Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions

By A. Scott Moreau, gen. ed.
Grand Rapids : Baker (2000). 1068 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Dennis Swanson
12.1 (Spring 2001) : 115-116

The latest entry in the Baker Reference Library fills a void in religious reference literature. It has been almost three decades since a significant dictionary on the subject of missions has appeared. Consistent with previous volumes in the series, this is an effort to bring together a wide array of scholarship and experts in various fields. Nearly 250 contributors, traversing the entire spectrum of evangelicalism, have come together in the production of an outstanding volume.

The format follows the same style as previous Reference Library volumes. The articles are all signed, with significant bibliographic references listed for each. The work has several indexes. Most helpful are the articles on various countries that give basic statistical information, religious breakdown, and status of Christian missionary activity. Articles ranging from “Burnout” to “Doctoral Degrees in Missiology” cover the full spectrum of mission information. Articles covering all areas of practical, theoretical, and informational content are to be found.

Especially noteworthy is the extensive article o n the “History of Missions,” as well as articles on “Theological Systems” [as they relate to missions], “Theology of Mission,” and ‘Theology of Religions.” Many of the articles demonstrate the growing trend in integrating sociological theory and theology in the work of missions. The article on “Bible Translation” is most guilty of this problem. In the article, the author states, “Translators must utilize the entire assemblage of communication style and genres necessary for people to appreciate God’s message to them. This suggests that translation must go beyond the print media utilized by translators from the West and employ a multiplicity of media (audio, video, drama, mime, etc.) with a plurality of formats (stories, comedy, art, musical presentations and dance) recognized and used by the people of the society” (125). Another problem with this article is that the editors decided to make “Translation” and “Translation Theory” into separate articles, which seems to render the material somewhat non-cohesive.

Readers of this journal will find disappointing the lack of articles on the more theologically conservative mission agencies such as Slavic Gospel Association and The Association of Baptists for World Evangelism. In fact, the articles on denominational mission activities (Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian) are surprisingly brief and lacking in thoroughness. For instance in the entry for Baptist Missions, only the Southern Baptist Convention along with the Northern Baptists receive any lengthy mention. Other significant Baptist groups go unnoticed. In Presbyterian Missions, the work of J. Gresham Machen in founding the Independent Board of Foreign Missions and the work of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church also receive no mention. Also, the considerable contributions of the Plymouth Brethren in world missions goes untreated.

Those shortcomings aside, the volume is certainly both a welcome and a needed addition to the area of religious reference. Both the editor and publisher are to be commended for this overall fine work that continues the outstanding tradition of the Baker Reference Library.