Richard Foster has served the Church and Christians well by writing this book, “Celebration of Discipline.” Modern Christians have so separated their head knowledge from their heart knowledge and behavior that our faith is weak. It’s no wonder that many people are leaving the faith or that the behavior of Christians doesn’t match what they say they believe. One of the things missing from the contemporary church is discipline, the will to follow God, and also the disciplines, the particular spiritual practices that help lead us to Christ and stay connected to Him.
“Celebration of Discipline” is largely responsible for Christians knowing about and taking the spiritual disciplines more seriously. The title itself is aptly named, for practicing the spiritual disciplines leads ultimately not to oppression but to joy. Foster presents 12 key spiritual disciplines which are grouped into 3 sections:
The Inward Disciplines – meditation, prayer, fasting, study
The Outward Disciplines – simplicity, solitude, submission, service
The Corporate Disciplines – confession, worship, guidance, celebration
In each chapter, Foster explains the nature of each of the disciplines, as well as giving some good advice about how to profitably practice each. He draws upon writers from many Christian traditions, and usually his advice is very good. If this book did nothing but introduce Christians to the spiritual disciplines and help them begin to practice them, then it is a work well worth reading and calling a classic.
It’s not a book without its problems, however. It seems contrary to the Incarnation and rather Gnostic to advise Christians, when preparing for meditation, to “allow your spiritual body, shining with light, to rise out of your physical body.” While Foster does include “the corporate disciplines,” it’s too easy to get the idea from this book that Christianity is primarily an individual religion and relationship to God. He’s separated the spiritual disciplines out of the only context in which they make sense: the Church, and not the solitary individual. Even in the chapter on “Celebration,” which Foster includes as a corporate discipline, he fails to put celebration in the context of the Eucharist or “thanksgiving” of corporate worship.
Category: Book Reviews