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Have Christians Rejected Pilgrimage The Israelites Knew It David Knew It The Writer Of Hebrews Knew It John Bunyan Knew It Blessed Are Those Whose Strength Is In You They Have Set Their Hearts On Pilgrimage Psalm We Are Strangers And Pilgrims Here We Re Passing Through This Place, On A Sacred Journey To Somewhere Else Charles Foster Explores The Approaching Of Each Day As A Pilgrimage A Chance To Move One Step Closer To Our Ultimate Goal And To Experience Tastes Of That Goal, Even Now, Through Prayerful Awareness, Study And MeditationCulling From His Many Journeys Across The Globe, Foster Exhibits The Very Definition Of Pilgrimage A Journey To The Most Holy Locations Of Our Faith This Is At Once Both Internal And External, And The Author Shows Us How The Two IntersectA Best Selling Author And Barrister In Oxford, Foster Has Spent Much Of His Life Testing The Limits Of Human And Spiritual Endurance


10 thoughts on “The Sacred Journey

  1. says:

    Every so often you come across a book that provides the proverbial yet necessary slap across the face, showing you things that were always there but were not put together or were otherwise missed In the end, you might not agree with everything said in the book, but you walk away thankful to have been challenged and to see things a bit differently So it was for me in reading The Sacred Journey by Charles Foster The book is part really, the conclusion of The Ancient Practices Series, a series of seven books published by Thomas Nelson regarding seven practices prevalent in early forms of Christianity fixed prayer, sabbath, fasting, tithing, sacred meal, liturgical year, sacred journey To this end the book is supposed to discuss the ancient practice of pilgrimage The subject gets discussed, and in context, but this book is far than that This book is a boldly written attempt to challenge the reader to re think everything he or she has ever thought regarding the nature of God, physicality and spirituality, and the sacred in the world, as they all relate to pilgrimage One will read the book and perhaps mostly agree or not agree much at all, but the author s forcefulness, bluntness, and other stylistic forms demand some kind of visceral reaction The book is quite well written and engaging throughout.The author is really making two arguments within the book One involves a theology of pilgrimage, and the other involves pilgrimage itself Both have merits but end up getting weighed down by their extremism.The theology of pilgrimage is quite compelling He returns to Cain and Abel and uses the story as a means of understanding a tension throughout the rest of the story Cain as the farmer, the settled, the one who will found the first city Abel the shepherd, the nomad The shepherd is accepted the farmer is not the farmer kills the shepherd in his punishment and isolation the farmer and his descendants begin what we deem civilization Abram is then called to wander as a nomad the Israelites will leave Egypt and be led to YHWH s presence in the wilderness, the God of the nomads among nomads Even in the land they are to observe the Feast of Booths, living in temporary tents Jesus goes on pilgrimage in utero to Bethlehem and then immediately after His birth to Egypt and back To whom is the message of His birth given by angels but to shepherds Jesus does not grow up in the city Jerusalem but in nowhere Nazareth, outside the city, on the margins of civilization John, His compatriot, exemplifies the outcast, living in the desert, eating honey and locusts, condemning aspects of the establishment His ministry begins in the wilderness and is a nomadic ministry His call is to follow Him Go Walk He calls people like James, John, and Matthew to just get up and follow Him, and they do so immediately, leaving everything One can find other examples Nimrod s cities Assur and Babylon and Sodom and their negative associations Jacob, Moses, David as shepherds and thus nomads Israel eating the Passover with the expectation of going on a journey Foster is certainly on to something, much to the chagrin of all who find comfort in civilization God, in Scripture, most certainly seems to be a God on the move How many times have we heard the exhortations to go and follow Jesus, to be sojourners and exiles, but never really stopped to think what that would mean in literal, physical terms Foster s other argument, often unhelpfully intertwined with the theology of pilgrimage, involves pilgrimage itself He tries to have his cake and eat it too to merge scientific consensus about human origins with a thoroughgoing seriousness about the Biblical text to suggest that humans are designed for nomadism In this analysis, man began being on the move from his