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  • Dictionary of Luther and the Lutheran Traditions
  • H. George Anderson
Dictionary of Luther and the Lutheran Traditions. Edited by Timothy J. Wengert, Mark A. Granquist, Mary Jane Haemig, Robert Kolb, Mark C. Mattes, and Jonathan Strom. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017. 850 pp.

If you are looking for the pronunciation of Oecolampadius, this is not the dictionary for you. But if you want to explore the many dimensions of the Lutheran heritage—the length, breadth, and depth of it—this book will bring ample rewards. In his introduction, General Editor Timothy Wengert emphasizes that Lutherans form a "worldwide movement within the church catholic" (xxi). This focus on the global spread of the Lutheran tradition is apparent in the international network of contributors who provide entries on Lutheran churches in many countries of the world, from Angola to Zimbabwe. Biographical articles portray Lutheran leaders from every continent. This global perspective alone makes the dictionary an outstanding contribution to Lutheran scholarship.

Of course, covering so vast a landscape in 850 pages means that hard choices had to be made. North American readers may look for familiar topics in vain, or find them subsumed under larger categories, while distant events get the headlines. Neither of the two major Lutheran churches in Canada has an entry, while two Brazilian church bodies each get separate treatment. Although the charismatic movement in the United States of the 1970s is well–covered within a general article on Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity, the Fifohazana Movement in Madagascar gets an article [End Page 356] of its own. In addition to the dimension of geographical breadth, Wengert's introduction also introduces the dimension of chronological length by placing Lutheranism "within the church catholic." Although many of the theological articles begin with Luther, they frequently launch the discussion by noting medieval currents that influenced his thought. Articles on Patristics, Aquinas, Biel, Augustine, and Late–Medieval Scholasticism further explore his connection to the long theological heritage of Western Christianity.

Many entries offer perspectives on Luther, his life, thought, sources, and opponents. All the personalities around him receive attention and almost every territory in sixteenth-century Europe gets separate treatment. His theological influence is traced through articles on original sin, eschatology, free will, the church and other standard topics—but also on less familiar subjects like exorcism and witchcraft. Post-Reformation developments that affected all Christian traditions are noted. The centuries between Luther and the Luther Renaissance of the 1890s are often "fly-over country" in other books. Here they are given better attention with entries on the eighteenth century, on general intellectual movements, including Rationalism, Pietism, and Existentialism, and also on individuals like Kant and Hegel. Articles on recent concerns—ecology, gender and sexuality, the women's movement, race, and ecumenical dialogues—provide helpful summaries aided by up-to-date bibliographies that offer leads for further study.

The title names "The Lutheran Traditions." That is an acknowledgement of Lutherans' classic struggle with evaluating the period of Lutheran Orthodoxy and its relevance to today. Editors Wengert and Kolb represent two strands of that inheritance, embodied in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Kolb and Wengert have collaborated on several projects, notably the Book of Concord (2000), and their involvement in this new project signals the effort to be balanced. Wengert's introduction to the volume says that contributors have been asked to show "a fairmindedness that tries accurately to present" the material (xxxv). In general the dictionary is irenic. However, some authors let their bias show. The article on [End Page 357] Inner-Lutheran Ecumenism (366f.), for instance, follows the development of the Synodical Conference but ignores the productive series of mergers among other Lutheran bodies after 1918, omitting the formation of the ALC in 1930, the TALC and LCA mergers in the early 1960s and the ELCA in 1988. Likewise, the article on Lutheran education focuses mainly on schools from an LCMS perspective. Its text and bibliography would have been more balanced if they had included Richard Solberg's History of Lutheran Higher Education in North America (1985).

Accounts of the tapestry of mergers among Lutherans in the United States also drop a few stitches...


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pp. 356-359
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