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Richard Foster Quaker Writer on Christian Spirituality by Bill Samuel Originally published July 1, 2001 at Suite101.com
Richard J. Foster photo used by permission of Renovaré
Perhaps the best known Quaker in the world today is Richard J. Foster, although many are at most dimly aware that he is associated with the Religious Society of Friends. He is clearly one of the leading contemporary writers and speakers on Christian spirituality. While maintaining his ties with Friends, Foster deliberately speaks to a much broader audience.
Richard Foster grew up among Evangelical Friends. In adult life, he has been a Friends pastor and a professor of theology at Friends University among the many positions he has held. In his books and speaking, he frequently makes reference to Quaker historical figures and his own Quakerism.
Foster is the founder of Renovaré, which "is committed to working for the renewal of the Church of Jesus Christ in all her multifaceted expressions." Renovaré holds regional and local conferences bringing together Christians across denominational lines for renewal. Renovaré invites people to commit themselves to the following covenant:
In utter dependence upon Jesus Christ as my everliving Savior, Teacher, Lord, and Friend, I will seek continual renewal through:
Spiritual gifts, and
Acts of service.
Foster is best known as an author. I find that he writes from a deep center, and has a gift for expressing spiritual truths in down-to-earth language which makes it easier for people to incorporate these truths into their lives. In this article, I will cover briefly three of his books, and then list other writings. You can click on the title links to find publishing information, and to purchase the books.
Celebration of Discipline
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.
Celebration of Discipline explores the classic Christian disciplines (spiritual practices). Foster classifies these into inward, outward and corporate disciplines. He provides practical examples of how everyday Christians can incorporate these disciplines into their lives.
Celebration of Discipline is also available in an abridged audio edition, read by Foster himself. Since the book is widely used in small study groups, these aids for study groups are also available:
In Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, Foster explores 21 different types of Christian prayer. He divides these into three movements of prayer, moving inward, upward and outward, which correspond to seeking transformation, seeking intimacy and seeking ministry. For those of us (probably almost all of us) who have found difficulty with prayer in at least some of its forms, this book is an invaluable aid. It helps us understand more concretely what each type of prayer is about. It includes many helpful examples and exercises.
Streams of Living Water
The theme of Streams of Living Water is expressed by its subtitle, Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith. Foster divides these traditions into six streams - contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical and incarnational. Most of us probably identify with one or two of these. Foster shows that all are true streams flowing from the fountain of Jesus Christ. He helps us understand them all. In doing this, he profiles both biblical and later characters who are examplars of these traditions. Foster's aim is to promote a balanced understanding of the Christian faith, seeing these streams as necessary complements to one another rather than competitive. I believe this wholistic approach is one of the keys to true renewal of the Christian faith. Streams of Living Water is also available in an abridged audio edition, read by Foster himself.