Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Longing for God
Richard Foster & Gayle D. Beebe (2009), Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotions, Downers Grove IL: InterVarsity Press.
Richard Foster is the founder of Renovare in Denver, Colorado. Gayle Beebe is president of Westmont Colleg in Santa Barbara, California.
This book reminds me of the approach taken by Richard Foster (2001) in his book, Streams of Living Water. While in Streams, Foster divided the Christian traditions, here they try to divide the spiritual life as seven paths of Christian devotion. These paths are
(1) The right ordering of our love for God
(2) The spiritual life as journey
(3) The recovery of knowledge of God lost in the Fall
(4) Intimacy with Jesus
(5) The right ordering of our experiences with God
(6) Action and contemplation
(7) Divine ascent
The authors have selected a few Christian spiritual saints from the past to support each one of these path. For example in the path of action and contemplation, John Cassian, Benedict of Nursia and Gregory the Great were chosen as examples and a small sample of their wrings were quoted.
As a student of Christian spirituality, I welcome the revival of interest in the leaders of the spirituality tradition. The Desert Fathers and Mothers, Christian mystics, spiritual directors and spiritual writers are enjoying a revival of sorts. Their works are being taken down from dusty shelves and their writings are being reprinted. These saints are very complex people and they lived in a time and space very remote to our time and space. Therefore I fear when they and their works are used to support certain views of spiritualities without reference to the context in which their works were produced. Oops. Sorry about the rant.
This is a well written book by two scholars of Christian spirituality. The seven paths mentioned are well defined but somehow felt too 'neat.' I hope now that Christian devotion is categorized, it will not be systematized and formulatized. In his book, Streams, Foster identifies six dimensions of the Christian life. After the publication the the book, Renovare organises spiritual formation groups which meet regularly. During each group meeting, they make sure they study or conduct activities that touches upon these six dimensions. While this sounds like a balanced Christian life, somehow it is too artificial and again, neat. Christian life is more complex than that. It is not a formula but a way of life.
After saying all that, this is a good book to read about Christian spirituality.