Treier - Elwell - Evangelical Dictionary of Theology

Daniel J. Treier and Walter A. Elwell - Evangelical Dictionary of Theology

Daniel J. Treier and Walter A. Elwell - Evangelical Dictionary of Theology

3rd edition. – Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017. – 976 p.
ISBN 978-1-4934-1077-4
In 1984, when Walter Elwell dramatically revised and expanded the former Baker Dictionary of Theology into the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, he did not have the luxury of using computerized word processing or spreadsheets. He relied on postcards and a basement worktable. I treasure a 1983 photo he has shared, in which he stands next to the typescript as it was ready for delivery to the publisher—registering, on a tape measure, over five feet tall! The resulting legacy of the EDT is long and distinctive, particularly in its readability and its global reach, for instance into Eastern Europe.
Nevertheless, revision inevitably becomes essential, and I am grateful for Dr. Elwell’s blessing to take up this responsibility. The basic editorial perspective remains the same: attempting to represent both the range of evangelical diversity accurately and the center of evangelical consensus winsomely, while making evangelical engagement with wider scholarship accessible. The chief components of this revision include the following.
1. We have reduced the volume’s overall size by nearly 30 percent to strengthen its focus on theology per se, taking advantage of the fact that some secondary material is now readily and more deeply accessible elsewhere. Accordingly, the volume has become more focused on systematic theology; some secondary articles in biblical and historical theology have been reduced or removed, while some remaining articles have been trimmed. This reduction in size also meant returning to an earlier practice, containing no articles on living theologians. Aside from worries over changing views and speedy obsolescence, the sheer volume of relevant voices supported this decision. Some of the most significant figures can still be covered under the headings of related movements they helped to spawn.
2. We have added one hundred and fifty thousand words of new content while making special effort to diversify the contributor list. Some of this fresh material involves brand-new articles on subjects of contemporary theological interest. Yet we have also replaced a wide range of earlier articles, especially larger treatments of major doctrinal loci and articles on early Christianity. Almost half of the new authors contribute female, ethnic minority, and/or Majority World perspectives, improving our representation of evangelical Christianity’s fullness.
3. We have streamlined the prose as needed while updating every remaining article in light of recent scholarly developments. The dictionary’s distinctive focus on readable overviews frequently does not require intricate revisions to address fresh academic subtleties. Nevertheless, many remaining articles contain modest changes, especially near their conclusions, updating scholarly and/or recent evangelical trends. Because many earlier contributors are now deceased, we have kept the basic viewpoints of articles the same or else we have replaced them. When occasionally an update exceeds a parenthetical note or turn of phrase, it is usually signaled by language such as “Recently . . . ,” and when possible it appears toward the end of an article. Of course, the original author’s exact words are readily accessible in the previous edition if needed.
4. Finally, all bibliographies have been updated. Although technical works are often included, our chief focus is on works that offer next steps for basic learning. Typically we have not repeated references to works that are mentioned in the articles themselves. Often we still include some of the more classic works that originally informed earlier articles; we have not indulged the conceit that newer and more academic works are always superior. Yet we have sought to indicate at least the most substantial, accessible, contemporary treatments.
One other word is in order regarding both the bibliographies and the articles themselves. We have taken the task of cross-referencing very seriously. Linking articles in this way allows us to expand the array of evangelical perspectives on contested subjects by assigning authors from various perspectives to related articles. Similarly, a fuller range of resources for further reading can often be gained by checking the bibliographies of cross-referenced articles.
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Selective breeding or genetic manipulation to produce an enhanced population. Eugenics is best known for the German experiment in master-race building that culminated in the Holocaust. Interest in eugenics is being revived as a result of biotechnical advances and knowledge gained from the Human Genome Project (HGP) begun in 1990. This project charted the sequence of all three billion human nucleotides—the molecules making up the human DNA—linking genetic maps with the physical characteristics controlled. This offers unprecedented powers to cure and control human disease, but these same methods may be directed with equal ease toward eugenic ends—enhancement of the human genetic code or compulsory genetic testing. In the early twentieth century, work done by the Austrian monk Gregor Mendel, in plotting laws of inheritance, sparked interest in human eugenics. Although the German experiment is best known, similar ideas were rampant in other countries, including the United States, where sterilization was often mandated for the mentally ill, while couples with high IQ or social standing were encouraged to reproduce. The genetic era began in earnest in 1953 when the biochemical structure of DNA was discovered. By the 1980s methods for cloning and artificially splicing and recombining genes (small sections or frames of the DNA molecule) were legalized, as was the patenting of these new genes. This made possible breeding of mixed species of animals or plants and commercial exploitation of genetics. Together with advances, which since 1979 allow in vitro fertilization of human eggs, these techniques pave the way for deliberately changing human DNA.
