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Fostering a new Spiritual Discipline

follow me into ... the quiet zone

Richard Foster is known for his book “Celebration of Discipline.” Few are aware that it contains numerous New Age teachings in it. Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline, has sold several million copies, was selected by Christianity Today as one of the top ten books of the 20th century. Christianity Today named it number eleven in the "Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals." Despite their endorsement, it is a book that should be avoided at all costs.

This may sound harsh to some but if you hear what Foster teaches it become apparent, it is not what the Bible teaches.

Richard Foster in his Celebration of Discipline, the Path to Spiritual Growth recommends Christians using Yoga-like techniques (chapter 2, the Discipline of Meditation) to contact the Spirit of Christ.  Yoga is to contact the god[s] of Hindusim, they are not the same.

In his book he called for deeper spirituality which he believes is attained through the practice of spiritual "Disciplines". These disciplines include prayer, meditation, fasting and study, which Foster calls the "Inward Disciplines." He also offers "Outward Disciplines" of simplicity, solitude, submission and service, and "Corporate Disciplines" of confession, worship, guidance and celebration.

Foster involves one in an unbiblical use of imagination, to occultic visualization (Celebration of Discipline. pp. 25-26, 40-43, 163, 198); Use of rosaries and prayer wheels (p. 64)

In the original edition of Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline p. 170 said this, “We of the New Age can risk going against the tide. ”Let us with abandon relish the fantasy games of children. Let's see visions and dream dreams. Let's play, sing, laugh. The imagination can release a flood of creative ideas, and exercising our imagination can be lots of fun. Only those who are insecure about their own maturity will fear such a delightful form of celebration."

Later editions have had this removed with no explanation, which does not enhance Foster’s integrity.

We of the new age! A revealing a statement if I ever heard one. Numerous books and speakers have gained access to the church, introducing strange and mystical practices to young and old. These men are using unbiblical practices, eastern methodologies to achieve a “better,” “improved” spiritual life, claiming these are necessary to bring maturity and spiritual experiences. None of which are spoken of in the Scripture. We should heed the words of Paul who tells us not to exceed what is written (2 Cor.4:6)? Absolutely!

The goal of the New Age Movement has consistently been to bring in the Age of spiritual enlightenment, when all will recognize "the God with themselves". A major step towards this in the words of the New Age prophetess Alice Bailey, is "the regeneration of the churches." (Alice Bailey, Problems of Humanity (New York, NY: Lucis Pub Comp., 1964) p. 152.

Her vision was that… "The Christian church in its many branches can serve as a St. John the Baptist, as a voice crying in the wilderness, and as a nucleus through which world illumination may be accomplished." (Alice Bailey, The Externalization of the Hierarchy (New York, NY: Lucis Pub. Co., 1957) p. 510.)

Mysticism is man’s attempt to gain knowledge of God by a direct experience, often by journeying within. this is a Gnostic practice that opens one up to hear voices that are not from God, to have the supernatural occur that are not of God and there is no way to test it because all spiritual experiences are accepted, they are personal.

In Celebration of Discipline, Foster tells us "we must be willing to go down into the recreating silences, into the inner world of contemplation," later saying that the "masters of meditation beckon us." Who are these masters he speaks of? Throughout his writings through the years, Foster talks about and promotes these "masters of meditation.

Foster does not just lean toward mysticism, he is a mystic. He has blended Christianity with practices of other religions.

Foster answers the question, "What is the goal of Contemplative Prayer?" "To this question the old writers answer with one voice: union with God. Bonaventure, a follower of Saint Francis, says that our final goal is 'union with God,' which is a pure relationship where we see 'nothing.'" (Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home (San Francisco: Harper, 1992) p. 155.)

"What is the goal of Contemplative Prayer? ... union with God.... our final goal is union with God, which is a pure relationship where we see nothing."

Contemplatives sometimes speak of their union with God by the analogy of a log in a fire: the glowing log is so united with the fire that it is fire ..."

Catholic priest Thomas Keating agrees with Foster, as he writes, "Contemplative Prayer is the opening of mind and heart - our whole being - to God, the Ultimate Mystery, beyond thoughts, words and emotions." (Thomas Keating, "The Method of Centering Prayer" http://www.thecentering.org/centering 10/22/02.)

Foster approves of New Age/ mystic teachers (i.e.; Merton, Eckhart; Loyola; etc.); in fact Foster is an admirer of Thomas Merton who tried to “awaken” God’s people through mysticism.

