A Review of Celebration of Discipline
by Richard J. Foster

By David Sheldon (Updated April 2017 from a previously written review)

The following article is a review of the book Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster. Have you heard of it, or perhaps heard people quote Richard Foster? Originally published in 1978, with a 20th Anniversary Edition published in 1998, the book came into the seminary bookstore with much flash. Not only was it extremely popular when it first came out, it has since left a great "spiritual" wake across the visible church. If you read all the scribbles in my copy, you would quickly see it's theological errors. Here are a few.

The first chapter, The Spiritual Disciplines: Door to Liberation, states that the purpose of the spiritual disciplines is "to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm" (p. 1). At this point, we may not be able to know exactly what he means by this statement. But, I do not recall reading anything like that in Scripture. Can you? He then says, "We need not be well advanced in matters of theology to practice the Disciplines. Recent converts - for that matter people who have not yet turned their lives over to Jesus Christ - should practice them. The primary requirement for their effectiveness is a longing after God" (p. 2). We will soon find it is a "longing after God" that incorporates unbiblical practices and theology.

In the next chapter, The Discipline of Meditation, Foster favorably quotes both a trapist monk, Thomas Merton, and a psychologist, C.G. Jung, who came up with some rather bizarre theories about the human psyche. Under the first sub-heading, Understandable Misconceptions, Foster exalts Catholic mystics and others including Francois Fenelon, Madame Guyon, Francis de Sales, George Fox, and Meister Eckhart, and he favorably quotes Morton Kelsey. The mention of these types of teachers will obviously set the stage for the things he himself will soon teach. The second sub-heading, Desiring the Living Voice of God, is where Foster expresses that we should hear "the living voice of God" for ourselves. He uses the people of Israel and Moses as examples. He does this basically to say that we all should hear from God, just like Moses did. The difference, though, is that God chose Moses to be the mediator and spokesman between Himself and the children of Israel. The children of Israel did not hear the "living voice of God" like Moses did. In fact, there was an instance when the children of Israel did hear God, and they didn't want to! Their cry was, 'Moses, you speak to us, not God.' And the simple fact is that Moses "heard the living voice of God" because, well, God actually spoke to Him directly. Remember, God chose Moses as their mediator, and it is Jesus who is our Mediator. 1 Timothy 2:5 says, "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." Yet, Foster says that it is mankind who desperately desires a mediator, a go-between to God, and then states disparagingly, "That is why meditation is so threatening to us. It boldly calls us to enter into the living presence of God for ourselves" (p. 19). Did you catch that? He is saying that meditation takes us into God's presence. What happened to Christ the Only Mediator between God and man?! The only reason a Christian can enter into God's presence is because of Christ's mediation. Meditation is not the mediation.

Up to this point, Foster has not made mention of the fact that Christ's mediation is known to us through meditation - and that is meditation upon the objective Holy Scriptures. The Scriptures alone reveal how it is that Jesus Christ is our Mediator. He has sent the Holy Spirit to make known to us Himself - again, as we meditate on the objective Scriptures. I don't think I am overstating it when I say that up to this point Foster looks at "meditation" as something special "for its own sake."

Another subheading in this chapter, How to Meditate - First Steps, is all about using the imagination. There is no mention of the Holy Bible as the object upon which our thoughts should meditate! The only time there is anything about the Gospels in this section is when he speaks of Ignatius of Loyola encouraging "his readers to visualize the Gospel stories" (p. 22), and "...utilize all five senses as we picture the Gospel events" (p. 23). Foster states that dreams are a good place to begin in learning how to meditate, that we should be convinced that "...dreams can be a key to unlocking the door to the inner world..." (p. 23).

