Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith
“Everything I have shared with you in this book grows out of a deep conviction that a great, new gathering of the people of God is occurring in our day. The streams of faith that I have been describing – Contemplative, Holiness, Charismatic, Social Justice, Evangelical, Incarnational – are flowing together into a mighty movement of the Spirit.”
Foster is thrillingly visionary, and Streams of Living Water is arguably his most visionary work to date. His purpose is not difficult to express; he takes on the gargantuan challenge of taking the six Christian streams mentioned above and channelling their virtues into a single canal, whilst identifying and diverting their vices away. Foster’s reflectiveness and wisdom is revealed in his consistent openness to the plethora of stimuli that he weighs up. He sees the foolishness of refusing to learn from those traditions not our own that we have a specific problem with. Hence this book. I cannot downplay just how happy I am that this book has been written.
For each Christian stream, Foster takes a paradigmatic historical case of a believer who lived out the tradition in antiquity, a case of a believer who lived out the tradition in modernity, and examines the support from Scripture for the stream. He then paints the tradition in glorious colour and with infectious warmth before analysing the strengths and potential pitfalls of the stream. As with any Foster book, Streams of Living Water is studded with penetrating and perceptive sayings. Because of the scope of the book and the sheer volume of the content that Foster must have sifted through, it would have been tempting to make the book a meandering sequence of such thoughts with little cohesion. It is a great witness to his clarity as a thinker that his aim is steady and he never loses sight of the vision of his work.
There does seem to be one chapter missing; a section on precisely how one goes about living in the unity of these traditions. I am undecided as to whether this should be here or not. I lean toward its omission being for the best. Because of the range of traditions that the reader will have come from, what moves one reader may not move another. What Foster has left unsaid thus allows the reader to adopt Foster’s own weighing-up attitude; applying what is helpful to them and dispensing what is not. I strongly recommend Streams of Living Water to those suspicious of other traditions, and particularly to those who cannot envisage how examining other streams can enhance one’s own walk with Jesus. I will not have to urge anyone else to read this book; it is attractive enough as it stands.