Water from a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries


In Rome in A.D. 165, two men named Carpus and Papylus stood before the proconsul of Pergamum, charged with the crime of being Christians. Not even torture could make them deny Christ, so they were burned alive.

In the fifth century, Melania the younger and her husband, Pinian, distributed their enormous wealth to the poor and intentionally practiced the discipline of renunciation.

In the seventeenth century, Philipp Jakob Spencer's love for the...

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Water from a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries

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In Rome in A.D. 165, two men named Carpus and Papylus stood before the proconsul of Pergamum, charged with the crime of being Christians. Not even torture could make them deny Christ, so they were burned alive.

In the fifth century, Melania the younger and her husband, Pinian, distributed their enormous wealth to the poor and intentionally practiced the discipline of renunciation.

In the seventeenth century, Philipp Jakob Spencer's love for the Word of God and his desire to help people apply the Bible to their life moved him to start "College of Piety," or small groups.

Sacrifice, simplicity, community: these are only three of the many ways Christians have expressed their faith throughout the history of the church-practices that still shape vibrant faith today. In Water from a Deep well, Gerald Sittser opens to us the rich history of spirituality, letting us gaze at the practices and stories of believers from the past who had the same thirst for God that we do today.

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Editorial Reviews

Albert Haase
"Ever since that day at noon when a Samaritan woman asked for living water, people have turned to Jesus for the water that satisfies the thirst of the human condition and wells up to eternal life. In Water from a Deep Well, Gerald Sittser has followed the lives of significant Christians down through the centuries who have tasted the water, shared it with others and, in some cases, carried it to foreign lands. This book will serve as an excellent resource in the classroom, in our personal libraries and in our prayerful consideration of the 'great cloud of witnesses' who have drunk from the well before us."
Lauren F. Winner
"Open this book, and walk with holy fools and prophetic rebels as they struggle against all that would separate them from God. And what a blessing to have Jerry Sittser as a guide through the history of Christian spirituality! He writes not just as a scholar and a teacher, but also as a Christian who has long walked the narrow path, keeping company with God, and both his wisdom and his winsomeness mark every page."
Mark A. Noll
"This fine book is as useful as it is informative. In lucid prose and with a gentle spirit, Gerald Sittser offers a careful primer on the history of Christian spirituality, a gracious guide to spiritual experience today and most of all a winsome invitation to experience the reality of Jesus Christ, who inspires all true spirituality. In words spoken to St. Augustine, 'tolle, lege' (pick it up, read it). The book will make a real difference."
Ben Patterson
"Gerry Sittser is a rare kind of writer: a scholar with a scholar's depth, and a man with the spiritual health of his readers ever before him. . . .The chapters are full of anecdotes that inspire and amuse, and practical suggestions to help us appropriate the wisdom that is the deposit of the church's great men and women through the ages. Water from a Deep Well is a thoroughly worthwhile read."
Leighton Ford
"Much of the current interest in 'spirituality' suffers from a kind of amnesia--forgetful or oblivious that there is indeed a centuries-long well to draw from, full of an inheritance which can enrich our lives. Jerry Sittser has provided a bucket by which we can draw from that well, whether simply to taste, or better to drink deeply. This is a book to humble us, discovering how much more there is to know, but also to bring fresh hope that God works beyond our small personal experiences, and beyond our own lifetime. Read it--enjoy, and be stretched."
Marva Dawn
"Gerald Sittser offers us two enormous gifts in this compelling history of Christian spirituality--a wonderfully flowing narrative that catches us up into the lives and practices of great saints, and voluminous endnotes so that we can pursue more thoroughly the topics and characters he describes. This beautiful book will widen everyone's spirituality, for Sittser introduces us to an extensive range of eras and their greatest contributions. Taste and see--this book will deepen you!"
Dallas Willard
"Gerald Sittser's Water from a Deep Well is a remarkable combination of sound and thorough scholarship with a warm heart for spiritual life in Christ and his people through the ages. The author speaks with profound theological insight and obvious personal experience. His book anchors spirituality now in the sometimes raw substance of the life of saints through the ages. I highly recommend it for those who, today, want to enter into the realities of Christ in his people for all times. For perspective on evangelical spirituality, in particular, it is highly useful."