Thomas Merton has perhaps done more than any other twentieth-century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood ... his interest in contemplation led him to investigate prayer forms in Eastern religion ...[he is] a gifted teacher ..." (Spiritual Classics - p.17)

Two of Foster's books, Spiritual Classics and Devotional Classics he has gathered the writings of 52 authors in each book of whom he describes as great devotional writers. Both books are filled with the writings of pantheists (god in all), universalists (all are saved) and mystics. Foster lists more of these "masters of meditation" on his website in a list he calls "100 Spiritual Classics." The list includes mystics and pantheists like Meister Eckhart and Tilden Edwards. This not Biblical Christianity but Christianity plus. He uses a Christian basis and then bridges this to other spiritual practices found in various religions. When he is done Christianity is just a word obscured by the practices of these other religions.

A Quaker Connection

Foster grew up among the Quakers (the Religious Society of Friends), his training was at George Fox College where he obtained his B.A. from George Fox College and D.Th.P from Fuller Theological Seminary.

Foster pastord Quaker churches, and has taught theology at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, and at George Fox. George Fox has used the expression “that of God in everyone.” In his journal Fox said, “I was glad that I was commanded to turn people to that inward light, spirit, and grace, by which all might know their salvation, and their way to God; even that divine Spirit which would lead them into all Truth, and which I infallibly knew would never deceive any” (The Journal of George Fox, revised by John Nickalls, 1952, p. 35).

This is where Lenoard Sweet speaks at today.

A Quaker’s spiritual life is influenced by the subjective “inner light”. The belief of an “inner light” is seen throughout his teachings. Quakers refer to a divine presence and guidance in every man. There is an emphasis on being still and silent (i.e. passive) in order to receive guidance from the inner light. Other terms for it are “light of God,” inward light,” “the light,” “light within “Christ within,” and “spirit of Christ.” “light of Christ,” even the new age term Christ consciousness can have semblance.

In Celebration of Discipline, “In your imagination allow your spiritual body, shining with light, to rise out of your physical body.…Reassure your body that you will return….Go deeper and deeper into outer space until there is nothing except the warm presence of the eternal Creator. Rest in his presence. Listen quietly [to] any instruction given” (p. 27). 

This is what is known as astral projection, it is an occult technique and used by shamans to contact their spirit guides (i.e. Carlos Castaneda). It is also practiced by those in the new age movement.

In fact, Foster advocates and gives instructions on how to practice Eastern meditation so that the visualized image of Jesus comes to life: "You can actually encounter the living Christ in the event, be addressed by His voice and be touched by His healing power . . . Jesus Christ will actually come to you." (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (Hodder & Stoughton, 1984), pp. 20-29.)

How is this possible when He is at the right hand of the Father; he does not make personal appearances at our beck and call.

The power of the imagination through fantasy and visualization is one of the major themes of Foster’s best-selling book and incorporated in his practices, (Celebration of Discipline, pp. 16,22-27,36, 136, 169-70. )

Richard Foster’s blend of New Age/ shamanism with Christianity should be understood by his own statements that are diametrically opposed to the actual biblical meanings: “Imagination opens the door to faith. If we can ’see’ in our mind’s eye a shattered marriage whole or a sick person well, it is only a short step to believing it will be so.” (p.36, “Celebration of Discipline.”)

“‘Let’s play a little game,’ I said. ‘Since we know Jesus is always with us. let’s imagine that He is sitting over in the chair across from us. He is waiting for to center our attention on Him.’” (p.37. ibid).

Foster and Sanford

Richard Foster’s connection to another mystic, Agnes Sanford is throughout his writings. Sanford taught Eastern mysticism and occultism. Foster said, “I have discovered her to be an extremely wise and skillful counselor in these matters” and calls her book The Healing Gifts of the Spirit “an excellent resource” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 136, footnote 1).

"I had the privilege of being in Agnes Sanford's home and hearing her speak on numerous occasions, and I was always instructed by her good sense ... (Spiritual classics)

Let’s see how much “good sense” this woman had:

She taught that humans existed in heaven prior to coming to earth, trailing "a cloud of glory . . . [with] an unconscious memory" of that pre-earth existence." Sanford, Gifts, p. 45.)

In her book The Healing Light, she presents a "god" who is the "life-force" in everyone and in everything, "energy" like electricity: "the original force that we call God (p. 30) ... we are part of God (p. 34) ... He's in nature, and He is nature (p. 35) ... I was conscious of oneness with God, and therefore with the snake which God had made" (p. 69).

She taught that this "God-force" can be turned on by speaking to it, "Whoever you are whatever you are come into me now!"

Her spiritual view was Pantheism that is contradictory the Bible’s presentation of God; His creation is not united with him, they are two separate things of a different nature.