east African origins Even when he lives in civilization he has the urge to get up and go out out to nature, out on the road trip, etc He traces this impulse through the major religions of the world pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Jews and Christians, and Muslims , holy places for Christians, the Hajj of Muslims, pilgrimages to holy sites for Hindus and Buddhists and speaks of how to find the sacred within the world As the Cain vs Abel story is the backdrop for the theology of pilgrimage, so gnosticism vs orthodoxy becomes the backdrop for the value of pilgrimage A pilgrimage is an experience it breaks down barriers it is inescapably physical, and leads to a level of dependence on others and appreciation for the sacred in the physical Foster s approach with these arguments can certainly lead down the road to complete ecumenism and an acceptance of the physical to the extent of idolatry Nevertheless, they are arguments that must be taken seriously A major difficulty with the presentation of the arguments is its extremism Foster attempts to come to grips with the presentation of the church as the New Jerusalem in Revelation, but misses what could be perhaps one of the most compelling points about the Biblical presentation of life in his otherwise distaste for what civilization has done to man It s not as simple as civilization vs barbarism, or nomadism vs settled life Yes, there are paradigmatically bad cities Sodom, Babylon but there is always Jerusalem, the Zion, where the Nomadic YHWH causes His name to dwell Jesus is raised in Jerusalem He ascends from Jerusalem the first proclamation of the message of the Kingdom is in Jerusalem While the Apostles and others go out and wander, preaching the Gospel, they primarily do so in cities And some cease from wandering Philip goes to Samaria, along the Mediterranean coast, but then stays put in Caesarea In terms of God and the Temple in Jerusalem, Foster attempts to put too much on David and Solomon s enthusiasm and misses the point nomadism is not the panacea it s made out to be For every example Foster gives of people being forced to civilize and give up the nomadic life, there are plenty of other examples of nomadic peoples who voluntarily gave up nomadism for settled life the Arameans in Syria, the Chaldeans in Babylon, the Aryans in India, the Mongols in south Asia, let alone the Israelites themselves in Canaan Abraham is called on to wander but was promised land and thus stability the Israelites wandered but looked forward to settled life in Canaan Likewise, the Bible does not approve of nomadism for nomadism s sake Jacob the shepherd is preferred to Esau the hunter Further, pilgrimage isn t much of a pilgrimage without having a place from which to depart, a place toward which one is going, and places along the way And so we have the paradigm leaving to become a sojourner in order to obtain settlement Thus it was with Adam, Cain, and Abel so with Abraham indeed with Jesus and, clearly, with the Christian, for we are sojourners in this world in order to obtain our place in the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven in the next We are pilgrims heading for Zion, and much can be learned and gained in that journey The Sacred Journey is a necessary tonic for civilization and the insistent justification of civilization that permeates our culture Foster shows that one cannot remove the journey, not just spiritually but also physically, from the story of Scripture he also makes the best possible case that can be made for the physical practice of pilgrimage, to just get up and go His warnings against gnosticism the tendency to over spiritualize and under physicalize many aspects of faith is good to heed Nevertheless, civilization is not inherently evil it can be evil, but all of this is rather academic if humans never developed civilization and remained purely nomadic Just as one cannot excise the nomad and the pilgrim from Scripture, so also one cannot excise Jerusalem from it either We are supposed to understand ourselves as wanderers and sojourners now, and we should hesitate to make that wandering and sojourning merely spiritual Nevertheless, we look forward to wandering to a point, and making our pilgrimage to a destination the New Jerusalem, Zion, the assembled collective of those who are God s, in His presence forever in the resurrection Yes, life is what we learn on that journey, and Foster outlines the many excellent reasons to experience that journey to its full, but as with the pilgrimage, so with life whatever transformation we have during the journey, we are heading somewhere And that somewhere is not another journey The journey is only the means to the glorious End book received as part of an early review program