“Soft eugenics” occurs now in several ways. Couples with a family- or race-related history of inherited disease may get or be urged to get genetic counseling, often followed by prenatal testing. There have also been several attempts by different ethnic or religious groups to reduce incidence of race-related recessive diseases. A program of premarital counseling, carried out by the government and the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, has eradicated all incidence of thalassemia on the island since 1992. Orthodox Jews in New York have attempted to eliminate Tay Sachs and other diseases in their midst by encouraging genetic counseling. These programs are watched with interest, as the fine line between prevention and eugenics would be crossed were one group or government to impose such measures on another.
Prenatal testing for inherited disease now commonly ends in abortion if the test is positive. Increasingly common will be in vitro fertilization for couples with suspected genetic disease, followed by genetic testing of the eight-cell embryo, destruction of those afflicted, and implantation of others into the mother’s womb. Ethical issues relating to these procedures are complex, presently tied almost completely to cure or prevention of disease. Abortion is considered unambiguously wrong by evangelical Christians as well as Catholics, Orthodox, and many Jews. Most groups opposing abortion on religious grounds also resist destruction of fertilized embryos, there being no point other than fertilization at which to measure life’s beginning. In vitro fertilization and counseling both represent ambiguous goods, being used to help prevent infertility or gross genetic disease, but quietly ushering in a new age in which we view ourselves as “self-created.” We do not know the long-term spiritual effects of artificial conception on persons or society. Obvious also are the commercial dangers of this manipulation.
These methods will also be the basis of any future eugenics program. Increasingly, scientists will be able to tamper with DNA itself, either in body (somatic) cells or in the germ cells (sperm or ovum) of the human. We are beginning to be able to do what is called gene therapy, removing body cells from afflicted organs, changing the DNA, and reintroducing the new cells into the body. This will be done in the future at the embryonic stage, thereby affecting—and hopefully correcting—the germ cells of the new person and all subsequent generations. On the surface we can only applaud use of medicine to remove severe disease, which has been the response of most religious groups. But the risks may be great, and errors introduced into human germ cells will be reproduced endlessly through future generations. In the post-Holocaust age, in which whole races have been deemed subhuman, there must be great caution in determining which states are “disease.”
The second type of genetic tampering applies similar methods to human germ cells for enhancing human characteristics. The response of most religious groups has almost universally been negative, and evangelicals share in this condemnation. Although some have argued that genetics is a God-given gift enabling us to be cocreators, few share this affirmation. There is a sense that tampering with human DNA would violate a sacred trust, undermining human dignity. Fears are raised that in emphasizing characteristics prized at the moment we will cease to value human diversity, with the contributions of “the least of these” devalued. More importantly we would be attempting as never before to redeem the human race by human effort, and we would run the risk of tampering with centers of will or personality, or producing a radically different “human” species with attendant ethical and social problems now barely conceivable.
Very real reserve about this possibility remains among scientists, but nevertheless there would be perceived great benefits for parents and possibly offspring in genetic enhancement. Most reasons against such tampering are religiously based, and utilitarian advantages or even commercial temptations may override such scruples. More generally, ethical problems pertaining to genetic therapy or enhancement revolve around social inequalities in medical care, and great temptations to discrimination that will almost certainly be exacerbated in the future, producing perhaps a new superior breed of “clean” persons. If the wealthy were able to buy genetic enhancement or therapy, the gap between rich and poor plus First and Third Worlds would increase dramatically. Major structural safeguards like insurance work only when states of relative ignorance exist, which would no longer be the case. While a degree of genetic self-knowledge may be advantageous or even compulsory, problems of privacy will be overwhelming. Lastly, a radical change would take place in our view of persons. It would be harder to relate to that aspect of ourselves that is in touch with the spiritual and the moral, unfinished and mysterious, and much easier to see ourselves only in terms of our unique—or not unique in the case of cloning—genetic structure or beginning.
In February 1997 British scientists announced a successful cloning from the differentiated cells of an adult sheep, an event that had not been anticipated in the near future. Hence genetic technology has passed a threshold, the intended effect of which is more efficient management of livestock for human purposes. Possible and probable consequences include an increase in scientifically controlled reproduction of animals and humans as a means toward the ends of other humans, be they individuals, groups, or governments. Christians will greet this new technology with caution; cloning, while conferring many benefits, may be a temptation to false immortality, depriving us of the diversity, surprise, and uniqueness accompanying natural reproduction.
See also Bioethics
Bibliography. F. S. Collins, The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine; K. Drlica, Double-Edged Sword: The Promises and Risks of the Genetic Revolution; J. Kilner, ed., Bioethics and the Future of Medicine; K. Lebacqz, Genetics, Ethics, and Parenthood; J. R. Nelson, On the New Frontiers of Genetics and Religion; P. Ramsey, Fabricated Man: The Ethics of Genetic Control; M. Rothstein, Legal and Ethical Issues Raised by the Human Genome Project.
