wesleyans understand evolution to be compatible with Christian theology.
If one knew nothing about Wesleyan theology except what he learned from this dictionary, he would conclude that Wesleyans uncritically accept limited inerrancy, open theism, process theology, and egalitarianism. I am not sure why the new dictionary omitted the virgin birth and a discussion of millennial views.
It seems that every possible position and trend is objectively described except for the core convictions of true conservative Wesleyans regarding the authority of Scripture. While I am grieved, it was just about what I expected from Beacon Hill Press. Yet I have no intention of parting with my copy. I regard it as a valuable resource on just about every subject except those that require us to stand against the spirit of our age.
However, I will not discard the older Beacon Dictionary of Theology (1983). While it gave a less than objective appraisal of postmillennialism, it affirmed biblical inerrancy and authority, had a much more cautious view of biblical criticism, dealt much more adequately with the inspiration of Scripture. It covered the virgin birth and the dual nature of Christ, and gave a more objective view of process theology.