Richard Foster Promotes Spiritual Direction: Another Mediator


For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5

Spiritual direction provides an “address” on the house of your life so that you can be “addressed” by God in prayer. When this happens, your life begins to be transformed in ways you hadn’t planned or counted on, for God works in wonderful and surprising ways.
~ Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith

My final post (certainly not my final area of concern) regarding Richard Foster deals with his promotion of Spiritual Direction. The above quote is taken from Renovare’s site on Spiritual Direction. The Henri Nouwen Society describes Nouwen’s spirituality as follows,

“Henri Nouwen was a spiritual thinker, a synthesist and one of the first in our time, along with Thomas Merton, to consciously develop a “theology of the heart” and to lay this down as a template for both clergy and lay persons. Henri had an unusual capacity to write about the life of Jesus and the love of God in ways that have inspired countless people to trust God more fully.

He showed, and continues to show, a generation of ministers, teachers and seekers how one’s gifts are to be placed at the service of those whom God places in our path. He gives us a model for building the kinds of relationships and communities that will allow each person to find his or her personal mission.

As Merton before him, Henri always stressed the relational. He writes very directly about our contemporary longings for meaning, belonging, and intimacy and, at the same time, integrates this with a powerful vision of service and social justice. Fr. Nouwen often used the three core themes of solitude, community, and compassion to help people enter into a fresh vision of the spiritual life.

“I believe you can look at solitude, community, and ministry as three disciplines by which we create space for God. If we create space in which God can act and speak, something surprising will happen. You and I are called to these disciplines if we want to be disciples.
–Henri J. M. Nouwen

As a side note, you will find books by Henri Nouwen recommended by Rick Warren’s Saddleback under the “spiritual formation” heading. (along with a few other questionable authors-but that’s a post for another day.) Of course, we must also point out what is said of Thomas Merton,

“During his last years, he became deeply interested in Asian religions, particularly Zen Buddhism, and in promoting East-West dialogue. After several meetings with Merton during the American monk’s trip to the Far East in 1968, the Dali Lama praised him as having a more profound understanding of Buddhism than any other Christian he had known. It was during this trip to a conference on East-West monastic dialogue that Merton died, in Bangkok on December 10, 1968, the victim of an accidental electrocution. The date marked the twenty-seventh anniversary of his entrance to Gethsemani.”

On Richard Foster’s ministry site, Renovare, we read the following about Spiritual Direction,

“The spiritual direction relationship includes a director and directee, with the director often being called a “spiritual director.” While different directors have different approaches to their practice, typically she takes an active/passive role, simply creating the environment for the direction to take place. The director intentions to do more listening than talking, asking leading and, sometimes, probing questions as needed and appropriate. Times of silence are apropos and welcomed. There is very little actual direction given as this is commonly understood. Rather, the spiritual director convenes a conversation during which a direction will be determined by the directee and director together, co-laboring with God. Both directee and director explore together what God might be doing in the areas being discussed.”

The first obvious question to be begged is, “Is this Biblical?” What Scriptural support is there that anyone needs to be a co-laborer with God to help another “explore what God might be doing” in the areas discussed? Certainly, seeking Godly counsel is spoken of in Scripture.

Proverbs 11:14 tells us,

“Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

Is that perhaps all this is? Is this simply seeking a counselor to aide in making wise and godly decisions in life? Well, let’s let Renovare answer that question.

While the lines may be blurry at times depending on the style of the spiritual director or present circumstances, spiritual direction is different from pastoral counseling. People usually enter a counseling relationship because something is wrong with life. Counseling tends to be crisis-oriented or problem-driven. Solving particular problems or handling specific crises is not the goal of spiritual direction. The spiritual direction relationship takes the long view. It looks for how God is working, calling, prodding, and inviting us to new ways of being with Jesus in the midst of our circumstances. It focuses on building an intimate relationship with God over a lifetime, through all the problems, crises, joys, and blessings.

So Spiritual Direction is NOT pastoral counsel or Biblical guidance. Okay, what is it then? We know Henri Nouwen has told us it is putting an “address” on the house of our life. So, does this mean that God can’t find me if I don’t practice this discipline? Does this mean He needs the help of this “spiritual director” to “co-labor” with Him to assist Him in finding His children?

In the account of Zacheaus in Luke, Zacchaeus confesses, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” Luke 19:8b after which Jesus declares: “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:9b-10

Here we see a confession of repentance and a declaration by Christ that Salvation has come to the house of Zaccheaus since Zachaeus’ confession has revealed him to be a son of Abraham. We see Jesus declare that He came to seek and save the lost. Jesus didn’t need any help from a co-laborer to find the house of Zacheaus. Jesus doesn’t need a co-laborer today to find any of His children. Christ is the Sovereign God and Creator of the Universe, and His children hear His voice. He needs no help from anyone to find the “address” of His children.