  2. says:

    I was excited to read Foster s idea on pilgrimage It s not a topic about which I ve studied much, and his credentials seemed sound However, I never made it through the third chapter I believe Foster s interpretation of scripture to be so misguided that I am actually surprised that Thomas Nelson agreed to publish it as a Christian spiritual growth title.In an effort to make his point, Foster defends pilgrimage in the first chapter not with Biblical references, but by showing how important it is to other religions, using Islam and Hindu in his defense He also appears to ignore scriptures contradictory to his belief For instance, he states, And God has an alarmingly clear preference for people who can t keep still, while not reconciling that belief with Ps 46 10, Be still, and know that I am God Foster also starts to rant about the evils of cities how they are man s abandonment of our original role as nomadic people But, once again, he chooses to ignore contradictory aspects of Scripture, such as the New Jerusalem which will be called God s city , or the fact that Jesus grew up in one place, not as a nomad Foster does not attempt to reconcile these verses with his theory, he simply doesn t address them.I could not read further when, on page 53, Foster admits that his belief is based on his experience, not necessarily a Biblical revelation It does not appear that Foster wrote a book about God s view of pilgrimage, but rather he used bits of the Bible to justify his own thoughts about it.


  3. says:

    My Opinion This is the first book on pilgrimage that I ve ever read Charles Foster had me laughing and thinking throughout this whole book It took me a long time to finish because it made me aware of myself and my beliefs Something that no book has ever done The Sacred Journey by Charles Foster is well written I was not bored with this book in fact the opposite is true His writing style is bold and blunt, something you might need to keep an open mind about This book is about the journey of man, religion and pilgrimage He writes throughout the book about different belief systems and how they involve pilgrimage He shares his own personal experiences with pilgrimage and explains his ideas about the importance of going on pilgrimage However, I found it a bit confusing and hard to follow at times, but that I think had a lot to do with me and not the book itself This topic is not something I would think would be easy to explain or discuss in a book This being the seventh in the series of books This is a book that makes you think With that being said, I say read this book and then read it again Maybe use the suggested reading in the book for a better understanding of pilgrimage By reading this book Charles Foster has made me want to be aware and understand what pilgrimage is all about.


  4. says:

    The Sacred Journey by Charles Foster is another book in the Ancient Practices Series edited by Phyllis Tickle I ve read several of these books and have really enjoyed them even the ones I ve had serious disagreements with Browse my blog for my other reviews related to this series The Sacred Journey is the book in the series that deals with pilgrimage In the book Mr Foster makes the point that we are either pilgrims or we are not I would agree with this point, though I think that all Christians to one degree or another are indeed pilgrims I found myself while reading this book wanting to just step out of my house and walk Reading Mr Foster s words gave me the strong desire to travel to Jerusalem to see the land in which the events I read about in Scripture took place, or to visit the great Cathedrals of Europe, or to spend time in a monastery, or even just spend time in an unfamiliar land walking the dusty trails and meeting people from all walks of life who are on a similar journey of faith Even if our faith may or may not be the same.Mr Foster paints a very romantic picture of pilgrimage, though honestly I don t even think this was his intent I think his desire was to paint a picture that was both true to the practice, realistic, and beautiful Not just romantic I think he succeeded but there certainly is an inherent beauty within this practice And it is one that I think has been lost through the centuries I understand why, as humans have a tendency to place the actual practices in the place of God and make our faith about the things we do, as opposed to allowing those things or practices lead us to the God we are to be drawing closer to That is what everything we do on our journey of faith is supposed to do If not, it is pointless The Sacred Journey is not particularly a Christian book, nor do I think it was meant to be This will bother some Christians Though it shouldn t take away from what I believe is the beauty of this practice Whether I agree on every theological point with Mr Foster is not important It is okay to learn from those we don t totally agree with, even if they may be of another faith Though I do believe Charles Foster would describe himself as a Christian I tend to think though, were I to sit down over coffee with Mr Foster, we would have several disagreements and this is okay.At the end of the day, I would recommend this book Many people will not like it Most folks in my religious tradition would say that pilgrimage is pointless, and the pilgrimage that matters is simply our journey of faith and how we live as Christians as aliens within the world I would say they may be right to a certain degree, still though, I think much can be learned from laying down all that we surround ourselves with in our daily lives and forsaking all of the day to day nonsense that we place so much importance on, and re centering ourselves around Christ and those things He has called us to do and reconnecting with Him on a very organic level I think setting out away from our day to day lives may help us see Him in all of creation, and in others, in a fresh way This may not be needed for you But for some, I think real benefits could be gained and we may just see ourselves and God in a whole new way Away from all of our stuff, or our busyness, we may just draw closer to Him as we see that ultimately it is all about Him not us This can be hard to see when we are so caught up in our own little lives.This book is not for everyone, but it may just be for you It may certainly be worth a read I for one am glad I read it.


