The first time I opened The Divine Conspiracy, I fell in love. The object of my love was an elderly philosophy professor name Dallas Willard. Of course, what I loved was his mind and heart that poured out words like these:
“God’s desire for us is that we should live in him. He sends among us the Way to himself. That shows what, in his heart of hearts, God really is like–indeed, what reality is really like. In its deepest nature and meaning our universe is a community of boundless and competent love.”
“But we get a totally different picture of salvation, faith, and forgiveness if we regard having life from the kingdom of the heavens now–the eternal kind of life–as the target. The words and acts of Jesus naturally suggest that this is indeed salvation, with discipleship, forgiveness, and heaven to come as natural parts.”
“Jesus came among us to show and teach the life for which we were made. He came very gently, opening access to the governance of God with him, and set afoot a conspiracy of freedom in truth among human beings. Having overcome death he remains among us. By relying on his word and presence we are enabled to reintegrate the little realm that makes up our life into the infinite rule of God. And that is the eternal kind of life. Caught up in his active rule, our deeds become an element in God’s eternal history. They are what God and we do together, making us part of his life and him a part of ours.”
How different this was than the pablum of Christian fundamentalism I had grown up in. How much deeper, more holistic and more beautiful.
I devoured The Divine Conspiracy, as well as Hearing God, The Renovation of the Heart, and The Spirit of the Disciplines. They were, for me, the best expression of what deep thinking about the Christian life was all about.
Dallas Willard died yesterday, and I know of no greater way to honor his memory and work than by offering some quotes from him to those who may not have (yet!) read his books.
“And God has set up prayer in such a way that, if you want to explain it away, you can. That’s the human mind. God set it up like that for a reason, which is this: God ordained that people should be governed in the end by what they want.”
“Great faith, like great strength in general, is revealed by the ease of its workings. Most of what we think we see as the struggle OF faith is really the struggle to act as IF we had faith when in fact we do not.”
“The cautious faith that never saws off a limb on which it is sitting, never learns that unattached limbs may find strange unaccountable ways of not falling.”
“We must understand that God does not “love” us without liking us – through gritted teeth – as “Christian” love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core – which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word “love”.”
“There is no question of doing is purely on our own. But we must act. Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort. And it is well-directed, decisive, and sustained effort that is the key to the keys of the kingdom and to the life of restful power in ministry and life that those keys open to us.”
“In many cases, our need to wonder about or be told what God wants in a certain situation is nothing short of a clear indication of how little we are engaged in His work.”
“Solitude well practiced will break the power of busyness, haste, isolation, and loneliness. You will see that the world is not on your shoulders after all. Your will find yourself, and God will find you in new ways. Silence also brings Sabbath to you. It completes solitude, for without it you cannot be alone. Far from being a mere absence, silence allows the reality of God to stand in the midst of your life. God does not ordinarily compete for our attention. IN silence we come to attend. Lastly, fasting is done that we many consciously experience the direct sustenance of God to our body and our whole person.”
“The humility that cringes in order that reproof may be escaped or favor obtained is as unchristian as it is profoundly immoral.”
“Multitudes are now turning to Christ in all parts of the world. How unbearably tragic it would be, though, if the millions of Asia, South America and Africa were led to believe that the best we can hope for from the Way of Christ is the level of Christianity visible in Europe and America today, a level that has left us tottering on the edge of world destruction. The world can no longer be left to mere diplomats, politicians, and business leaders. They have done the best they could, no doubt. But this is an age for spiritual heroes-a time for men and women to be heroic in faith and in spiritual character and power. The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its message TOO LOW.”
“Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.”
“The test of character posed by the gentleness of God’s approach to us is especially dangerous for those formed by the ideas that dominate our modern world. We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can be almost as stupid as a cabbage, as long as you doubt. The fashion of the age has identified mental sharpness with a pose, not with genuine intellectual method and character. Only a very hardy individualist or social rebel — or one desperate for another life — therefore stands any chance of discovering the substantiality of the spiritual life today. Today it is the skeptics who are the social conformists, though because of powerful intellectual propaganda they continue to enjoy thinking of themselves as wildly individualistic and unbearably bright.”
“Happiness in reality consists only in rest, and not in being stirred up. This instinct conflicts with the drive to diversion, and we develop the confused idea that leads people to aim at rest through excitement.”