Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible - valuable for non-Evangelicals?

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SineNomine | Forum Activity | Posted: Thu, Jul 30 2015 12:10 PM

The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible is 86% off right now. That's a terrible deal if it's a book that's no good to you.

It was written by and, presumably, for Evangelicals.

Does it have any great value for non-Evangelicals? Catholics? Orthodox? Anglo-Catholics? Lutherans? Presbyterians?

Could people who own it in (in any format) please comment?

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Kevin Maples | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 30 2015 12:15 PM

I don't know what you intend to use it for or what your background is, but if you are a pastor, scholar, or really serious Bible student I would think you would want a broad scope of materials. I have a range of Bible dictionaries that I read and compare. 

Here is a sample article:

Justification.
The act of God in bringing sinners into a new covenant relationship with himself through the forgiveness of sins. Along with such terms as “regeneration” and “reconciliation,” it relates to a basic aspect of conversion. It is a declarative act of God by which he establishes persons as righteous; that is, in right and true relationship to himself.
Since the time of the Reformation, when Martin Luther reestablished the doctrine of justification by faith alone as the cornerstone for theological understanding, this term has had special significance in the history of theology. To Luther it represented a rediscovery of Paul and a fundamental counterthrust to medieval Catholicism with its theology of works and indulgences. The doctrine of justification by faith alone affirms the thoroughgoing sinfulness of all persons, their total inability to deal effectively with their own sin, and the gracious provision through the death of Jesus Christ of a complete atonement for sin, to which persons respond in simple trust without any special claims or merit of their own.
The noun “justification” and the verb “to justify” are not used often in Scripture. In the KJV, for example, the verb is found only in the OT, and there fewer than 25 times. In the NT both terms are used only 40 times. The more frequent and more important terms which translate the same Hebrew and Greek words are “righteousness” and “to declare (or make) righteous.” Any understanding of justification, therefore, directly involves a biblical understanding of righteousness.
In common Greek, justification and justify are frequently forensic terms; that is, they relate to the law court and the act of acquitting or vindicating someone. It has to do with the innocence or virtue of a person. But more broadly it has to do with the norm of any relationship.
Old Testament.
Job knows that he will be vindicated (Jb 13:18). Similarly 1 Kings 8:32 speaks of “vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness” (cf. Lk 10:29.). But the most frequent and most important use has to do with the activity of God.
In the OT righteousness has to do with relationship and the obligations of that relationship. At times one is referred to as righteous because he or she stands in right relationship to another. At other times one is righteous because he or she fulfills certain obligations in a relationship (Gn 38:26). But more important, these terms are used with reference to God, who is viewed as just. He governs with justice (Gn 18:25), and his judgments are true and righteous (Ps 19:9). Both the innocent and the guilty know well the justice of God: the former know they will be vindicated and the latter know his law prevails.
Justification and righteousness have technical significance because of their close association with the saving activity of God on behalf of his covenant people. On various occasions in modern versions these terms are translated “deliverance,” “righteous acts,” or “triumphs.” Thus in Judges 5:11: “To the sound of musicians at the watering places, there they repeat the triumphs [righteous acts or saving deeds] of the Lord.” Or in Isaiah 46:13: “I bring near my deliverance, it is not far off, and my salvation will not tarry.” These and other passages show that the righteousness of God is bound up not so much with justice as with his intervention in behalf of his people under the covenant. The righteousness of God or the act of justification is, therefore, to be viewed not primarily in terms of Law but in terms of covenant. The most important expression of this is the example of Abraham, who was reckoned righteous; that is, brought into personal relationship by virtue of his response of faith to the covenant offered by God (Gn 15:6). Abraham could not justify himself, but on the basis of the covenant God established him as righteous. All persons share the helplessness of Abraham. In the sight of God no one shall stand justified (Ps 143:2). “If thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?” (Ps 130:3). The hope of humanity is that God will remember his covenant. Righteousness is hence a product of the mercy or grace of God, who deals with his people according to his lovingkindness (Is 63:7). Justification is thus derived from the nature of God; it is primarily a religious term, and only secondly ethical.
New Testament.
Almost all discussion of justification in the NT is found in the letters of Paul, primarily in those to the Romans and Galatians. In these two letters it is one of the fundamental terms by which Paul seeks to set forth the consequences of the work of Christ for sinful humanity. Justification by faith is set primarily against the background of Jewish legalism and its attempts to make the Law the basis of salvation. Paul regards this as an alien message requiring the strongest condemnation (Gal 1:6–9). The word and work of Christ, embedded in the message that Paul proclaimed, was a reminder that righteousness or justification is the gift of God through the blood (covenant blood, Heb 13:20) of Jesus Christ. All this is entirely apart from the Law (Rom 3:21). The Law, in fact, is not capable of leading one to righteousness, nor was it given to bring about righteousness.