The practice of marrying more than one spouse either simultaneously or consecutively. The primary types are (1) polygyny, the practice of a man having more than one wife simultaneously, primarily found in non-Western societies; (2) consecutive polygamy or serial monogamy, the practice of divorce and remarriage, primarily in the West; and (3) polyandry, the rare practice of a wife having more than one husband.
Sociological Issues. A number of unique issues give rise to polygyny in non-Western societies (see Gitari). The number of women is greater than the number of men, especially in urban areas. There is a significant difference in the age of marriage for men and women, the latter being married relatively early in life. There is also the practice of marriage alliances arranged by parents for extended family reasons such as wealth or status. The role of women is traditionally family-based, with the duty to bear and raise children. This view also brings a high degree of disgrace on an unmarried mother, leaving her without status in the community. In some cases, a type of levirate marriage is the norm in order to protect and provide for widows. Due to the role of men within the culture, a first wife may advocate her husband taking additional wives as a means to refuse cohabitation. The opposite may also be true, where a man desires to support his wife through sickness, thus taking a second wife for the purpose of cohabitation. A final issue that stems from the traditional view of a husband’s responsibilities is the rejection of divorce, leading to taking a second wife as the best option.
In contrast, consecutive polygamy is based more on the individual partners within the marriage. Concerns ranging from infidelity and abuse, through loss of love as defined by the culture, are most common. Seldom are the concerns of extended family, a significant aspect of both polygyny and polyandry, a factor in divorce and remarriage. Rather, the cultural view is more egalitarian, with both husbands and wives sharing responsibility for determining their roles. The generic rationale given for consecutive polygamy is irreconcilable differences, which in itself underscores emphasis on individual rights and actualization. The issues of consecutive polygamy are more commonly dealt with under the heading of divorce and remarriage rather than as a form of generalized polygamy.
Theological Issues. The range of theological responses includes four basic positions: polygamy as (1) a legitimate form of marriage, (2) a lesser form of marriage than the Christian ideal, (3) an unacceptable form of marriage for Christians, and (4) a sin that is a type of adultery (see Hastings). Those who hold the first two positions base their argument on a view that according to Genesis 2:22, God made only one woman, and therefore the mandate to Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:24) could only be monogamous and not perpetually normative. Further, these positions use the more common occurrence of polygamists in the OT as substantiation for polygamy as either as a lesser or legitimate form (see Mann). NT support is taken as an argument from Jesus’s silence on the subject and the lack of any texts expressly prohibiting polygamy (see Mpolo). Beyond biblical arguments supporting polygamy is the rejection of arguments from natural law theory and the cultural-progress hypothesis (see Hillman).
In opposition are those, notably evangelicals, who view polygamy as contrary to the biblical standard. The precedent clearly stated in Genesis 1–2 is supported by the consistent biblical record of polygamists having violated God’s plan for marriage (e.g., Abraham, Jacob, Elkanah, David, and Solomon) and lack of any scriptural statement in support of polygamy (see Nasimiyu-Wasike). Another strong argument for monogamy is found in Jesus’s interpretation of Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19:1–12. Further support for opposing polygamy is literal interpretation of the biblical comparisons of the marriage union with the relationship between God and Israel, and Christ as the bridegroom and the church as the bride (see Chombo). Finally, commitment to the interpretive relationship between the OT and the NT provides a clear understanding that monogamy as a theme is biblically normative (see Foullah).
Discussion of polygamy results in clear theological divisions. However, concerning implications for church practice, fewer options are evident. The extremes of either complete rejection of polygamists or complete sanction of polygamous marriages are increasingly rare. The norm appears to be the position that monogamy is marriage’s ideal form, but Christ’s love and forgiveness apply to polygamists. The implications for polygamists holding leadership roles in the church are still under debate.
See also Adultery; Divorce; Marriage; Separation; Separation, Marital
Bibliography. E. Chombo, “Polygamy,” in Our Time Has Come: African Christian Women Address the Issues of Today, ed. J. Mbugua; L. A. Foullah, “Sociotheological Evaluation of Polygamy,” ERT 19:74–80; D. Gitari, “The Church and Polygamy,” Transformation 1.1:3–10; A. Hastings, Christian Marriage in Africa; E. Hillman, Polygamy Reconsidered; P. S. Mann, “Toward a Biblical Understanding of Polygamy,” Missiology 17.1:11–26; M. M. Mpolo, “Polygamy in Pastoral Perspectives,” in Families in Transition, ed. M. M. Mpolo and C. De Sweemer; A. Nasimiyu-Wasike, “Polygamy, A Feminist Critique,” in The Will to Arise: Women, Tradition, and the Church in Africa, ed. M. A. Oduyoye and M. R. A. Kanyoro.


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