On July 31, 2008, a Retirement Party was held for Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline. According to correspondence with a Renovare (Foster’s organization) Coordinator, Foster is “stepping back from active leadership at RENOVARE,” in order to “spend more time writing.”
First published in 1978, Celebration of Discipline has had a massive influence on Christianity. Unfortunately, the influence has helped to saturate the church with mystical contemplative prayer.
Foster said in the book, that we “should all without shame enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer.” (p. 13, 1978 ed.) In other books and writings he makes it very clear that this “contemplative prayer” is the eastern style mantra meditation to which mystic monk Thomas Merton adhered. In fact, Foster once told Ray Yungen (author of A Time of Departing) that Thomas Merton tried to awaken God’s people.
Thomas Merton, who said he was impregnated with Sufism and wanted to “become as good a Buddhist” as he could be, believed that “God’s people” lacked one thing … mysticism and this is to what they needed “awakening.” Of Merton, Foster says: “Thomas Merton has perhaps done more than any other twentieth-century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood.” (Spiritual Classics, p. 17)
Listed under “excellent books on spirituality,” in some editions of Celebration of Discipline, Foster says of Tilden Edwards’ book, Spiritual Friend that it helps “clear away the confusion and invites us to see that we do not have to live the spiritual life in isolation.” And yet, Tilden Edwards, founder of the Christian/Buddhist Shalem Institute in Washington, DC, said that contemplative spirituality was the “Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality” (A Time of Departing, p. 49).
In Celebration of Discipline, Foster says “we must be willing to go down into the recreating silences, into the inner world of contemplation” (COD, p.13.) He says the “masters of meditation beckon us.” Just prior to that remark, he favorably quotes Carl Jung and Thomas Merton.
Celebration of Discipline has helped to pave the way for Thomas Merton’s pantheistic belief system. It has opened the door for other Christian authors, speakers, and pastors to bring contemplative spirituality into the lives of millions of people.
Countless ministers and ministries are promoting and endorsing Celebration of Discipline. If they really knew what Foster’s “celebration” was all about, we think many of them would race away from the teachings of Merton and Foster and back to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
For links and endnote material to this article, click here.