Galatians 3:15–25 is especially instructive in understanding the function of the Law, which came 430 years after the covenant by which Abraham was brought into a living, personal relationship with the holy God. Whatever purpose the Law had, it was not given as a means of righteousness. “For if a law had been given which could make alive, then righteousness would indeed be by the law” (Gal 3:21). The atoning work of Christ for the justification of people is to be seen in terms of covenant rather than Law. This is the essential argument of Paul in this section of Galatians; namely, that justification has from the time of Abraham been through faith in the God who keeps covenant and never by the Law. Righteousness is therefore a relational term and is affirmed by one who by faith has been brought into right relationship with God. The Law brings judgment; it confronts one with his incapacity to cope with sin (Acts 13:39; Rom 8:3). Justification then, has its forensic (judicial) dimensions in that it copes with, and represents salvation to, the problem of sin and guilt. The believer is set free from condemnation (Rom 8:1). Yet the fundamental understanding of justification is to be gained in moving away from the Law and judgment to the covenant and grace. The appeal to Abraham in both Romans and Galatians is to show that the covenant has always been the only hope of humanity. God is not man (Hos 11:9), and so he comes in mercy; he keeps covenant, though his covenant people violate it daily.
In Paul’s formulation of the gospel God is both just and the one who justifies. Sin demands judgment and must be dealt with. God’s pattern of bringing people into personal relationship now stands manifest apart from the Law (Rom 3:21–26) in the ministry and death of Christ, whom God put forth as the atoning agent (v 25). Sin is dealt with directly in the death of the sinless one who became sin for us that we might in him become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21). In his substitutionary death he bears the guilt of all humanity so that by responding in trust mankind might know God in true relationship.
For Paul, then, justification in view of human sinfulness is rooted in the nature of God who alone is able to take initiative in the healing and redeeming of humanity. Justification is by grace alone. Rooted in the nature of God it is also made available through the work of Christ as God’s gift. Thus we have the often repeated confession that Christ died “for us” (Rom 5:8; 1 Thes 5:10), or “for our sins” (1 Cor 15:3). The means of appropriation is by faith and faith alone (Rom 3:22; 5:1). This faith is a simple trust in the sufficiency of the work of Christ, a trust by which one freely and whole-heartedly identifies with Christ, loves and embraces his Word, and gives himself to the value system expressed in the kingdom of God. The basic self-consciousness of the justified person is that his right relationship with the living God has nothing to do with merit or achievement. It is from beginning to end a gift of infinite love. His own powerlessness is resolved in the power of the gospel in which God’s saving work is revealed (Rom 1:12, 17).
The Letter of James is often seen to be in conflict with Paul’s teaching on justification by faith apart from works of the Law. In fact, James quotes the same text (Gn 15:6) concerning Abraham and concludes, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (Jas 2:24). Luther even repudiated this letter because it seemed at variance with Paul. But two factors should be observed: (1) Paul and James are faced with two completely opposite crises. Paul is compelled to oppose a legalism which made the Law the basis for righteousness and enabled one to stand justified before God. The legalists were trying to maintain the law of Moses (in particular the obligation of circumcision) for those who would be justified. For these the Law was front and center. James, on the other hand, seeks to cope with an antinomianism which shows no concern for the Law of God and says that faith is enough. For these persons the Law is of no consequence. Paul’s opponents would put the Law at the heart of justification, so Paul’s response is expressed largely in negative terms: “No one will be justified by works of the law” (Rom 3:20). The opponents of James remove the Law altogether and negate the significance or meaning of works in the name of faith. As a result James speaks positively of the Law in relation to faith.
(2) When Paul and James speak of “works,” they speak of different concepts. Paul is speaking of works of the Law; that is, works as an expression of the Law, or what might be called “law-works” (Rom 3:20). James, on the other hand, never speaks of works of the Law but rather of works that give expression to faith, or what might be called “faith-works.” James regards faith without works as dead; that is, as no faith at all (Jas 2:17). For him faith is expressed and perfected by works. Paul and James both affirm that one comes into, and continues in, living relationship to God through faith—apart from the Law but not without the love and obedience that is born of faith.
In the Gospels justification appears in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went into the temple to pray. The former drew attention to his pious works and moral superiority. The latter, humbled by a deep sense of sin and unworthiness, could only cry for mercy. This man, according to Jesus, went down to his house justified (Lk 18:14). Though this is the only instance of the terminology of justification by faith, the entire ministry of Jesus was among people preoccupied with their own piety and the task of justifying themselves before God, people who set themselves over against sinners and undesirables, people who were so involved in their own works that they were offended by the language of grace and the full pardon of sinners (Lk 7:36–50). Jesus was involved in the same issue which later plagued Paul. Only the humble before God will be exalted (Mt 18:4; 23:12). Only the sinner hears the word of grace (Lk 5:32; 15:7, 10; 19:7). The unworthy find healing (Mt 8:8).
Justification (or righteousness) by faith is always to be reaffirmed, for within each person there is the almost inevitable and natural desire to establish personal righteousness, to be able to stand before God on the basis of personal character and piety. But the revival and well-being of the church (note that both Luther and Wesley turned from works to faith upon their study of Romans) is rooted in the understanding that the just live by faith (Rom 1:17; Heb 10:38; 11:7).
ROBERT W. LYON
See FAITH; SANCTIFICATION; LAW, BIBLICAL CONCEPT OF; ADOPTION.
Bibliography. G.C. Berkouwer, Faith and Justification; John Calvin, Institutes, vol. 3; H. Küng, Justification; L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross; G.B. Stevens, The Christian Doctrine of Salvation.


Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (pp. 1252–1254). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 30 2015 6:43 PM

I do have it in my Library and did at one time own a hard copy... I found it a work i never used, if you own ISBE 1988 you have basically a better evangelical set. That said it;s not bad just not outstanding. It came to me in Logos in a set with other books. I do not see it as overly dogmatic in it's approach to things. 

One example or partial one is this article on Mary, which obviously does not take Catholic beliefs into mind.

Mary.
Popular feminine name among 1st-century Jews, borne by 6 (or 7) women in the NT.
1. Mary, the mother of Jesus. According to the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke, Mary was a young Jewish virgin, probably from the tribe of Levi (her cousin Elizabeth was a Levite, Lk 1:5, 36), who during her engagement to a certain Joseph (of Davidic descent from the tribe of Judah) was discovered to be pregnant. This was due to her submission to the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:18–25; Lk 1:26–38). The couple married and lived first in Nazareth of Galilee, then traveled to Bethlehem (Joseph’s hometown) for a census, where Jesus was born (Mt 2:1; Lk 1:5; 2:4, 5). Matthew informs us that shortly after the birth the family had to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath (Mt 2:13, 14). Later the family resided again in Nazareth (v 23; Lk 2:39).


The Church of the Annunciation at Nazareth is one of the largest churches in the Middle East. According to tradition, it stands on the site where Gabriel told Mary she would bear Jesus.

We have little other information about Mary. She was certainly a concerned mother (as her scolding of Jesus in Lk 2:48 shows), and she later had a high estimate of Jesus’ ability (as at the wedding in Cana, Jn 2:1–4, although John does not say what she expected Jesus to do). She had several other sons and daughters to care for, probably as a widow (Mt 13:55 does not name Joseph, probably indicating his death). She appears at the foot of the cross, where Jesus asks “the beloved disciple” to care for her in her grief (Jn 19:25–27; her other children apparently were not present). After the resurrection she and Jesus’ brothers were among the disciples who awaited Pentecost (Acts 1:14). No further mention is made of her.
Luke attributes to Mary the Magnificat, a most famous song of praise (Lk 1:46–55), and she stands as an example of humility and trust in her submission to God’s will. She is truly “blessed among women” (Lk 1:42).


Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1411.

-Dan

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Anthony Keen | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 30 2015 7:32 PM

I have it because it was a part of the Logos library I have been building for the last 20 years or so. Came as a part of a package. I use it only rarely, as I find it to have a tendency to oversimplify things that are quite a bit more complex. In all fairness, taking a very complex subject and making it understandable to the average reader is a very difficult thing to do. Whether or not it is useful to you as a non-evangelical depends on how you want to use it. Would Luther's works be useful to a Roman Catholic scholar or average member?.  If you want to get your finger on the theological pulse of the evangelical world on a certain topic, it will be useful.  Knowing what I do about it, I don't think that I would buy it as a single title.

