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Richard Foster – Streams of Living Water

John Woods takes a look at a reissued classic charting the distinctive strands of Christian faith that can enrich us all

Richard Foster – Streams of Living Water (Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith)
Hodder and Stoughton ISBN 9781473662100 426 pages £13.99

This re-issue of Richard Foster’s 1999 book Streams of Living Water is very welcome. At the time of publication there were critics who suggested that Foster’s hugely popular books (including Celebration of Discipline) were like a Trojan horse smuggling into the evangelical mind some dodgy ideas. The answer to prejudice is often a willingness to understand another person’s point of view. 

I remember using Streams of Living Water in a reading group of those working in my church nearly 20 years ago. My aim was to show that Christianity was a multi-faceted entity with a variety of distinctive strands, and how those stands related to each other, and could mutually enrich each other.

The strands or streams are: Contemplative, Holiness, Charismatic, Social Justice, Evangelical and Incarnational.

Foster likens these streams to those that feed into the mighty Mississippi River.  Tracing the tributaries of a great river back to their source helps us to see what has made the river such a force. The same is true of the Christian faith.

Evangelicals can assume that they are the main or only shaping force of the Christian gospel in the world today. Foster demonstrates how “catholic” are the influences that shape who we are as Christians.

Our reading group gained a greater appreciation of the diversity, depth, strengths and weakness of each stream. It is worth revisiting this book again 20 years on. It explodes a few myths, clarifies a few misunderstandings and sets the record straight on what makes us distinctive.

John Woods is pastor of Lancing Tabernacle

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