  5. says:

    Charles Foster, The Sacred Journey Nashville, TN Thomas Nelson Press, 2010 , 230 pages including notes, an index and a study guide.For much of the Christian era, going on a pilgrimage was seen as a valid spiritual practice at least for a small percent of the faithful Christians would head to the Holy Lands, even after the Islamic invasion Later, as Jerusalem became a difficult destination, Christians would go to Rome or to Santiago or other places in Europe that were important to the faith, often to places where relics of the saints were found During the Reformation, Protestants discouraged this practice, thinking it silly for Christians to seek out relics or travel to holy sites where they felt they could be closer to God Yet, as Foster points out, human beings were created to walk and individual encounters with God seem to occur most often when we are less settled Further, when God summons, it s often a call for us to move or go somewhere think of Abram Foster encourages Protestants to reconsider pilgrimage as a spiritual practice He suggests that pilgrimages are a way to counter the ancient heresy of Gnosticism which is alive and well in our churches today The Gnostics attempt to separate the body which they see as corrupt from the spirit which they see as godly The struggles of a pilgrim merge together the body and spirit as one meets the challenges of the road Another benefit of the pilgrim is to look at the world in a fresh and new way with child like eyes which is easier when we are out of our comfort zones A third benefit of a pilgrimage is the community that one finds on the road Without the comforts of home, pilgrims are no longer divided by social castes and friendships abound as they learn to depend upon each other Although Foster writes from a Protestant Christian perspective, he draws from the larger Christian context as well as from other religious traditions By looking at other traditions, we see the universal need for human beings to reach out and search for meaning beyond ourselves Foster has many strong opinions that many Christians may find challenging if not offensive Early on he suggests there is a need for a new awakening and in which we should get rid of language that carries to much baggage, including the words God Foster prefers names like Holy One, Blessed be He or even the Hebrew Elohim and Christian after all, the faith was first known as The Way Foster also makes some bold claims such as suggesting that religion, like everything else, goes bad when imported into town and that Christianity is an Eastern religion that has had the misfortune to be particularly popular in the West Such hyperbole seems shocking, but they also encourage the reader to think and consider Foster s point of view.Personally, I found a lot to ponder within these pages and recommend this book, especially to those who are interested in exploring different spiritual practices As a way of disclosure, acknowledge I was given a copy of the book to review Further, I began reading this book with a certain presupposition toward pilgrimages A recent reread of my journal from the Appalachian Trail, I discovered that even a quarter of a century ago, I was struggling with the role pilgrimages play in faith development The Sacred Journey is the seventh book on ancient spiritual practices published by Thomas Nelson Press I received a copy of it for review from their Booksneeze program.


