This is a great book for many reasons. Too often spirituality is discussed without reference to the institutional church. Richard Foster, on the other hand, believes that our spirituality must be moored in a Christian community and so he traces the major spiritual streams that feed into and have influenced the church. They are:
- Imitatio (the imitation of Christ): the divine paradigm
- The contemplative tradition: prayer
- The holiness tradition: virtue
- The charismatic tradition: spirit-empowered
- The social justice tradition: compassion
- The evangelical tradition: the Word
- The incarnational tradition: the sacraments
In each section, he selects and presents the life of a biblical person, an historic figure and a more contemporary example, each of whom exemplify and have influenced that tradition. For me, it was a much easier way to study church history than the usual recitation of facts, people and dates. At the end of the chapter, there is a list of the major strengths and pitfalls of each stream, as well as ways to put it into practice.
You will see how these different streams have also rubbed against and affected each other. (it reminded me of something I learned about music and discussed in an previous post The Rub). Jesus, of course, as the “author and perfecter of our faith” combines the characteristics of all the traditions.
At the end of the book are appendices on critical turning points in church history, as well as notable figures and significant movements in the church. There is a wealth of information, presented in a style that is both interesting and easy to follow. I’m certainly recommending this one be kept in our church office so it can be loaned out to others.
In case you are wondering, Lutherans will identify most strongly with the evangelical and incarnational traditions — the evangelical because of it’s emphasis on the Word (solo scriptura) and the incarnational idea that all of our work and lives can be devoted to God (springing from Martin Luther’s linking of the religious sphere with everyday life).
VERDICT: 5 Stars. If you are interested in spirituality and church history, check this one out.