“Celebration of Discipline”: Introduction – Pitfalls regarding Spiritual Disciplines


There are a few pitfalls that Foster lists with regards to the Spiritual Disciples (he lists seven). (Foster, 1989 (First edition: 1980))

The first pitfall that he mention, is the temptation to turn the Spiritual Disciplines into laws. Legalism can choke the heart and soul out of walking with God very quickly. The rigid person is not the disciplined person. Rigidity is a sure sign that the Disciplines have been understood wrong. The disciplined person can do what needs to be done whenever it needs to be done. He can live in the appropriateness of the hour. He can easily respond to the moving of the Spirit. Disciplines are perceptions into life; they are not regulations to control life. (Foster, 1989 (First edition: 1980))

The second pitfall that he mention, is the failure to understand the social implications of the Spiritual Disciplines. The Disciplines are not a set of pious exercises for the devout. It is a trumpet call to obedient living in a sin-racked world. They call us to wage peace in a world that is obsessed with war, to plead for justice in a world that is plagued with inequity and to stand with the poor and disinherited in a world that has forgotten its neighbour. (Foster, 1989 (First edition: 1980))

The third pitfall that he mention, is to view the Disciplines as virtuous in themselves. The Disciplines have no virtue, it possess no righteousness and it contain no rectitude in and of themselves. The Pharisees did not realize this important truth. The Disciplines only place us before God – they themselves don’t make us righteous before Him. (Foster, 1989 (First edition: 1980))

The fourth pitfall that he mention, is to centre on the Disciplines and not on Jesus. The aim of the Disciplines is to realize a “greater good”. This “greater good” is Jesus Christ. He must remain the focus of our attention, and the end of (all of) our quests. (Foster, 1989 (First edition: 1980))

The fifth pitfall that he mention, is the tendency to want to isolate and elevate one Discipline to the exclusion or neglect of the others. We have to realize that the Disciplines are like the Fruit of the Spirit – they comprise a single reality. Sometimes we become intrigued with one of the Disciplines (like fasting). We start to think of that single Discipline, even to the point of thinking that it forms the whole picture. The Spiritual Disciplines are an organic unity and a single path; we have to remember that. (Foster, 1989 (First edition: 1980))

The sixth pitfall that he mention, is to think that a certain list of Disciplines that someone gives is the final number that exists. There may not be an exhaustive list of Spiritual Disciplines given by any one person. No one can confine the Spirit of God. Christ is greater than any one persons’ attempt to describe His workings with His children. He can’t be confined to any (one or few) system(s), no matter how worthy that system seems. (Foster, 1989 (First edition: 1980))

The seventh pitfall that he mention, is to study the Disciplines without actually experiencing them. It is quite safe to discuss the Disciplines in an abstract way and to argue and debate their nature or validity. But to actually step out and experience them, is threatening us to the core of our being. Yet, there is no other way. We need to move into this life with the Spirit – prayerfully, slowly, and perhaps even with many fears and questions! (Foster, 1989 (First edition: 1980))

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