Sanford’s first book, The Healing Light, published in 1947 presented her as a healer within the Christian church sold over half a million copies. She was a pioneer in combining the Bible with psychiatry, teaching the "healing of memories. She presented God's healing work as following the laws of nature and positive thinking. She taught healing comes through meditation, visualization, imagination and positive confession. She also believed that God work through spirits of people who have died; that angels and dead saints could "speak and act in and through us."

Sanford taught that the principles of prayer and healing are universal they are not found in any one religion but included in all religions. Faith is a spiritual energy, and she used visualization (an occult technique). Sanford believed there were laws to learn so that we could release God’s power and work miracles. Almost everything she taught are associated with the many mature heresies in the church today; Latter Rain, Manifest sons of God teaching, word faith confessionalism, and new age visualization and imagination.

Foster wrote of Sanford, "I have been greatly helped in my understanding of the value of the imagination in praying for others by Agnes Sanford .... This advice... [of] prayer through the imagination . . . pictur[ing] the healing . . . and much more, was given to me by Agnes Sanford. " (Celebration of discipline, pp. 36.136.

Sanford’s influence on Foster is evident as he included an entire chapter by Sanford in his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home and another chapter by her in Spiritual Disciplines.

In Sanford’s word’s “I believe imagination is one of the most important keys to effective praying . . . God touches me through my imagination . . . Imagination is one of the keys to the relationship of prayer with God.” It is, “Prayer through the imagination . . . picturing the healing.”

She taught: In the healing of the memories one must firmly hold in the imagination the picture . . . of this person . . . [though evil, as] a saint of God, and turn in the imagination the dark and awful shadows of his nature into shining virtues and sources of power. Indeed, they can be thus turned. This is redemption! (Sanford, Gift, pp, 49,131.)

This is what is called visualization, an ancient spiritual technique to manipulate reality. Sanford taught one could forgive another's sins through visualization

Sanford's pastor was Morton Kelsey who studied at the C.G. Jung Institute near Zurich, Switzerland, and who became a Jungian psychologist, as did Sanford's son, John Sanford. Fosters spiritual openness is much akin to Morton Kelsey. He spoke of him as “the most prolific writer among twentieth century Christian mystics.” Which shows his openness to any religious practice that will aid one in his own unique “inner journey,” of knowing and experience.

Foster: "Christians ... have developed two fundamental expressions of Unceasing Prayer. The first ... is usually called aspiratory prayer or breath prayer. The most famous of the breath prayers is the Jesus Prayer. It is also possible to discover your own individual breath prayer.... Begin praying your breath prayer as often as possible."

Fosters suggests for doing meditation use a common Eastern technique: “Another meditation aimed at centering oneself begins by concentrating on breathing. Having seated yourself comfortably, slowly become conscious of your breathing. This will help you to get in touch with your body and indicate to you the level of tension within. Inhale deeply, slowly tilting your head back as far as it will go. Then exhale, allowing your head slowly to come forward until your chin nearly rests on your chest. Do this for several moments, praying inwardly something like this: “Lord, I exhale my fear over my geometry exam, I inhale Your peace. I exhale my spiritual apathy, I inhale Your light and life.” Then, as before, become silent outwardly and inwardly. Be attentive to the inward living Christ.”

This has a Christian veneer but is decidedly unbiblical. Praying inwardly is not something we are told to do. The new age teaches to go inward, where all knowledge and wisdom is found. The stilling of the mind is essential in these practices.

In her book “Meditations”new ager Shakti Gawain talks about relaxing the mind and has quite a similar exercise. “let your imagination open, and trust whatever comes to you. Enjoy it.

“Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes. Relax... Take a deep breath, and as you exhale, relax your body... Take another deep breath, and as you exhale, relax your body more deeply... Take another deep breath, and as you exhale, relax your body completely...

As you inhale, imagine that you’re breathing in the life force of the universe. Imagine it coming into every cell of your body... “Every time you exhale, you release the old and make room for the new… Take another deep breath, and as you exhale, relax your mind... Imagine that all your old, limited ideas about yourself are floating away. Imagine that all your old conditioning and programming about who you are and who you aren’t, about what you can do and what you can’t do, are all dissolving and floating away. You are an unlimited being, and you are now open to new ideas, new feelings, and new inspirations... “

The similarities in technique are evident. How can Foster promote this as a Christian exercise? Just call it Christian and pawn it off to naïve non informed church goers- that’s how.

 

pt.2 Fostering a new Spiritual Discpline - Inward and onward-  The promoters common origin

 

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