January 25, 2021

One Paragraph Reviews: Introducing Paul by Michael Bird; Longing For God: Seven Paths of Devotion by Richard Foster and Gayle Beebe

Introducing Paul: The Man, His Mission and His Message. Well-known New Testament scholar and theological writer Michael Bird has written a basic introduction to the life, mission and message of the apostle Paul. It is a book whose intention reminds me of Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, the classic Pauline introduction by F. F. Bruce. In less than 200 pages, Bird not only covers the basics, but he acquaints the uninitiated with the basics of the various discussions and controversies going on in Pauline studies. Often, discussions here at IM will go just beyond the knowledge level of the informed layperson and requests for brief scholarly summaries are forthcoming. As far as Pauline studies are concerned, this is exactly the book needed to answer those queries. I recommend this book for college students and new Bible students. As far as basic books go, this is certainly an excellent basic text for any study of Paul. Bird makes the point that Paul is often remade into the image of contemporary Christians who love to teach his epistles. This book helps us keep a touchstone on the read Paul.

Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion. Richard Foster and Gayle Beebe have produced a survey of Christian spirituality and spiritual formation that covers seven major “paths” and a large number of significant Christians whose lives and writings expound the paths selected. This is a large book, but the individual chapters are in the 10-15 page range. For a survey text on Christian spirituality, this would be an excellent book. Foster has always excelled at helping Christians appreciate the large variety of spiritualities and paths of spiritual formation that grow out of various Christian traditions. By using 3-4 persons as examples of each path, and drawing those persons from a broad historical and denominational background, the reader will certainly encounter everything from Quakers to Catholics, classical spiritual writers to contemporary guides. This is another book that will acquaint the reader with the foundational aspects of much larger and more complex issues. I recommend it for college students, anyone teaching spirituality and the IM reader who gets tired of hearing names mentioned that he/she knows nothing about. (This really is a good book, and those of you who have been told to avoid Richard Foster will see in this book what good work he has done for the church.)


  1. Foster is somebody I never considered seriously, because he’s “Quaker” and as I’m “Reformed” I obviously couldn’t learn anything from his world. Thankfully, my store had a half price audio book of his Celebration of Discipline and I listened to it on my way to NYC. Are there things in it that I find questionable? Of course! But is there also a richness that every Christian could do well by? Absolutely! Foster’s own irenic spirit is a testament to what we should all strive for. Among Reformed friendly authors, the only one who I’ve found that comes close is Jerry Bridges. But even he, as with any Reformed writers (it seems to me), is still too bound to a rationalistic approach to the faith. That’s where the other Christian faith traditions seems better poised to acknowledge mystery and paradox as necessary components to a fully orbed Christian spirituality. But hey, I see through a glass darkly, so what do I know?

  2. Sherman the Tank says

    People have a beef with Richard Foster??

  3. Various discernment ministries and reformed watchblogs have been denouncing Foster as a purveyor of heresy and Catholic mysticism for years.

  4. I like to draw from different traditions. And I’ve found the Catholic mystics really helpful. I love St. Teresa of Avila’s book “The Interior Castle”.


  5. Gotta love Foster. I first became acquainted with his works when I read Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home. I too had no idea anyone had problems with Foster. Who knew?

  6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Tertullian says

    Lots of Paul books out there. E.P. Sanders is the old standby. I like “Saint Saul” by Donald Harmon Akenson. Also have A.N. Wilson’s “Paul” but haven’t read it yet. My old professor emphasized Paul’s gnostic side, I see another book in the store that emphasizes his Jewish rabbinic side.

  7. I also am reformed and I have found much benefit from Fosters works, most notably Celebration of Discipline (having even led a discipleship group through it), and some articles and shorter works he has written on prayer and fasting.
    Michael Horton (who as you have said is one of the more level-headed voices) has written an interesting article in the current issue of modern reformation. Horton does a good job pointing out what some of the concerns are without blasting Foster personally or shouting heretic.
    Go to the article titled “Following Jesus: What’s Wrong and Right About the Imitation of Christ” http://www.modernreformation.org
    I’m curious to know what people think.

  8. What’s wrong with being a Quaker?

  9. sue kephart says

    Richard Foster and his writings have been and continue to be a valuable resource for me. In my opinion those that have a problem with him need to grow up spiritually. I have been blessed to have gotten to go to two Renovare conferences lead by him before his retirement. He is a truly Holy man.

  10. Foster and Renovaré do great work IMHO. Sometimes it’s threatening for people to realize that they don’t have a 100% monopoly on the truth.

  11. Is this Foster book anything like Streams of Living Water? I’m reading that one now in one of our classes. Good stuff.

