Saturday, August 11, 2007

Richard Foster's suggested studying

There is a fine chapter in Foster's Celebration of Discipline under the 'Inner Disciplines' category on the discipline of study. Foster goes to great lengths to point out that there are both verbal and nonverbal "books" to be studied in life, and that relationships and nature(among other things) have as much to teach us as any piece of literature. However, he does not undermind the teaching potential of the "verbal" books by any means, and goes so far as to make a sort of list of literature that he finds apt for studying. He begins, of course, by listing the Bible. What followed was a small library of Christian classics:

The Confessions of St. Augustine
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis
The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence
The Little Flowers of St.Francis by Brother Ugolino
Pensées by Pascal
Table Talks, Martin Luther
Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin
The Journal of George Fox
Journal of John Wesley
A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life by William Law
A Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly
The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Revelations of Divine Love, Juliana of Norwich
Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales
The Journal of John Woolman

Foster then goes on to mention several "men and women from many walks of life... thinkers [who] have unusual perception into the human predicament" whom he would also commend for studying. Among them:

Lao-tse
Zarathustra
Shakespeare
Milton
Cervantes
Dante
Tolstoy
Dostoevski
Dag Hammarskjöld

I really found the authors tacked on to the end of the list refreshing. I was also glad to see that fiction was not omitted from the list, as it has a unique ability to speak to us on many of the most relevent 'non-fiction' happenings of life.
Foster concludes by exhorting us to not fret over the books we've not read; the list, he says, is only to give the reader a glimpse of the works out there that can help you on your journey and that the point "is not reading many books, but experiencing what we do read."

Celebration of Discipline itself is a fine read, and that is probably not least because of Richard Foster's extensive reliance not only on scripture but also on the works of many great writers and thinkers out there. At times Foster may seem a bit, well, ridiculous in his teachings, but that is probably a product more of the eyes molded by society and culture with which he is read than the weaknesses in his ideas. I'd certainly suggest Celebration of Discipline to anyone whose is curious about the spiritual disciplines and not afraid of where that curiosity may take them.

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