The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations

By Mark Water, compiler
Grand Rapids : Baker (2001). xxviii + 1200 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Dennis Swanson
16.1 (Spring 2005) : 185-186

Anthologies or collections of quotations and sermon illustrations have been a staple of Christian publishing for the last 100 years. Almost every pastor has on his shelf such a work. Illustrations become dated and often disconnected from a listening congregation, but a good quotation can be very effective in punctuating a sermonic point. Quotations have more of a timeless quality than illustrations.

In this volume are over 20,000 quotations, all dealing with themes related to Christian theology and practice. The editor states as his purpose to “encapsulate the rich heritage of Christian wisdom of the first 2,000 years of the Christian era” (vii), and in the pursuit of that purpose he has produced an extremely useful and thought-provoking volume. This volume is remarkably well indexed and cross-referenced. The entries are thematically arranged with a compete listing of the topic headings in the book’s beginning. An author index, listing the 2,500 plus sources and the topics on which they are quoted is at the end of the volume. The layout is excellent and the publisher was possessed of enough foresight to render this 1,200- page work in a hardback binding instead of the more common paperback mode.

One excellent and unique feature in this work is the inclusion of nearly 100 essay length entries dealing with what the editor calls the “basic teaching about the Christian faith” (viii). Those articles, included within the topical arrangement of quotations, range from Luther’s “Ninety-Five Theses” to the funeral sermon by John Wesley for George Whitefield. They include essays on key theological issues, such as repentance (by John Bunyan), Calvinism (by C. H. Spurgeon), faith (by Martin Luther), and predestination (by B. B. Warfield). The quotations reflect the full range of church history, even to the current time, but the essays are almost exclusively of the Reformation and Puritan eras, which is a bit too narrow in scope.

Though this work is of tremendous value and benefit to the busy pastor, one word of caution is necessary. This is a compilation in which the quotations have been lifted from other sources, sources that the editor does not list or refer to. This omission does not fault the editor, as such was not his purpose. Yet the sources and their contexts are unavailable in the work, meaning that the accuracy of English translations from original languages cannot be verified. With that warning in mind, the work’s benefit for its intended purpose make it very valuable.