Mark Labberton
"Gerald Sittser opens up windows into worlds of spiritual practice that we truly need--both because they intensify our thirst for God, and because they stimulate our imaginations for the varied ways God meets and leads the people of God. While this book feeds me, it also does something even more important: it leaves me hungry, which is where I need to be in order to grow as a disciple, husband, father, friend and pastor."
Iain Torrance
"What Gerald Sittser gives us is not a guidebook . . . but something which reads more like an extended declaration of love. A history of Christian spirituality it may be, but such spirituality is understood less as a benefit to be acquired neutrally through detachment than a matter of being enthralled and enticed by the beauty which is Christ. Each chapter is instructive and informed, and Gerald Sittser provides the kind of clarity and simplicity which only grows out of deep knowledge."
Monica Tenney
Water From a Deep Well will reward readers who appreciate thorough research and detailed reporting, enlivened by telling asides and black-and-white illustrations.
Gail Welborn
"The lives of the saints are provided to inspire, encourage and invite us to join them on our own journeys of transformation."
Martin William Mittelstadt
Sittser utilizes the metaphor of food and drink to serve up a timely corrective to one-generational approaches by inviting sojourners to an elaborate feast with the family of faith. This tried and true recipe deserves consideration not only as a personal or collective devotional but also for courses in church history, ecclesiology, and spiritual formation.
Matthew P. Ristuccia
Water From a Deep Well is a good book for a time when some evangelicals seem intent on de-rooting themselves from their family tree.
John B. Shewmaker
Even if we cannot be a Saint Francis ora monk, there are lessons to be learned from reading about our predecessors in the Christian faith. Recommended for anyone who is interested in strengthening his or her spirituality.
Michael Glerup
Because it is such a well-written, well-researched, and well-conceived book, it will immediately become an indispensible book for anyone interested in Christian spirituality and the history of Christian spirituality.
Richard B. Steele for Catholic Books Review
"Sittser's lucid prose and earnest manner of addressing his readers' own spiritual needs makes Water from a Deep Well an exceptionally accessible book, and thus 'popular' in the best sense of the word. But the helps and critical apparatus at the end make the book suitable for academically rigorous settings."
Gail Welbourn
"Excellent, well-researched book."
Donna Eggett
Water From a Deep Well is a hard-to-put-down book. . . . The author's aim is to help us mine the riches of our wide heritage, and he does it admirably. . . . His grasp of the subject, ability with words, and his experience learning these lessons shine from every page."
Betty Waller for The Lamplighter
"My supply of adjectives fails me in describing the worth of this book."
Pulpit Helps
"An excellent resource for devotional study and personal spiritual development."
Christianity Today
"Sittser's wonderfully capacious book gives us ecumenism at its best."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780830837458
  • Publisher: InterVarsity Press
  • Publication date: 6/4/2010
  • Pages: 366
  • Sales rank: 481,484
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Gerald L. Sittser (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is professor of theology at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. He is the author of The Adventure, A Cautious Patriotism, A Grace Disguised, The Will of God as a Way of Life and When God Doesn't Answer Your Prayer.

He has also written many book reviews and articles. He speaks frequently at churches, college campuses, and scholarly and Christian conferences. Sittser has won numerous awards and honors including a Gold Medallion Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association for his book When God Doesn't Answer Your Prayer.

Peterson, now retired, was for many years James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He also served as founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland. In addition to his widely acclaimed paraphrase of the Bible, The Message (NavPress), he has written many other books.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Eugene Peterson 9

Acknowledgments 11

Introduction: There Is More! 15

1 Witness: The Spirituality of the Early Christian Martyrs 27

2 Belonging: The Spirituality of Early Christian Community 50

3 Struggle: The Spirituality of the Desert Saints 73

4 Rhythm: The Spirituality of Monasticism 96

5 Holy Heroes: The Spirituality of Icons and Saints 118

6 Windows: The Spirituality of the Sacraments 139

7 Union: The Spirituality of the Mystics 163

8 Ordinariness: The Spirituality of the Medieval Laity 187

9 Word: The Spirituality of the Reformers 209

10 Conversion: The Spirituality of Evangelicals 231

10 Risk: The Spirituality of Pioneer Missionaries 256

Conclusion: Where Do We Go from Here? 281

Discussion Questions 296

Annotated Reading List 303

Illustration Credits 310

Notes 314

Index 360

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