Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster
'One of the great classics of modern spirituality, newly reissued. I would recommend it without hesitation'
Streams of Living Water
By Richard Foster
Hodder & Stoughton
Reviewer: Rosa Hunt
This is one of the great classics of modern spirituality, published initially in 1998 and reissued in paperback in the UK in 2019. In it, Richard Foster identifies six streams or traditions of spirituality: contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical and incarnational (sacramental).
The two words ‘stream’ and ‘tradition’ are not necessarily synonymous. ‘’Stream’, particularly one of living water, carries connotations of life, movement, change, light and abundance. It may however also connote something which is new, transitory and impermanent. ‘Tradition’, on the other hand, carries connotations of gravitas, weight, permanence and stability. It may also connote inflexibility, irrelevance and an inability to adapt or change.
In his book, Richard Foster draws on the best of both these clusters of meaning to describe six ways in which Christians throughout history have lived out their calling to be disciples of Christ. Each of the six areas is both a stream and a tradition. It is a stream in that Foster shows us how women and men have found fullness of life in Christ by expressing their faith in one of these six ways, and that in so doing, they have brought untold blessing to the world around them in Jesus’ name. Many, like Frank Laubach and John Woolman to name only two, have been pioneers in their discipleship, and faced opposition as they tried to draw abundance of life from their particular stream. But each area is also a tradition, because Foster grounds his descriptions firmly within the timeline of Christian history, and gives inspirational descriptions of the rich variety of saintly spirituality from New Testament times to the present day. This is an encouragement to those who have only experienced one or two of these traditions to be bold enough to step out and try something new – a new way of praying, perhaps, or just the courage to embrace someone from a different denomination without fear.
I learned so much from this book. Since reading it, I have been playing Laubach’s Game with Minutes, and I look forward to reading Woolman’s diary. It’s encouraged me to be more creative and open in the ways that I seek to follow Christ more nearly and love Him more dearly. I would recommend it without hesitation.
Rosa Hunt is minister of Salem Baptist Chapel in Tonteg, South Wales, and part-time tutor with South Wales Baptist College. She becomes co-principal in September.