In the October 2010 issue of the Mennonite Brethren Herald, which is one of the most revealing so far as to how far the Mennonites have regressed back to Roman Catholicism while still squeaking by as namesakes of Menno Simons who renounced the Roman Catholic church and her false doctrines, we read on page 11 an article called Mindful discipleship (the concept of mindfulness is also central to Buddhist meditation and its disciples). The article is a conversation between the new interim MB Herald editor J Janzen and Canadian Mennonite University faculty Gerry Ediger and Gordon Matties about what mindful discipleship might look like for the ordinary Christian. Recommended for this process of mindfulness are the practices and spiritual disciplines of Richard Foster, who many discerning Christians recognize is leading thousands astray through contemplative spirituality.
“…Among the twelve classic Christian practices Richard Foster describes, he names fasting and living simply alongside study. Disciplines, like fasting and living simply, are really quite counterintuitive to us in our cultural and economic setting, but the biblical call to both is clear.”
While it may or may not be surprising that the MB Herald is promoting Richard Foster, it’s no news that Gerry Ediger is recommending this Quaker and his spiritual discplines, which involve far more than fasting and living simply. This is not simply some innocuous random mention of Foster’s name. First of all, Ediger is no stranger to contemplative spiritual formation, and has even been teaching it a Canadian Mennonite University:
Courses offered in 2007-2008
10.390/3 Christian Spiritual Formation.
A course designed to help students deepen their spiritual formation in the context of their own Christian tradition. To this end students will conduct primary research into their own tradition of Christian spirituality in dialogue with other traditions. Participation in selected spiritual practices and a weekend retreat are expected. (Gerry Ediger)
Even before that, his articles revealed his interest in contemplative spirituality. Take the following excerpts, for example:
Spring 2005 article:
Mennonites, and with them Mennonite Brethren, are joining the growing discourse around Christian spirituality. C. Arnold Snyder’s new book, Following in the Footsteps of Christ: The Anabaptist Tradition,1 is recent evidence of this. Spiritual formation is also finding renewed interest in seminary curricula. Mennonite pastors are discussing contemplative prayer and seeking training as spiritual directors. The first issue of Vision: A Journal for Church and Theology,2 jointly sponsored by institutions of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA, was dedicated to the theme of spirituality.
–A Sketch of Early Mennonite Brethren Spirituality
Fall 2005 article:
Creating this space can signal to the Holy Spirit that we are open to God; it may even help us see that God is already there in our experience, waiting for us to see and accept love and grace.
Such intention, patiently accepted and activated can and will lead to other healthful spiritual practices suited to our needs and disposition. We may experiment with lectio divina (divine reading), an approach to Bible reading that blends reading, prayer, meditation and silence.
Another option is to journal our prayers and, when we have finished writing, sit in silence to hear—and perhaps even record—what the Holy Spirit says to us in response. A half hour spent Saturday evening or earlier Sunday morning praying for the coming worship service and meditating on the sermon text, if it is known, can renew our experience of worship. Taking the risk of meeting with a spiritual director can open our eyes to God’s presence in our experience and enhance our awareness of how we respond to that Presence. Books such as Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, Dallas Willard’s The Spirit of the Disciplines or Marjorie Thompson’s Soul Feast (all contemporary Protestant writers on Christian spirituality) can encourage us with the many options before us in addressing our spiritual hunger.
No two spiritual pathways are alike, but each of our pathways opens before us as we clear space in our daily life—space for attention to God and to the connecting such attention brings to our awareness of God and others around us.
– Clearing space, paying attention, being connected
*Richard Foster is not an evangelical believer, but a Quaker.
*The above article, originally published in The Blazer, Canadian Mennonite University, Fall 2005, also appears here: http://www.christianity.ca/NETCOMMUNITY/Page.aspx?pid=3736]
Obviously, Ediger has been a disciple of Foster and his disciplines for quite some time. More recently, Ediger was one of the endorsers of a book called Longing for God Seven Paths of Christian Devotion by Richard Foster and Gayle Beebe. In the September 2009 MB Herald, semi-retired CMU professor Ediger (who was teaching courses in Christian Spirituality at the time), highly recommended this book.
“Foster and Beebe certainly captured my interest and spiritual imagination as I used this book for my morning quiet time. I recommend it highly. The book is also available as an abridged audio book–a great resource for the morning commute or a road trip.”
—Gerry Ediger, Mennonite Brethren Herald, September 2009
It has been said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but as evangelical Christians, shouldn’t we all examine the books of spiritual teachers by the same standard (God’s Word) and come to the same conclusions? In this biblical review of Foster’s book which Ediger so highly esteems, Pastor Gary Gilley concludes:
Foster and Beebe can tell us that there are seven paths to Christian devotion but in reality most of these are dead ends at best. Lack of biblical authority and majoring on esoteric experience, these highlighted mystics have led countless thousands astray with their extra-biblical and unbiblical teachings. Foster and Beebe do not understand this danger and instead paint these false teachings as spiritual guides and masters. The book is, for the most part, a collage of apostates and their heretical teachings. Included are: Origen, Thomas Merton, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Julian of Norwich, George Fox, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, among others. It has value as a reference tool but not as a guide to spiritual devotion and life.
–Longing for God by Richard J. Foster and Gayle D. Beebe
Written by Gary Gilley
Exactly what kind of mindful discipleship is being promoted in the MB Herald? Is this another example of contemplative spirituality slipping in between the lines and through the cracks?
Speaking of mindfulness, wouldn’t it be refreshing to see some brave Mennonites (who have filled their minds with God’s Word instead of Richard Foster’s words) follow the example of Menno Simons and speak their minds to those in MB leadership and say that enough is enough?!
Some Foster facts to be mindful of:
RICHARD FOSTER AND HIS 100 SPIRITUAL CLASSICS (Devotional Masters)
Richard Foster—Celebration of Deception
by Bob DeWaay
RICHARD FOSTER: THE BIBLE A RELIABLE GUIDE DESPITE INCONSISTENCIES
Richard Foster’s Renovare Turns to Panentheist Mystic Richard Rohr and Emerging Darling Phyllis Tickle For New Book Project
RICHARD FOSTER A RELIABLE SOURCE FOR PROPER CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY?
Richard Foster and the Be Still DVD
Mindfulness: no-mind over matter
By Marcia Montenegro, November 2010