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Archive for Dallas Willard

I can’t think of anyone who has had more influence on my views of spiritual formation than the late Dallas Willard. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, I recommend that you spend some time researching his work. Dr. Willard was a professor of philosophy at the University of South California until his death last year. This book was published posthumously and contains the transcripts of a spiritual formation conference he did with John Ortberg. The book is filled with rich wisdom regarding discipleship and requires slow, deliberate reading. It was released with a companion DVD which may prove beneficial to those of you who are new to Willard’s works.

Here are some of the top take aways from this meaningful publication.

“(Spiritual formation) is the process of transforming the person into Christlikeness through transforming the essential parts of the person. Spiritual transformation is not about behavior modification. It is about changing the sources of behavior so the behavior will take care of itself.”

“When you find problems in the church…it is always a lack of discipleship that led to it.”

“We need to tell our young people, ‘Follow Jesus, and if you can find a better way than him, he would be the first one to tell you to take it’.”

“Often in churches, we try to get people to affirm right beliefs, the right point of view. The real test of what I actually believe is ‘Does it guide what I do?'”

“There are many people who believe in Christ, but they don’t believe Christ. Further, they don’t believe what he believed. But the progression into the kingdom is coming to believe what he believes, coming to trust it, to live on it, to act on it, to make it count. We do that by fixing our minds on him.”

“Wanting other churches to succeed is one of the most important things we can do.”

“Spiritual disciplines are not a gauge of my spiritual maturity. The disciplined person is not someone who does a lot of disciplines. The disciplined person, the disciple, is someone who is able to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. The whole purpose of disciplines is to enable you to do the right thing at the right time in the right spirit, so if something doesn’t help you do that, then don’t do it.”

Since the days of Jesus, Christians have wrestled with the problem of how to answer questions of faith on the basis on knowledge. Many Christians over the past two millennia have been content to think in two distinct hemispheres: faith and knowledge. With passive resignation believers have left matters of faith to faith and matters of knowledge to science, as though they are completely incompatible and unrelated.

Dallas Willard has written to challenge that assumption.

Right from the start let me confess that Willard is my favorite author. A professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Philosophy, Willard has written powerfully on the subjects of Spiritual Disciplines and the Kingdom of God. My well worn copy of The Divine Conspiracy is my all time favorite, being one of the very few books that I’ve read more than once.

Willard is concerned that people of faith become people of knowledge, and has written Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge to help believers understand how faith and knowledge relate in a compatible way. The book is not written for those who are looking for quick reads. It’s written with the stated purpose of challenging the Christian reader to become a thinking reader…to use the mind to bolster faith. His premise is that faith is derived from knowledge and in the pages of the book he explains how the two are intertwined. In the introduction, for example, he writes, “Belief cannot reliably govern life and action except in its proper connection with knowledge and with the truth and evidence knowledge involves.” So, instead of reckoning faith and knowledge as opposing forces, Willard demonstrates that knowledge and faith are friends, and that “knowledge is essential to faith and our relationship with God in the spiritual life.”

I think this is possibly the most important book written in the 21st century. Rather than argue that point, let me simply encourage you to read it. Twice.

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