I am absolutely thrilled with the original language tools that Logos offers, and I am very much biased towards resources that help you do original study from the Biblical text itself. That is where I have been spending my money...

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Virgil Buttram | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 30 2015 7:57 PM

Considering that I had my birthday coupon this month, I used the coupon and got it for $0.00 out-of-pocket. Worth using the coupon for, IMO.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 30 2015 11:40 PM

Like Dan I have it but never use it as there are other dictionaries I have more trust in the scholarship used.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 31 2015 4:39 AM

I don't use it much but I think it is well-worth the current price, even if you just use it for comparison purposes.

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Lew Worthington | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 31 2015 4:47 AM

I don't think I ever use it since it's very lightweight. There are many articles that almost anyone could write simply by looking at the biblical text (and with access to Logos Smile ). For example:

Ezrah.

Father of four sons from Judah’s tribe (1 Chr 4:17kjv Ezra).

Ezrahite.

Word occurring only three times in the OT. Twice it is used as a title for Ethan (Ps 89 title; 1 Kgs 4:31) and once as a name given to Heman (Ps 88 title). It is no longer thought to be a family name, but instead signifies a member of a pre-Israelite family.

Ezri.

Son of Chelub and one of the men who supervised the tilling of David’s lands (1 Chr 27:26).

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John Kight | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 31 2015 4:53 AM

Bruce Dunning:

I don't use it much but I think it is well-worth the current price, even if you just use it for comparison purposes.

I agree! A price like that should negate the concern.

For book reviews and more visit sojotheo.com 

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SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 31 2015 11:36 AM

Anthony Keen:
If you want to get your finger on the theological pulse of the evangelical world on a certain topic, it will be useful.

This is the impression that I have from the product page as well as both excerpts posted above (justification and Mary). The theological pulse of the evangelical world isn't that hard to take for free, though, so I'm thinking that I'll pass on this sale.

Anthony Keen:
Would Luther's works be useful to a Roman Catholic scholar or average member?.

Scholar, yes. Average member, probably not. Alas, it's not his works that are so very deeply on sale right now.

John Kight:

Bruce Dunning:

I don't use it much but I think it is well-worth the current price, even if you just use it for comparison purposes.

I agree! A price like that should negate the concern.

Maybe if you aren't at all familiar with evangelicals. I already have this, with its 5,000 entries, so I think that my 20 USD could be better spent.

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John Kight | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 31 2015 11:56 AM

SineNomine:
Maybe if you aren't at all familiar with evangelicals. I already have this, with its 5,000 entries, so I think that my 20 USD could be better spent.

Considering the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible is going to approach the various topics from a Protestant prospective, rather than a Catholic, I would still consider that the price is well worth it for comparison purposes if you were interested in such. If not, spend it elsewhere.  

For book reviews and more visit sojotheo.com 

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SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 31 2015 12:50 PM

John Kight:
Considering the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible is going to approach the various topics from a Protestant prospective, rather than a Catholic, I would still consider that the price is well worth it for comparison purposes if you were interested in such.

My difficulty with justifying purchasing this encyclopedia is not the perspective of its authors, but rather their apparent penchant for failing to take into account different interpretations, explanations, etc. What I've seen in the excerpts is a more or less dogmatic, instructional approach principally suitable for and aimed at people who neither do nor will encounter non-evangelical Christians and/or their viewpoints. Although written by academics, it really doesn't seem to be written for academics (or non-academic pastors/ministers), evangelical or otherwise.

It's probably useful and well worth the money for its apparent core audience, but seemingly not for me. If it engaged with non-evangelical scholarship, I would be inclined to get it, but it really seems not to, so I won't.

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 31 2015 2:45 PM

SineNomine:
My difficulty with justifying purchasing this encyclopedia is not the perspective of its authors, but rather their apparent penchant for failing to take into account different interpretations, explanations, etc. What I've seen in the excerpts is a more or less dogmatic, instructional approach principally suitable for and aimed at people who neither do nor will encounter non-evangelical Christians and/or their viewpoints. Although written by academics, it really doesn't seem to be written for academics (or non-academic pastors/ministers), evangelical or otherwise

The same could be said of The Catholic Bible Dictionary. This is an endorsement from the product page -

Catholic Bible Dictionary is a superb reference book that is an absolute must for all students of Scripture—both clerics and laity. I would never be without a Bible dictionary in my home; however,Catholic Bible Dictionary is not just any Bible dictionary. It is written specifically for Catholics and is therefore more extensive and complete than others. With over five thousand entries as well as the latest up-to-date information on every important item, name, place, and event in Sacred Scripture, this book is essential for students of Scripture; it is also indispensable for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of God’s Word. In fact, I believe that every Catholic who owns a Bible should also have a copy of Catholic Bible Dictionary.