  6. says:

    Charles Foster tried really hard in writing this book He determined to write a book about the sacred journey, or Christian pilgrimage His main argument is that Christians are built to wander, they are built to go from place to place, never having a home while enjoying the minimalistic features of the journey Not only that, but God is particularly affectionate toward those who wander, toward the nomad Many things happen on the journey God encounters always take place, but sometimes in the unlikeliest of circumstances He did a wonderful job in pointing out that we re to see God in the midst of the journey no matter what journey we re on What he does, however, is give the sense of a person who is fed up with Christianity and who despises the city He doesn t say this per se, but this was the feeling and tone I got as I read this work Not only does he support his point from Christian literature and biblical texts, but also extensively quotes other religions about the importance of the journey It seems as though every other page is riddled with pronouncements against the cities in which we live He even points out from OT texts that God always had a heart toward the wanderer while judgement was always poured out in the city, the place of wickedness He supports his position even further by drawing attention to Bunyan s Pilgrim s Progress, which is a classic and is a story of a wanderer He uses this to show the importance of Christian pilgrimage, say to the Holy Land or some other physical location to experience God in a fresh way Nothing wrong with experiencing God in the midst of whatever journey we find ourselves per se But what Foster fails to recognize is that Bunyan s work was the story of a lifetime journey of Christian traveling through all of life until he finally reaches the Celestial City Christian s journey was not through physical places but those places were sins, temptations, and other various trials he had to pass through We are not called to go from place to place, wandering and wondering what is going to happen next We are called to settle down, build community with those around us, and see cities transformed with the gospel of Christ while being part of a local church The sacred journey isn t a one time trip to the Holy Land, but a way of life that we re to live until we reach the Heavenly City He writes with a Don Milleresque style, which works well for Don but not so well for Foster I like the effort he put into the book and the way he tried to make it sound, a little rough around the edges I applaud him for his break from the normal Christian style of writing But this book did nothing to convince me of the sacred journey I m to take to a physical location so I can experience God in a way that I never have previously Rather, I actually loved the chapter on the opponents of pilgrimage, solidifying my position even so, quoting extensively from the reformation period That chapter alone was worth the price of the book.


  7. says:

    The summer before my senior year of high school, I decided I wanted to go out for a varsity sport Though there were many reasons, they all boiled down to this I wanted to connect with my father You see growing up I knew my dad was a real manly kind of man He went loved hunting and fishing, fixed things around the house and worked on cars because he liked it I wasn t a huge fan of fishing I found it kind of boring, but at least you could read I didn t care for hunting same as fishing, but without the book and I really, really wasn t interested in rebuilding cars Dad would have to wait for my youngest sister to find a kindred spirit there It s not that I ever thought my dad was disappointed in me I knew he wasn t It was just that there weren t a lot of interests we had in common and I wanted of a connection with him.So, I asked around among friends on the different teams trying to find a sport that I had a chance of lettering in with only one season My friend Adam convinced me with this advice Running cross country is easy Step one start running that s it There is no step two Advice I would later hear eerily echoed by NPH s Barney on How I Met Your Mother I joined the team, I earned my varsity letter, got the jacket, connected a bit with my dad and learned that I hate running I d rather walk.For this reason, I was than a little excited about Charles Foster s entry in the Ancient Practices Series, The Sacred Journey I envisioned a solitary soul purposefully walking across deserts and scaling mountains.It didn t take long before I realized I had it all wrong.Foster s book is less about walking and about moving Moving from a place of normalcy in the name of God, in search of a place that feels sacred where we can experience God intimately, precisely and poignantly I very much enjoyed Foster s interweaving of his own experiences with the history of the importance of sacred journeys within the Christian tradition.I m not as big a fan of one of his repeated claims throughout his book, that God has a preference for the pilgrim and disdain for those who settle Though Foster points to Jesus status as a camping wanderer, I just don t buy that God hates the city God can work just as decidedly in transforming people in the city as He can on the road.In spite of my main issue with it, I recommend you pick up The Sacred Journey It will challenge you in a way that I imagine you haven t been challenged before It ll be good for you.Disclosure of Material Connection I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program I was not required to write a positive review The opinions I have expressed are my own I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


  8. says:

