Archives For Dallas Willard

In my post last night I wrote:

At times I struggle because I have chosen to put my family ahead of my career.  At times I find myself wondering what might have been if I had made career advancement my goal.  Tonight I had no struggles, but instead gratitude.  Gratitude that I could share the adventure, share my heart, and share the love of God’s Son with my son.

Today I stopped to grab a bagel for lunch and read a few pages in “Renovation of the Heart.”  I hope I can communicate to you the connection between what I wrote last night and the words of Willard I read today.

Regarding ideas, Dallas Willard wrote:

Ideas are very general models of or assumptions about reality.  They are patterns of interpretation, historically developed and socially shared.  They sometimes are involved with beliefs, but are much more than belief and do not depend upon it.  They are ways of thinking about and interpreting things.  They are so pervasive and essential to how we think about and how we approach life that we often do not even know they are there or understand when and how they are at work.  Our idea system is a cultural artifact, growing up with us from earliest childhood out of the teachings, expectations, and observable behaviors of family and community.  .  .  .  it is extremely difficult for most people to recognize which ideas are governing their life and how those ideas are governing their life.

This is partly because one commonly identifies his or her own governing ideas with reality.  .  .  .  Another illustration of “idea grip” would be how most people think of success in life in terms of promotions and possessions.  One’s culture is seen most clearly in what one thinks of as “natural” and as requiring no explanation or even thought.

It is this particular “idea grip” that still has a grasp on me.  And I do think that what ideas are seen by most as “natural” define the true reality of our culture.  We currrently live in a cultural that places a heavy emphasis on job titles, promotions, responsibilities and the like.  We judge people by the job/career that they have and by the possessions they have accumulated – the house, car, boat, lake home, furnishings, artwork, etc.

Yet when I spend time pondering the teachings of Jesus, he places no importance in these ideas.  And instead I find that the ideas which he promulgates are seen as “unnatural” within our cultural setting.  And so today I realized that my subconscious is the midst of a battle of ideas.  A battle between the prevailing cultures definition of success, and Christ’s definition of success.  Which idea will win?  The one that I feed.  And that is why I am reading Renovation of the Heart.

Now, the simplicity of spiritual formation lies in its intention.  Its aim is to bring every element in our being, working from inside out, into harmony with the will of God and the kingdom of God.  This is the simple focus.  We must keep it constantly before us and not be distracted by other things, no matter how good they may appear.  (Willard)

On to the (spiritual) journey.

For those who are not familiar with Dallas Willard and the Divine Conspiracy, this collection of videos is a great place to start.  I have been listening through a number of these over the past couple of months.  I just plug my ear buds into my iphone and pull this up on youtube and listen while I’m on the go.

And while I’m loading up the links on Willard, you must check out this article by Richard Foster.

After listening/reading, please leave me a note in the comments section, I would be interested in your thoughts.

Today I became aware of the passing of Dallas Willard.  I’m struggling a bit to wrap my mind around this event — which means I must write.

I first become aware of Willard through The Spirit of the Disciplines and some of the papers he wrote as a philosopher at USC.  I was encouraged to learn that it was possible to be a Christian in the upper echelons of academic philosophy and I was struck that he appeared to have a spirit of humility.  A few year later a somewhat eccentric new friend of mine insisted that some of us who were in church leadership at that time read a particular book.  He purchased copies of The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God for each of us and begged us to read it.  I did read it and felt as if I had been bumped off balance.  I wasn’t really sure how to respond to what Willard had written.  It didn’t seem heretical, yet it was a far piece from my Sunday School learning.  He challenged me to re-think the meaning of The Sermon on the Mount in ways that had never occurred to me.  I was fascinated, yet fearful.  In truth, I was not yet ready for the fullness of what Willard was wanting to say.  As I often do, I neither accepted nor rejected.  I just let it be.  I let it sit upon my mind and ruminate.

A bit more than ten years of time have passed since I read that book.  In the meantime life has had numerous twists and turns.  There have been times of great sadness and times of great joy.  My own spiritual journey has bounced between peace and despair.  Through these times my understanding of who God is and what he is about has been inexorably changing.  A few weeks ago our church began a brief series on The Sermon on the Mount.  I knew I had to read The Divine Conspiracy again – because now I have the ears to hear the words that he spoke.  But sadly, my copy missing.  Both the author, as well as the one from whom I received it have passed from this life.  Yet some vestiges of his understanding of the kingdom of the heavens remain in my mind.  And I have discovered that over these years of trials, troubles, joy and grace my understanding of “the kingdom among us” has begun to look an awful lot like his.

Sometime back I wrote a post about Giants on the Journey.  And while I never met Dallas Willard or knew him personally, I think I am only beginning to realize the impact that he has had and will have on my life through his writings.  And I wish that I would have had the opportunity to talk together in gentleness and humility about the Kingdom of God, the teachings of Jesus and how we live out the kingdom in our own lives each day.  For I think that he knew something deep within his spirit — something that is difficult to articulate in words, which can only be learned through experience with the living God, is manifested in humility and is found when one willingly loses themselves.

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done,on earth as it is in heaven.

Dallas, thank you for helping me understand that the Son of God came that the kingdom might invade this earth.  That God’s will might be done on earth now, just as it is done in heaven.  That the kingdom is not just a future possibility, but that it should be a living, active, present agent of change within our world today. For that and for so much more, I thank you.

Oh, and that eccentric friend of mine?  Maybe he wasn’t so eccentric after all.  Perhaps he was just on to something we hadn’t yet figured out — the Divine Conspiracy.