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Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith.

Spirituality" has become a buzz word in recent years. In his foreword to Foster's newest work, Martin Marty notes the difference between a slippery, self-promoted kind of spirituality and a rooted, anchored kind. Foster's newest book clearly promotes a distinctively Christian brand of spirituality.

Richard Foster, founder of RenovarE, an organization dedicated to church renewal, has written several popular books on the spiritual disciplines. Celebration of Discipline, Freedom of Simplicity, Money, Sex & Power, and Prayer have helped generate a renewed interested in these traditional spiritual exercises.

In his latest book Foster surveys six Christian traditions, noting how each can help contemporary believers live a deeper Christian life. Each chapter includes a historical example of the tradition, a biblical paradigm, and a contemporary expression of the tradition. Foster then notes the strengths and weaknesses of each stream of thought.

The contemplative tradition highlights the prayer-filled life. Exemplars include Antony of Egypt, John the apostle, and Frank Laubach. The holiness tradition stresses the virtuous life and is illustrated by Phoebe Palmer, James the brother of Jesus, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The charismatic tradition promotes the Spirit-empowered life. Its key representatives are Francis of Assisi, the apostle Paul, and William Seymour. The social justice tradition stresses the compassionate life. Foster chooses John Woolman, the prophet Amos, and Dorothy Day as its examples. The evangelical tradition focuses on the word-centered life and is illustrated by Augustine of Hippo, the apostle Peter, and Billy Graham. The last tradition, the incarnational, stresses the sacramental life. Its examples are Susanna Wesley; Jesus, Bezalel, and Dag Hammarskjold.

Foster's work is eminently readable and clearly outlined. His concern to introduce contemporary believers to the resources of Christian history is obvious. The chapter on each tradition includes a time line that includes numerous other historical examples of the stream or tradition. After the main text of about 275 pages, Foster and his assistant, Lynda L. Graybeal, include two appendices. The first highlights critical turning points in church history. In about twenty-five pages they treat many of the high points of church history up to the modern missionary movement. The second appendix (about seventy-five pages) is an alphabetical listing of notable figures and significant movements in Christian history. Each figure or movement is classified in one of the six traditions presented in the main work. Although this appendix is heavy on "church" leaders, artists such as Bach, and scientists, such as Copernicus, are mentioned.

Foster's treatment of these streams of spirituality will be useful for readers of this journal in several ways. Like Mark Noll's Turning Points, Foster's book provides a handy overview of church history. Foster includes representatives from most of the major denominations in Western Christianity. This book would be helpful for individual readers who want to learn about the history and relevance of spirituality. It would also serve as an excellent resource for small group discussions in churches. Pastors or other staff members could glean numerous insights for preaching and teaching from Foster's presentation.

Some Baptists will naturally look for representatives of their tradition in this book. Although the subject index lists only one reference to "Baptists," Anabaptists and Baptists appear more often. Choosing Billy Graham as the contemporary exemplar of the evangelical tradition reminds us of Foster's awareness of our heritage. Foster is sympathetic to all of the traditions he presents. He does not stack the deck towards his own Quaker heritage, even though he mentions that John Woolman's Journal has influenced him more than any book except the Bible (p. 144)--Reviewed by Warren McWilliams, Auguie Henry Professor of Bible, Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.
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Author:McWilliams, Warren
Publication:Baptist History and Heritage
Date:Jan 1, 1999
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