Richard Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline”

February 20, 2008 at 1:35 pm 3 comments

Celebration of Discipline is Foster’s best known work, now in a Twentieth Anniversary Edition. It has sold more than a million copies, and was named by Christianity Today as one of the top ten books of the twentieth century.  (QuakerInfo.Com)

I posted a quote on this book yesterday and read part of the chapter on the discipline of “service” last night.  I’ve not been challenged in a long time as much as I was reading those few pages.  They left me breathless.  I’m going to have to let myself settle down and inhale that again slowly.  

I knew but had forgotten that he is a contemporary Quaker.  Awesome that someone who comes from a heritage of disciplines has been gifted with the ability to teach others.  I have Richard’s book on Prayer also.   These are his other writings of which I’m aware:  Streams of Living Water, Prayer:  Finding the Heart’s True Home, Freedom of Simplicity, Meditative Prayer, Spiritual Classics.

Foster started Renovoré, a renewal organization committed to bringing “the church to the churches”.   His website contains readings from a Bible he put out, centered around the areas of discipline discussed in his book Celebration of Discipline.

I stumbled on an unexpected criticism of Foster.  One, for promoting the disciplines of contemplation, which is unwarranted based on Foster’s constant focus on Christ at the center of the meditation.  The Psalms teach us to “be still and know that I am God.  Meditation is a Biblical practice, with it’s focus on faithfulness and obedience.  (p. 16 Cel. of Disc., Foster).  This is NOT the middle eastern counterfeits that claim “God is all” or “God is in all”.   

Two, for using a quote from Thomas Kelly in his Bible edition .  I would like to hear Foster expound on on that myself, but have enjoyed the integrity of his writings to such a degree that I would not at this time discount his entire works based on it.

Bro. Ray  recommends the book heartily, and many others who’ve been challenged by it would as well.

A Quote from Celebration of Discipline on Meditation: 

In contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things:  noise, hurry, and crowds.  If he can keep us engaged in the “much-ness” and “manyness,” he will rest satisfied…If we hope to move beyond the superficialities of our culture, including our religious culture, we must be willing to go down into the recreating silences, into the inner world of contemplation.  In their writings all the masters of meditation beckon us to be pioneers in the frontier of the Spirit.  Though is may sound strange to modern ears, we should without shame enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer. (p16)…Christian meditation, very simply, is the ability to hear God’s voice and obey his word.  It is that simple.  I wish I could make it more complicated for those who like things difficult.  It involves no hidden mysteries, no secret mantras, no mental gymnastics, no esoteric flights into the cosmic consciousness.  (p17)…In meditation we are growing into what Thomas À Kempris calls “a familiar friendship with Jesus.”  We are sinking down into the light and life of Christ and becoming comfortable in that posture(p19)…[one of] both intense intimacy and awful reverence.  (p20).

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dann  |  February 20, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    I love Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline” as well, and I’ve read my copy many times.

    In my opinion, don’t listen to the site to which you linked. Contemplative spirituality is a viable and long-standing Christian tradition. However, I should offer the disclaimer that spiritual theology is my field, so I may seem a bit biased.

    My only criticism of Foster is that he tends to transpose the meanings of contemplation and meditation (or make them synonymous).

    Maggie replies: I noticed that tendancy, but did not see a reason to differentiate. I’d like to read the differences as you see them. He uses many scriptures to connect the two in the early pages of the book.

  • 2. Kevin  |  February 20, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    I whole heartedly support the book. I have not only read it several times, but have taught classes and Bible studies on the book.

    On a somewhat claim to fame, I had a brief encounter with his P.A. once. She was doing some research in our library for one of their upcoming books. She gave me his card and thought I probably hadn’t heard of him. I told her, “Are you kidding me? The Richard Foster who wrote…..” She laughed and was surprised.

    Maggie replies: Wow!!! That’s really cool.

  • 3. velma96  |  February 21, 2008 at 8:39 am

    I have started reading this book twice, but let the busy-ness of life keep me from finishing it. my church did a series based on the book last summer, and due to family emergency and other travel plans, had to miss almost half of hte series! i was so saddened!! you’re posts are challenging me to pull my copy of the book back out and start reading it again! maybe this time, i’ll actually finish it!!! 🙂

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