The Search For Knowledge
Longing For God: Seven Paths Of Christian Devotion
by Richard J. Foster & Gayle D. Beebe,
originally published in 2009 and reprinted in 2016, Renovare Resources from IVP Press, ASIN B01FGJ10RW
365 pp. Hardcover, $20.00. (2010 Christianity Today Book Award.)
Richard J. Foster and Gayle D. Beebe are teachers and theologians, meeting many years ago to form a continuing friendship. It took them several years to decide to compile this book, which tells of the lives of 26 famous religious figures throughout history, and then smaller stories of 66 more religious leaders going into current times. Beebe gathers the historical material about the inpidual leaders, while Foster adds a “Reflecting and Responding” section that further explains the individual’s contributions.
Organizing the book into Seven Paths, such as “The Spiritual Life As Journey” or “Action And Contemplation,” Beebe tells what each person within this category has done to enrich the religious experience, and what he, himself, has gotten from studying this person. It does make history come alive. For example, with Martin Luther’s experience during a thunder storm bringing about the 99 Theses, which told of nothing standing between God and man, just have faith, naught else is needed. (Romans 8: 38-39), “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels nor rulers.....will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”)
Julian of Norwich an “anchoress” at the end of the 14th century, lived in a room in a cathedral, praying and providing spiritual guidance. Her visions helped her understand what compassion really means. Benedict of Nursia (St. Benedict) showed that humility is essential and proceeded to organize the monastery system with service to the community. Catherine Booth, married to William Booth, co-founded what is now known as the Salvation Army. Catherine showed that women could lead religious services as well as men. This book's author's own experience of taking a long hiatus from work---to step back and reflect---proved helpful in organizing his own future work.
As a reference book, study book, or just for reading material, “Longing For God” is at the top of the list. It is an overview of religious history written in a way that is informative and personalized in readable language with anecdotes. The experiences of religious leaders is interesting reading from going through severe thunderstorms to living alone in a desert climate, they were reaching for God in their own way. Today, and some after thousands of years, their work is being discussed and explored. George Herbert, the "poetry pastor" says it well in referring to the Bible, "Stars are poor books, and oftentimes do miss; This book of stars lights to eternal bliss."
Reviewed by Marie Asner