Let me first state that there is enough in Richard Foster’s teaching on contemplative prayer to rightly assert his teachings are false and against the Word of God so as I continue to write additional reasons for why I reject him as a legitimate teacher of biblical truths, understand that these are just additional red flags in his teaching that support the assertion that he is a false teacher.
In this post I wish to make a case that his endorsement of spiritual direction and spiritual directors is directly contrary to the Scriptures which teach us that Christ is our only mediator.
Paul in his letter to Timothy clearly states,
“1First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the manChrist Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” -1 Timothy 2:1-6
The writer of Hebrews tells us,
“14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify ourconscience from dead works to serve the living God. 15Therefore 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.16For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. Hebrews 9:14-16
23and to the assemblyof the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Hebrews 12:23-24
Now, let’s examine what exactly spiritual direction is and why it violates this principle of Christ being our mediator and high priest. According to Renovare’s definition of Spiritual Direction, (I posted the entire definition as found here on Renovare’s site because I think it is important for you to get a real sense of just what it is that Spiritual Direction claims).
“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
While the phrase “spiritual direction” may sound a bit lofty, it is simply a relationship through which one person assists another in attending to the presence and call of God in all of life. Though not always called by this name, spiritual direction has been a vital ministry in many streams of the Church for hundreds of years.
Spiritual direction is for anyone yearning for God. Sometimes this desire appears as a sense of longing for something greater or a sense of discontent with the status quo. For others this pining is more focused, rising from a clear understanding that a sense of God’s presence is missing from particular parts of life.
Of course, an underlying assumption and basis for spiritual direction is that God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is actively drawing us into the Eternal Presence. God is the one, true “director,” working constantly, actively, powerfully in the very midst of our ordinary, everyday routines and life circumstances. A spiritual direction relationship is one way to help us pay attention to this Divine work. It interrupts our typical routine long enough to help us notice God’s wooing of us and become more deeply aware of God’s presence with us.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.
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.
What else is that but a description of a man or woman attempting to act as the Holy Spirit in another’s life? Notice it does not say that they come alongside and help you with Biblical understanding or counseling. There is no indication that they are there to help you understand and learn what God has already said in his revealed and closed cannon of Scripture with regard to His will for your life. It is very clear that their purpose is to guide you into some sort of mystical prayer experience and to somehow interpret for you what it is that God is doing and saying in your life. I think the most blasphemous assertion is that this person is “co-laboring with God” to help in the direction of your soul as well as the assertion that “Spiritual Direction is for anyone yearning for God”. Notice again, there is no mention of the necessity for this “anyone” to be a regenerated believer in Jesus Christ, no need for being born again, sealed with the Spirit, or regenerated in order to enter into the presence of God. Again, I stand by my previous articles when I say that Foster does not believe it is necessary for a person to be born by the Spirit into the Kingdom of God, rather he endorses a works based philosophy whereby anyone can enter into a relationship with God via the many extra biblical means that he promotes.