To further emphasize that this “spiritual direction” is not one in which a brother or sister in Christ is assisting another brother or sister in counseling or guidance from a perspective of Biblical wisdom, read the following guidelines for appropriate spiritual direction:

Other items for consideration include:
• Direction sessions are usually one hour in length, once per month and can be held anywhere conducive to intentional conversation—a quiet office, coffee house, or park bench.
• The director may or may not give the directee a spiritual practice to work with between sessions.
• There is a place for group spiritual direction, but the classical model and that in mind here is the one-to-one interaction between director and directee.
• Many spiritual directors will discourage the relationship extending beyond the direction sessions so that they might remain objective and not get caught up in personal feelings and opinions.

So clearly this is not a situation where Godly counsel and brotherly edification, encouragement, admonition, and prayer support is taking place. No! This is mediation; plain and simple! This is seeking a human being to act as a mediator between you and God. That, my friends, is strictly forbidden by Scripture! And why not? Why do we NEED a mediator when we have Jesus Christ, the great High priest?

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5

how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:14-15

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly[a] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

Nancy Almodovar, author of, A Modern Ninety-Five: Questions For Today’s Evangelicals, writes in Through the Doctrines of the Bible in a Year,

“Scripture also guides us in our daily lives. Many people wonder what they are supposed to do with their lives and look for signs and visions or someone coming to them telling them, “God told me…” But that would mean we still needed a mediator to arbitrate between us and God in order to “hear” from God. Our gracious heavenly Father has not left us in the hands of others but has given us all things necessary for life and godliness.”

John Calvin’s commentary on 1 Timothy 2:5 so clearly lays out the problem with Richard Foster’s and others’ endorsement of using some human “spiritual director” as a mediator between us and God.

“When he declares that he is “a man,” the Apostle does not deny that the Mediator is God, but, intending to point out the bond of our union with God, he mentions the human nature rather than the divine. This ought to be carefully observed. From the beginning, men, by contriving for themselves this or that mediator, departed farther from God; and the reason was, that, being prejudiced in favor of this error, that God was at a great distance from them, they knew not to what hand to turn. Paul remedies this evil, when he represents God as present with us; for he has descended even to us, so that we do not need to seek him above the clouds. The same thing is said in Hebrews 4:15,

“We have not a high priest who cannot sympathize within our infirmities, for in all things he was tempted.”

And, indeed, if this were deeply impressed on the hearts of all, that the Son of God holds out to us the hand of a brother, and that we are united to him by the fellowship of our nature, in order that, out of our low condition, he may raise us to heaven; who would not choose to keep by this straight road, instead of wandering in uncertain and stormy paths! Accordingly, whenever we ought to pray to God, if we call to remembrance that exalted and unapproachable majesty, that we may not be driven back by the dread of it, let us, at the same time, remember “the man Christ,” who gently invites us, and takes us, as it were, by the hand, in order that the Father, who had been the object of terror and alarm, may be reconciled by him and rendered friendly to us. This is the only key to open for us the gate of the heavenly kingdom, that we may appear in the presence of God with confidence.

I think one of the fundamental issues with Foster as I continue to read his teachings and writings is he is so opposed to the total depravity of man, that he must contrive to use all manner of other methods to get to God rather than the simple gospel message of repent and believe. I’ve outlined this problem in his theological understanding here and here.

Calvin goes on to state in his commentary on 1 Timothy 2:5, ”

Hence we see, that Satan has, in all ages, followed this course, for the purpose of leading men astray from the right path. I say nothing of the various devices by which, before the coming of Christ, he alienated the minds of men, to contrive methods of approaching to God. At the very commencement of the Christian Church, when Christ, with so excellent a pledge, was fresh in their remembrance, and while the earth was still ringing with that delightfully sweet word from his mouth,

“Come to me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28,)

there were, nevertheless, some persons skilled in deception, who thrust angels into his room as mediators; which is evident from Colossians 2:18. But what Satan, at that time, contrived secretly, he carried to such a pitch, during the times of Popery, that scarcely one person in a thousand acknowledged Christ, even in words, to be the Mediator. And while the name was buried, still more was the reality unknown.

