The Wycliffe Biographical Dictionary of the Church

Written by Elgin S. Moyer Reviewed By Bruce L. Shelley

Formerly identified as Who Was Who in Church History, this volume has been enhanced greatly by the work of Earle Cairns, retired professor of history at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The work now contains over 2,000 sketches of prominent and not so prominent figures from our Christian past.

Professor Cairns has achieved a helpful chronological balance in the listings. Scores of personalities from every major period in the history of the church appear. The heaviest concentration comes from the nineteenth century. This is a significant change. Most traditional surveys of church history neglect the two most recent centuries.

Another noteworthy feature is the number of evangelical leaders included. Paul Little, Lewis Sperry Chafer, and Bob Jones, Sr. are here along with Franz Liszt, Cerinthus, and E. Stanley Jones.

The nearest competitor to this work is William P. Barker’s Who’s Who in Church History (Revell). The Moyer-Cairns volume is now superior in scope. But it suffers from poor readability. The authors have chosen, apparently in the interests of space, to eliminate the subject’s name or the required pronoun in the write-up wherever possible. This decision results in a choppy text at its best and grammatically misleading material at its worst. Barker’s volume is superior in readability.

Any work of this type is loaded with facts, and errors are inevitable. I have enough in my review, however, to determine to consult the standard dictionaries of church history—The New International, Oxford, or Westminster—before quoting the information in scholarly writing. For the busy pastor or layman, who may want only a brief introduction to some personality, the Moyer-Cairns volume will serve quite well. Professors of history will want the book for ready reference simply because it covers so many names in one volume.

Bruce L. Shelley

Denver Seminary, Denver, Colorado