—Gail Buckley, founder and president, Catholic Scripture Study International

Notice it is written for clerics and laity, specifically for Catholics. Laity is hardly academic and there are more views than just Catholic. That is why I have Baker BE, The Catholic BD, AYBD, ISBE, and others.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 31 2015 3:28 PM

Super.Tramp:

The same could be said of The Catholic Bible Dictionary. . . .

Notice it is written for clerics and laity, specifically for Catholics. Laity is hardly academic and there are more views than just Catholic. That is why I have Baker BE, The Catholic BD, AYBD, ISBE, and others.

Two observations:

  1. The Catholic Bible Dictionary clearly states that it is intended for a Catholic audience and is flagrant in its uses of specifically Catholic resources. It is rarely polemic as it is preaching to the choir.
  2. Most academics are laity.

You're comparing yuzu to ugli fruit.Geeked

Compare the two's handling of the concept of justification in the reformation - I prefer the "this is our position" approach to the "this is our view of what we rebelled against" approach. To me, one comes across as confident, the other as defensive .... I don't need defensive in a dictionary.

:

Yes, I also use a number of Bible dictionaries primarily from Protestant and academic sources  my priorities ABD, ISBE, LBD, CBD, Harper's, HarperCollins, Easton's Eerdmans .... note Baker is not among them. By implication I agree with Sine Nomine's decision that this is not a high priority resource; I also agree that occasionally I refer to it as it is useful.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 31 2015 4:47 PM

MJ. Smith:
I prefer the "this is our position" approach to the "this is our view of what we rebelled against" approach.

I see no difference between Augustine reacting in "opposition" and Luther mounting a "counterthrust." They  were both critiquing what they perceived as wrong. 

If someone wants to understand an opposing view they do well to read it. 

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SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 31 2015 5:02 PM

Super.Tramp:
The same could be said of The Catholic Bible Dictionary.

Not quite. The CBD actually does directly and explicitly treat opposed views in the case of justification (Pelagianism and Sola Fide as generally understood by the first Reformers), and it explains them accurately. The Baker encyclopedia does neither.

Super.Tramp:
Notice it is written for clerics and laity, specifically for Catholics.

Yes, it is.

Super.Tramp:
Laity is hardly academic and there are more views than just Catholic.

As MJ has noted, most Catholic academics are lay people.

In this context, it's also worth noting that I am Catholic. If I were Evangelical, I'd probably have bought the Baker encyclopedia already. I own the CBD for two reasons: to have easy access to indisputable or non-controversial knowledge, e.g., X the Y-ite, who appears in 1 Sam, was the son of Z the Y-ite, who appears in 1 Sam and 2 Kgs, and to have easy access to bits of Catholic scriptural theology and exegesis written in a form that I can easily communicate to non-academic Catholics or in non-academic settings.

Super.Tramp:
That is why I have Baker BE, The Catholic BD, AYBD, ISBE, and others.

The AYBD, IVP Bible dictionary series, etc., are reference works that I am interested in (but can't yet justify acquiring because they aren't being sold for $20 USD), because they combine real scholarship with broadly ecumenical if usually liberal-leaning presentations of opposing views that are normally presented fairly and accurately.

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SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 31 2015 5:06 PM

Super.Tramp:

If someone wants to understand an opposing view they do well to read it.

Hear, hear!

Again, if I couldn't discover or refresh my memory as to the general Evangelical position on x, y, or z for free and without difficulty (online), it would be worth it to me to buy the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 31 2015 5:41 PM

Super.Tramp:

If someone wants to understand an opposing view they do well to read it. 

I wholeheartedly agree. However, if I want to know what Luther said, I'll read Luther not Evangelical or Catholic interpretations of what Luther said ...

And, ST, I don't believe for a minute that you do not see the difference between "in opposition to" and "reestablished"...

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 31 2015 6:07 PM

MJ. Smith:
"in opposition to"

Not my choice of words, CBD said it. Wink

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 31 2015 6:13 PM

SineNomine:
Again, if I couldn't discover or refresh my memory as to the general Evangelical position on x, y, or z for free and without difficulty (online), it would be worth it to me to buy the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible.

That could be said for many Faithlife resources. I bought Verbum Capstone although I could look up most of it online.

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