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Quaker Mystic in "Evangelical" Garb

A Critique of Richard J Foster's Celebration of Discipline
By David Sheldon

In the first chapter titled The Spiritual Disciplines: Door to Liberation, Richard Foster states that the purpose of spiritual disciplines are "to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm." Have you ever seen in the Holy Scripture where this is to be the goal of the Christian life? Foster continues by saying that even people who are not Christian should practice them because the only requirement is a longing after God. What? (See Acts 4:12)

One can only wonder how it is possible to long after the true and living God without first coming to Christ. But Foster makes room for it.

The second chapter is titled The Discipline of Meditation. Under this introductory title, Foster favorably quotes both Thomas Merton and C.G. Jung. The first sub-heading is Understandable Misconceptions. In this section he exalts Catholic mystics and others: these would include Francois Fenelon, Madame Guyon, Francis de Sales, George Fox, and Meister Eckhart and favorably quotes Morton Kelsey.)  He says there is a vast difference between "Christian" meditation and Eastern meditation. (We are soon to find out what his "Christian" type of meditation involves.)

His second sub-heading is Desiring the Living Voice of God. In this section he says that we abrogate our role as priests and sights the Old Testament and specifically the people of Israel and Moses as examples. This is most unfortunate. Because Moses was the Mediator and God spoke to him. Through Moses God gave the priests instruction on how they should function as priest, the nature of the mediation, and the function of the High Priest and the nature of that mediation. If you have read the Old Testament you know that it is detailed instruction. Of course Jesus Christ is our only mediator in the New Covenant. He downplays the role of a Mediator yet "boldly calls us to enter into the living presence of God for ourselves."

It is true that if we are in Christ we are all priests unto God, but it is ONLY because HE is our perfect High Priest, Himself. It is HIS mediation that allows us to be priests. Up to this point Foster hasn't made mention of the fact that HIS mediation for us is known to us because we meditate upon the objective Holy Scriptures. The Scriptures reveal to us just exactly how it is that Jesus Christ is our Mediator. Meditation is not the mediation. Jesus is the mediator. He has sent the Holy Spirit to make known to us our Mediator, Jesus Christ, 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." It is highly subjective and man-centered. But you can read it and judge for yourselves. If that is all I had, I wouldn't be doing this review.

He has a further subheading in this chapter titled: "How to Meditate - First Steps" He no where in this section has the Holy Bible as the object on which our thoughts meditate! Very revealing! Yet we are to be "open" to the voice of God. The only time he has anything about the Gospels in this section is when he wants us to utilize all five senses in picturing the events. (The objective thoughts of the texts understood by our minds is not mentioned.) Yet he soon introduces the idea of being convinced that dreams can be a key to unlocking the door to the inner world... (p. 23) and then gives practical suggestions on how to insure this happens to the greatest advantage.

His next subheading: "How to Meditate - Specific Exercises"  He begins talking about "centering down" and body positions in prayer. He then takes you through a step by step process of "concentrating on breathing" with the instruction become silent outwardly and inwardly. We are to be attentive to the inward living Christ. He should have added: Never mind that there is absolutely no instruction anything like this in Holy Scripture! Never mind that your "evangelical" church statement of faith probably says something like the Scriptures are our SOLE authority for faith AND PRACTICE. Just do it because this is a "door to the inner world" as he has stated.

Unfortunately, this is the door to opening your mind to the "spirit realm." What is so amazing is that he conveys the concept as if we are to understand that this is what a "Christian" is supposed to do. It is just "matter-of-fact." He assumes we all should know this and be helped in our spiritual growth by doing this, by opening yourself to the "spirit realm" through breathing techniques and dreams. This has absolutely nothing to do with Christianity! In fact, "making contact" with the spiritual realm is strictly forbidden in the Scriptures and neither you nor I have any idea of what the consequences might be.

This is where we can introduce the word "occult" into our discussion. (I am using 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. This is why God Himself communicates to us Himself 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. Us knowing God is man-ward! I hope you understand what I just said. It is because He saved us and sought us and is Himself our High Priest who mediates Himself to us through HIS WORD that we can come to Him. But we cannot pick our own path! 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. If you are an American you have the right to pick your own path and you better not say my path is wrong. Plus, I have wonderful spiritual experiences just like you. Really?

Foster in a nutshell says you can pick your own path and He will come to you! (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." p. 26)   At this point you should get a good dictionary and look up the word "conjure." Because the real Deity CANNOT be conjured! We are not supposed to make "contact" with the spirit realm or have anything to do with it and then make the silly mistake of thinking "Jesus actually comes to us" through our spiritual techniques. His true presence in us as Christians or with us as we are assembled is NEVER conjured through inappropriate means!!! If we think it is - the wrong deity(ies) is/are showing up and we are being deceived.

"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 the law." Deuteronomy 29:29 NASB

"There shall not be found among you anyone who...uses divination...or one who interprets omens...or a medium...For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD;..." Deuteronomy 18:10-12 NASB

If this is not bad enough - he takes you through an experience of "guided imagery" which I can only best describe as a self-induced trance like state of mind. (p. 27)  It is for the purpose of  "inner communion" with God. You are to picture yourself in a quiet place (he describes it 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 you to rest in His presence and note carefully any instruction given.

Never mind that the Bible doesn't give us any instruction in regards to us using our fallen imagination as a means to contact deity!

Foster's book is a sad commentary on the state of those who read these kinds of things and think they are special. Truth comes to us as light and lies come to us as "light" and we should know the difference.

Critique of and quotes taken from the original edition: Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster (Harper & Row Publishers, Inc.; New York, N.Y.; 1978). If you are interested in this subject area I suggest that you obtain the original 1978 copyrighted edition of Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth by Richard J. Foster. I have heard that this edition has many things in it which are not in subsequent editions. If this is true, it is not hard to figure out why. The false teachings in it are overly prominent and, thus, easily exposed. They are "frightening!" This is convenient for critique because he overtly states what might only be insinuated in later editions or may have been left out but should be considered especially since many of his ideas seem to be "bursting forth" in our day.

Copyright, David Sheldon, 2006, all rights reserved.
Can be copied in its entirety for personal use or to be distributed, but not for profit.

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