I am currently researching the historical development of Spiritual Formation/Christian mysticism/contemplative spirituality in two wings of the Protestant religion: the evangelical wing and the mainline/liberal wing. Richard Foster “broke through” to the evangelical wing in 1978 with his book “Celebration of Discipline.” But Thomas Merton had “broken through” to the mainline/liberal wing earlier on, with his Eastern/New Age practices.
Following are some excerpts of an Apprising Ministries article, in which Ken Silva discusses the influence of Merton upon Foster. Click here for Silva’s entire article.
Ken Silva writes:
In his fine series called Mysticism, which I highly recommend, Dr. Gary Gilley did great job whittling down this massive subject to its most important elements. Regarding Foster’s work Gilley brings out just how deeply he was influenced by mystic Thomas Merton:
“Foster cites and/or quotes Merton on at least nine separate occasions in Celebration of Discipline, yet Merton was not a Christian as far as we can tell. He was a twentieth-century Roman Catholic who had so immersed himself in Buddhism that he claimed he saw no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity and intended to become as good a Buddhist as he could.
[Ken Silva continues to quote Gilley:]
But despite his doctrinal views and New Age leanings Foster considers Merton’s Contemplative Prayer, “A must book,” and says of Merton, “[He] has perhaps done more than any other twentieth-century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood.” Merton wrote, “If only [people] could see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…. I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.” (Online source)”
Click here for Gary Gilley’s series of articles on mysticism can be found at:
And here is a document about Thomas Merton, posted by Manny Silva, originally written by David Cloud.