In his next subheading, How to Meditate - Specific Exercises, Foster teaches about "centering down" and body positions when praying. He then takes you through a step by step process of "concentrating on breathing" with the instruction to become silent outwardly and inwardly . He writes, "Be attentive to the inward living Christ" (p. 25). This philosophy might be attributed to Foster's background as a Quaker which teaches of the "inner light", where all types of meditation become the doors to the "inner" world where we can be attentive to Christ, the light. Is this what a Christian is supposed to do? Do these exercises really aid in our spiritual growth? Unfortunately, opening yourself up to the "inner Christ" through breathing techniques and dreams is the door to opening your mind to the "spirit realm" - and what spirit is it?

This is where we can introduce the word "occult" into our discussion. I use the word in its very broadest sense. This word literally means "hidden" things or "unrevealed" things. No human being is supposed to "look into" those hidden things. How do we do that in the very broadest sense of the term? It is when we do NOT look for spiritual truth as revealed in the Scripture by the Holy Spirit who breathed it out and look somewhere else. God communicates Himself to us through His revelation - the Word of God. This is done by His Spirit telling us the truths of who He is through the Scripture and relating Himself to us by those means. God is the only one who can actually reveal Himself to us and it is through the truth of Scriptural teaching and not some man-made fabricated techniques. Things He has not communicated are forbidden to us. God alone can make hidden things known and there are things not known because he has not revealed them:

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law. Deuteronomy 29:29 NASB

We cannot use a "pick your own path" technique to somehow hear from God through an inner living voice. Foster wants us to pick our own path and call it gospel. He wants us to pick our own path and call it spiritual growth. He wants us to pick our own path by entering into the spiritual realm through techniques.

Foster finally does get to the Bible as the object of meditation – sort of. He continues, "Take a single event like the resurrection, or a parable, or a few verses, or even a single word and allow it to take root in you. Seek to live the experience, remembering the encouragement of Ignatius of Loyola to apply all our senses to our task" (p. 26). In the same regards, Foster also quotes Francis de Sales instruction (St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Doubleday, 1955, p. 83): "…represent to your imagination the whole of the mystery on which you desire to meditate as if it really passed in your presence. For example, if you wish to meditate on our Lord on the Cross, imagine that you are on Mount Calvary, and that you there behold and hear all that was done or said on the day of the Passion" (p.26). Foster has you "sense" the facts of Calvary as a present active participant through your imagination and then says "Jesus Christ will actually come to you."

First of all, did you know Ignatius of Loyola was the founder of the Jesuits, the Jesuits who fought against the reformation? Not only that, but is it possible to "sense" what actually took place at Calvary? Can we experience something we did not experience? Think about it. Merriam-Webster gives us the following definition for experience: direct observation of or participation in events as a basis of knowledge; to undergo or live through. We can read about the events of Christ's final days and set our mind on the facts of what happened, but in no way can we directly experience what He went through. Yet it would seem Foster is saying the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ is present to help us sense and experience Calvary. The appropriate thing to do is reflect on the truth of what Jesus Christ did for us and have God impress its significance upon our hearts. Foster's spiritual technique is a catholic "passion of the Christ" theological experience, a mystical and sensual inner re-creation of events we did not experience. If this is not bad enough, on p. 27 he takes readers through an experience of "guided imagery" which I can only best describe as a self-induced trance-like state of mind. It is for the purpose of "inner communion" with God. You are to picture yourself in a quiet place, which he describes vividly, where you end up on your back looking up. You are to then have a deep yearning to go into the upper regions beyond the clouds. Then he has you imagine your "spiritual body" rising up out of your "physical body" for a soothing joy ride into "outer space" for a brief period of time. All this guided imagination is for the purpose of resting in His presence and noting carefully any instruction given.

The Bible never gives instruction regarding using our fallen imagination as a means to contact deity! Sadly, many think these teachings are special, and Foster's techniques are often incorporated into church settings, sometimes without the people even knowing it. They are readily accepted in the visible evangelical community. This is another indication of the growing apostasy in the visible church.

Copyright © 4 Truth Ministry 2017, all rights reserved.
By David Sheldon. Edited by Kerri Sheldon
Can be copied in its entirety for personal use or to be distributed, but not for profit.

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