    This is the seventh book in the Ancient Practices Series This one is about pilgrimages written by an English wordsmith Jesus was a walker and all those who follow him must also be walkers in order to understand him deeply He includes scenes from his many experiences as a pilgrim and also tidbits from pilgrims of other religions The writing is excellent, the thoughts clear and easily read However, I found it quite Eurocentric but I suppose that was to be expected because pilgrimages seem to be common to European and Asian people than to those of us in North America His premise is that God is on the fringe of society, that Abel was his chosen favourite because God is at heart a nomad and dislikes cities which were developed by Cain Therefore, it is easier to encounter him while walking on pilgrimages He is definitely anti gnostic and makes several disparaging comments throughout about church practices he believes lean towards the gnostic tradition I agree with him in his statements that it is the journey that is the most important part of the pilgrimage, the feeling of being totally dependent upon God, the countryside, other pilgrams, and the goodness of hosts This is when life changing epiphanies will occur, not when you reach your destination The big difference between being a pilgrim or a tourist He does seem to pound home the idea that those of us who do not go on pilgrimages are missing a whole relationship with God and are second class Christians I must admit that by the end of the book I was quite annoyed with the implied superiority that I believed was coming through his words It struck me as interesting that his last chapter dealt with that exact comment from one of his friends I wasn t alone in my thoughts after all God is found in the messy parts of our lives but those of us who can t go on pilgrimages can also find him in our lives whether we are settlers or not.I received this book for review purposes from Book Sneeze and the publisher Thomas Nelson I was not required to post a favourable review.


  9. says:

    Charles Foster s The Sacred Journey is his case in support of Christian pilgrimage He goes into to detail about the history of pilgrimages, their various benefits, and their significant role in journeys of faith Foster is in full support of everyone taking a literal pilgrimage to somewhere one deems as holy The author describes his trip to the Holy Land, as well as giving countless examples of others pilgrimages I really liked this book, but I found a few problems with it.The first half of the book is the strongest due to being filled with theology and meaty thoughts to chew on However, when actually discussing the journey itself, Foster tries to compact this huge concept of which he has introduced.I personally would love to go on this pilgrimage he supports, but it seems very contextual for Foster himself Because I am a young woman, I am unable to do many of things he is able to do i.e travel at night I really wished he addressed this possibility better than simply tossing an obstacle in the last chapter Foster s writing seems to drift here and there without much warning about where he is going It is very scattered, but still very thought provoking I underlined something on nearly every page, so do not think you will walk away empty handed I found myself boxing off entire paragraphs reminding me of all the good, heavy parts of this book that make it worth the read I learned a lot, and am glad I read it the journey of reading this book was just like what a pilgrimage ought to be joyful with a thick blisters The Sacred Journey is the seventh book on ancient spiritual practices book series published by Thomas Nelson Press I received a free copy of it for review from their Booksneeze program.


  10. says:

    I have thoroughly enjoyed and grown with each book in this series And I am convinced that the ancient practices are the things that are needed if we are to regain our footing in our fast paced, materialistic, and narcissistic culture This book, like the rest, stretched my worldview, gave me an appreciation for my faith heritage, and gave me the desire to go on pilgrimage.A pilgrimage differs from a vacation trip as Communion Lord s Supper Eucharist differs from an after meal trip to Baskin Robbins A pilgrimage is a trip of searching for clarity, significance, or perhaps an encounter with God.I have been on one pilgrimage in my life and it was one of the most difficult and enriching things I have done And I intend write a memoir of my pilgrimage, the writing of the memoir may be a pilgrimage itself I hope to re learn or at least recall the significance of that trip.I read this book hoping it would be a catalyst to begin this project Here are the dog ears, underlines, asterisks, and highlights pg 14 Christianity as an eastern religion and most dominant in the west, where it is least likely to be understood pg 36 Chapter 3 Bias to the Wanderer in the stories of scripture, God seems to have a bias towards the wanderer Especially liked the comments on Cain Abel pg 125 Thin places