Now that God has raised up good and faithful teachers, who have labored to restore and bring to the remembrance of men what ought to have been one of the best-known principles of our faith, the sophists of the Church of Rome have resorted to every contrivance for darkening a point so clear. First, the name is so hateful to them, that, if any one mentions Christ as Mediator, without taking notice of the saints, he instantly falls under a suspicion of heresy. But, because they do not venture to reject altogether what Paul teaches in this passage, they evade it by a foolish exposition, that he is called “one Mediator,” not “the only Mediator.” As if the Apostle had mentioned God as one out of a vast multitude of gods; for the two clauses are closely connected, that “there is one God and one Mediator;” and therefore they who make Christ one out of many mediators must apply the same interpretation in speaking of God. Would they rise to such a height of impudence, if they were not impelled by blind rage to crush the glory of Christ?

There are others who think themselves more acute, and who lay down this distinction, that Christ is the only Mediator of redemption, while they pronounce the saints to be mediators of intercession. But the folly of these interpreters is reproved by the scope of the passage, in which the Apostle speaks expressly about prayer. The Holy Spirit commands us to pray for all, because our only Mediator admits all to come to him; just as by his death he reconciled all to the Father. And yet they who thus, with daring sacrilege, strip Christ of his honor, wish to be regarded as Christians.

In addition to the violation as Christ being our ONLY MEDIATOR, I invite you to watch this PBS documentary on Spiritual Direction. I apologize as the video won’t embed properly in my post for some reason (WP experts I invite your help🙂, but please just follow the link. You will quickly see that the real aim of Spiritual Direction is a combining of ALL FAITHS into one. In this video you will hear the following:

“SEVERSON: At this spiritual retreat, they learn how different faith groups reach out to God, including the Muslim prayer of Salat, always facing Mecca five times a day.

RAHMAN: An Islamic prayer is essentially about praising God and thanking God, and when we bow to God, the wonderful saying is: one prostration of prayer to God liberates you, frees you, from a thousand prostrations to your ego.

SEVERSON: The Sufi’s whirling dervish, performed here by Reverend Karen Lindquist, the Interfaith Church’s co-founder, is also a mode of prayer, although it requires a life-long commitment.

FALCON: One of the benefits of ritual is it gives us a form, for example, the ritual of prayer. But every ritual that we do in our lives also has us going on automatic. So there comes a time where I might be doing it outwardly, I might be saying the words, but I’m no longer conscious of them.

Woman speaking at retreat: “Months later, I realized it was an act of surrender to God, that my life is not in my own hands.”

SEVERSON: A common theme among spiritual directors is that first it’s necessary to value and love oneself as God’s creation.

MARQUIS: So what I’ve been doing is using the Buddhist prayer to quiet me down, quiet my thoughts down and open myself up, and then the Sufi prayer to just reassure and love my own heart so that I can feel really full and complete, and then from that place I can pray for people that are struggling, people that are sick, people that I feel like need some extra love.

SEVERSON: Even Sister Joyce Cox, in describing her method of personal or centered prayer, finds herself borrowing the language originally of the ancient Indian Vedic tradition.

COX: What I do in centering prayer is I choose a mantra, which is my sacred word, doesn’t have to have any meaning for me. What I simply do is return to that sacred word as a method of intention and just sit.

SEVERSON: Liz Ellmann says it’s a sign of our times that so many people have turned from searching for material things to the pursuit of spirituality, and, she says, it’s a good thing.”

Brothers and sisters, we’ve no need of another mediator: dead or alive. We know that these men and women fumble around in the dark trying to discern the spiritual things because the natural man can not discern them, but this ought not be so of us who have been bought by the blood of Christ and given every spiritual blessing. I pray that my brothers and sisters will consider the gravity with which you ought to take your responsibility to study and know the Word of God in this dark age of falling away and apostasy. Be on guard and verify EVERY THING that you are being told is from God. Test ALL THE SPIRITS. Do not believe because someone can point to a so-called “rich tradition” of prayer or practice, that it is a “tradition” that is grounded in the Word of God. Be warned and turn from the evils of contemplative prayer, lectio divina, and spiritual formation. Do not be dragged back to Rome, but study to show yourselves approved dear ones.

I also point you to several other resources for your own research into the true intent of Spiritual Direction. It is most certainly not of the Holy Spirit for we know that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is this:

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. John 16:13-14

Additional direct sources for Spiritual Direction:

Renovare

Yukon Angel Productions

Religion & Ethics

Spiritual Directors International

Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation

One thought on “Richard Foster Promotes Spiritual Direction: Another Mediator

  1. Pingback: the most essential distinction: being content or being contentious « JRFibonacci's blog: partnering with reality

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