Devotional Classics by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith

In his effort to promote classical Christian mysticism, what he calls spiritual renewal, Richard Foster has written many books, spoken throughout the world and founded the organization RENOVARÉ.  One of his literary efforts is to introduce the writings of the mystic in a collage such as the earlier Spiritual Classics and this volume Devotional Classics

Devotional Classics provides fifty-two selections from fifty-two authors representing five traditions: contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice and evangelical.  Many of the selections come from well-known Roman Catholic mystics such as Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Ávila and John of the Cross.  There also are at least seven Quakers including  Thomas Kelly, George Fox, Isaac Penington, John Woolman and Hannah Whitall Smith.  The reader unfamiliar with the wider body of works from these individuals will not be able to glean from most of these devotional offerings what the fuller theology and leanings of these authors are.  The majority of the sections has been made to emphasize devotional thoughts and, taken out of context, are often (there are exceptions) relatively benign.  Unsuspecting readers are drawn into the realm of mysticism without recognizing the unbiblical nature of what the authors actually taught.

Complicating matters further is that Foster has included excerpts from well-respected evangelicals such as Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Bunyan and Jonathan Edwards.  This gives the appearance that these evangelicals were in agreement with the mystics even though, for the most part, nothing could be further from the truth.  It was, for example, the life mission of Ignatius of Loyola to destroy the Reformation and the ministries of men like Calvin and Luther.  Their differences were not minor as Devotional Classics might imply. 

Devotional Classics will give those interested a taste of the best known mystical and devotional writers throughout Christian history, but it will not comprehensively flesh out the actual beliefs and emphasis of these authors.  There are a few chapters which provide solid value such as those by Lancelot Andrews, John Baillie and Jeremy Taylor.  But for worthwhile devotional edification we should turn elsewhere—perhaps to the Psalms.

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