Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms

By Donald K. McKim
Louisville, KY : Westminster/John Knox (1996). 310 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Dennis Swanson
8.2 (Fall 1997) : 249-250

One author recently called our time "the golden age of reference works" (Johnson, Recent Reference Books in Religion [InterVarsity, 1996] 9), and this reviewer would certainly agree with that assessment. In the last several years a number of outstanding reference works have appeared which have been of immense benefit to the busy pastor.

Adding to the list of recent reference tools is Donald McKim's Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms. Seeking to provide "short, one-to-three sentence definitions of theological terms from some twenty-one theological disciplines" (v), the author has listed definitions for over 6,000 theological words and terms. He highlights mainly the history of doctrine by his precision in defining words, calling them "building blocks for Christian theology" (ibid). In the scope of his stated purpose, the author has provided a valuable tool for both student and pastor. The layout is well-conceived and the text is extremely readable. Greek and Hebrew words are transliterated and Latin words and phrases are italicized.

Though the work contains an abundance of "see" and "see also" reference pointers, it does not have nearly as many as one would hope. Occasionally entries are either too brief (cf.: “Reconstructionism”) or incomplete (e.g., "Theonomy" where the word is defined only in light of Paul Tillich's usage). In cases of some more recent theological identities, such as "Progressive Dispensationalism" or "Vineyard Movement," the volume has no entry at all.

However, these are minor criticisms of an otherwise excellent book. Supplemented with a more thorough work such as the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Baker, 1986), this work will certainly find a ready place as a quick reference tool.