  12. Having met Richard on a couple of occasions and read his books, I can say he has helped me a lot. Also, my pastor John Ortberg and Richard are constantly working together in the Renovare seminars. I get a little peeved at how nasty some people get when they criticize Richard just because he’s not of their particular persuasion. I just see the world looking at us and shaking their heads in bemusement as we battle amongst ourselves over points of doctrine. They could really care less. What I like about Foster is he tries to bring the varying disciplines together to bring a united front in Christ to a world that desparately needs to see love displayed by Christians. And don’t give that kissy woosy interpretation of God’s love. I’m not talking about that. Richard has stood tall and I think he has contributed a lot to Christianity. Do I agree with him on everything? No..I’m not of the Quaker mindset. But nor do I have the flared nostrils of the angry Calvinist either.
    Hopefully, the love of Christ exhibited by our Lord and Savior is what people see.
    God Bless

  13. Richard I bet Paul could care less what “the world” thought of him when he got into Peter’s face in Antioch because Peter was “clearly wrong” (Galtians 2:11). When the Galatian churches began to listen to another doctrine Paul says to them; “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Galatians 3:1).
    Denying the authority of scripture is not a “particular persuasion”. It is a threat. If you call yourself a follower of Jesus Christ and don’t think doctrine is important I suggest you put all of your “other” books away and read the scriptures. Get a regular Bible. No notes. Get one that has wide margins so that you can write your own notes in it.
    The doctrine of Justification by Grace through Faith and not by any works is an important doctrine if scripture is the authority. If men are the authority I guess any old doctrine will do.

  14. Well, I’ve walked this pilgrim path with Christ for forty-seven years. I’ve marked up and worn out more “noteless” Bibles than I care to think about. I began with the King James, cut my eye teeth on the ASV and have studied all the others. I’ve come to realize, God’s grace is a whole lot wider than mine.

  15. APologies to all for the lack of moderation on the post calling Foster- a fine Christian brother- a false teacher. Perhaps someone can explain to me why anyone hangs around a blog where they disagree with the majority of what’s written. Don’t you have something more valuable to do?

  16. When has Foster denied the authority of scripture?

  17. Teenage Mutant Ninja Tertullian says
  18. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/january/26.29.html
    There is a very nice six-page article Richard Foster wrote there called “Spiritual Formation Agenda: Three priorities for the next 30 years.” I have yet to read his books, but I have read some of his things on the internet and some things written about him and I would not hesitate to recommend him to folks who want to be living out the love of Jesus.

    Do not be afraid to listen to God speak to you in the silence. He will speak to you through the Bible, through the people around you, through your experiences and through silence. Sometimes we need to get away from our daily worries and just be aware of the presence of God. Jesus himself would go off alone at times to talk to his Father and he told us that praying alone brings rewards that we receive in private. There are times for this kind of private praying and times for communal prayer and worship. They each strengthen each other.

  19. I just finished reading Foster’s other new book, Life With God:Reading The Bible For Spiritual Transformation. The first section is an incredible expose on how and how not to approach the scriptures. As right on as I’ve ever heard. I will be using it for our new disciple classes at our church. Would have saved me a lot of misery if I could have read it 30 years ago.

    FYI, you can get a large discount by purchasing this and the one Michael just reviewd at renovare.org


  20. Various discernment ministries and reformed watchblogs have been denouncing Foster as a purveyor of heresy and Catholic mysticism for years.

    That seems reason enough to like him.

  21. Various discernment ministries and reformed watchblogs have been denouncing Foster as a purveyor of heresy and Catholic mysticism for years.

    That seems reason enough to like him. (END QUOTE)

    I thought the same thing!

    Teenage – that made me laugh!

  22. “why anyone hangs around a blog where they disagree with the majority of what’s written”. Hmmmm. I have been checking this out for the past 2 months at most and have read posts from atheists, agnostics, homosexuals, anti-christians, etc… They were never asked, “Don’t you have something more valuable to do?” I guess from those two statements that I touched a nerve. I understand that in these modern times that those who believe in the authority of scripture alone are under attack and even considered “intolerant”. You are correct. Sola Scriptura is not very popular and not approved by the majority. Yet I will stand with Athanasius, Jonathan Edwards, Richard Baxter, Spurgeon, John Macarthur, and many others who do not accept false teachings.

    One of my favorite sections of scripture is Galatians 2:11-14. Peter…”and even Barnabas was Led astray” by the hypocrisy. Paul confronts them, but the outcome is never recorded. He just moves.

  23. Lance Athanasius:

    That’s great. You’re obviously on your way to proclaiming me a false teacher like 95% of the rest of the internet reformed discernment crowd.

    You can comment here, but when you go down that road, you’re done.

    In fact, your bizarre description of this blog indicates you are looking for exactly that: proof that I’m an emissary of Satan. I’m sure you’ll find it.


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