The Best of the Best on Spiritual Formation: A Review Article -- By: Jerry R. Flora

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 33:0 (NA 2001)
Article: The Best of the Best on Spiritual Formation: A Review Article
Author: Jerry R. Flora

The Best of the Best on Spiritual Formation: A Review Article

Jerry R. Flora

Jerry Flora (Th.D., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Professor of Theology and Spiritual Formation at ATS.

Aiden Wilson (A.W.) Tozer captured the minds and hearts of many Christians in the last generation. As pastor, editor, and author he produced substance and style that sounded prophetic. His pen seemed to be dipped first in fire, then in ice, as he both scalded the North American church and plumbed the depths of God’s reality. His books The Pursuit of God (1949) and The Knowledge of the Holy (1961) quickly gained attention as near-classic in their dimensions.

Although Tozer had little formal education, wide reading and prayerful living prepared him for his task. At one point he drew up a list of books for those who want to explore “the deep things of God” (Snyder 1991, 231). But the list contains a shock. Among the 35 titles only seven come from Protestant writers. Apparently this leader who described himself alternately as an evangelical and a fundamentalist found 80% of his spiritual nurture in books written by Catholics.

As the twentieth century dashed to its finish-line, matters began to change. An explosion of publishing occurred in the area of spirituality and spiritual formation. The playing field broadened to include spiritualities of various religions, revival of old paganisms, and the so-called New Age spirituality. Along with this came a renewal of interest in the best of Christian literature, the goal of A. W. Tozer’s quest.

New anthologies of devotional literature arrived on the scene in the 1990s, each of them trying to convey something of the richness of Christian spiritual writing. In this article I want to review several of these collections and offer a few recommendations among them. The bibliography at the close will give complete publication data for your further exploration.


Richard Foster has been a leader in Christian spiritual formation ever since his first book, Celebration of Discipline, appeared in 1978. Other distinguished publications have followed, climaxed by Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (1992) and Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith (1998). Foster’s writings always show

depth of commitment, breadth of awareness, gentleness of spirit, and a striving for balance. Working alongside through much of the writing has been his friend and associate, James Bryan Smith.

Early in the ‘nineties the two men collaborated to produce Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Gro...

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