Celebration of Discipline*

by Richard Foster

Written over twenty-five hears ago, and proclaimed by Christianity Today as one of the ten best books of the twentieth century, the influence of Celebration of Discipline is all but incalculable. It's author, Richard Foster, is a Quaker, so his spiritual life is grounded in the subjective “inner light” presupposition of the Friends. He is highly steeped in the Roman Catholic mystics, drawing from dozens of them for his theology. More than that, Eugene Peterson informs us that Foster has “‘found’ the spiritual disciplines [in the mystics] that the modern world stored away and forgot” (p. 206). Foster’s views are also formed by Quaker mystics and even secular thinking, most surprisingly Carl Jung, self-confessed demon-possessed psychologist.

Without question, these extra-biblical sources are behind Foster’s understanding of the Christian life. That is not to say that he does not refer to Scripture and occasionally interpret it correctly. However, it is astounding to see how often he mutilates the Word of God (e.g., pp. 16, 17, 55, 83, 114, 156, 170, and 177).

As a result of his unbiblical routes and disregard for the meaning of Scripture, it should not surprise us that Foster has become a Pied Piper, leading multitudes away from Biblical Christianity. From the vantage point of twenty-six years since the publication of Celebration of Discipline, we see just how far astray Foster has taken his followers. These include:

• Subjective leading of God as being the norm (pp. 10, 16-17, 18, 50, 95, 98, 108-109, 128, 139-140, 149-150, 162, 167, 182);

Journaling and prayer as ways that God speaks to us (p. 108);

Open theism (p. 35);

Misunderstanding of the Old Testament Law for today (pp. 82, 87);

• The contemplative prayer movement, which has taken many to the foothills of Eastern mysticism;

• Centering prayer, in which one moves to the center of God or self—an Eastern mystical practice;

•  Misunderstanding of the will of God in prayer (p. 37);

• An unbiblical use of imagination, which leads to occultic visualization (pp. 25-26, 40-43, 163, 198);

• Receptivity to all the charismatic gifts including tongues, visions, revelations and prophecy (pp. 108, 165, 168-169, 171, 193);

• Use of rosaries and prayer wheels (p. 64)

• Approval of New Age teachers (i.e.; Merton, Eckhart; Loyola; etc.);

• Embracing of pop-psychological views such as self-fulfillment, self-actualization, loving ourselves, mutual submission, and healing of inner wounds (pp. 113-120);

• Propagation of the Roman Catholic view of confession, penitence, and spiritual directives (pp. 146-150, 156, 185);

• Promoting charismatic patterns of worship, including calling for the presence of God and holy laughter (pp. 158-174, 198). 

Overall Foster’s book is an encyclopedia of unbiblical teaching, which leads the unsuspecting reader away from Christ and into mysticism, or worse. It is a telltale sign of the state of the church to find how accepted Foster’s teachings are.

 


* Reviewed by Pastor Gary Gilley, Southern View Chapel, Springfield, IL 62703. More detailed information on the teachings in Celebration of Discipline is available in Gilley's February 2005 Think On These Things article: "Mysticism Part II," and posted as BDM's report on Richard Foster. For a primer on mysticism, see Gilley's January 2005 Think On These Things, "Mysticism Part I: Mysticism, a Way of the Past, the Wave of the Future."


Biblical Discernment Ministries - 3/2005

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