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    Entries in Dallas Willard (13)


    The Menagerie :: Around the Web 03.05.15

    Star Wars Battle Pod


    My brother brought this to my attention: "It might make me visit Dave & Buster's for the first time."

    Happens in Our Youth Room All the Time.


    "Finish him!"

    HT: Digg

    Russell Brand on Pornography



    Put a shirt on, please. Thanks. Otherwise, keep talking.

    HT: To Save a Life

    Did You Hear the One About the Resuscitated Priest Claiming God Was Female?

    This remarkable report of a Catholic priest claiming that the Holy Father is in fact a mother went unnoticed by other media until a newspaper in Uganda, the Daily Monitorpicked it up word-for-word. That set off a cascade of articles on other websites around the world, which together have racked up tens of thousands of shares and social interactions, primarily on Facebook.

    Aside from the clear misunderstandings of how Christians understand God and the constraints of language, this article clarifies why misinformation abounds on the web.

    The story, celebrated by those scornful toward the Catholic Church and those utilizing classical Trinitarian language, was a hoax.

    HT: Digg

    60% Off Books By Dallas Willard

    Thanks, News & Pews. While the deals last. 


    Apologetics is for Everyone

    Now notice the assumption in the charter that apologetics is for everyone. It is for everyone precisely because it simply calls upon a very natural human ability that we each have--reason. We are to submit that ability to God, so that he might fill it with his Spirit and use it as he uses all of our other natural abilities.

    - Dallas Willard, The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus, 33

    As a Christian discipline, apologetics is the work of offering a defense of the faith. Dallas Willard is one of my favorite apologists. And he believes every Christian is called to the work of apologetics.

    Willard's approach differs from the common notion of apologetics, without devaluing those presenting logical arguments concerning science, ethics, the reliability of the Bible, or other such matters.

    Willard argues strongly for the context of apologetics being that of a remarkable life that raises questions in need of answering, whether immediately or over the course of years. Willard writes, "I wish many of my colleagues in the work of apologetics would emblazon [these words] on their forehead: 'With Gentleness and Reverence.'" Willard is quoting 1 Peter 3:15-16, a bedrock text for apologetics.

    So often, Christians conclude that the work of apologetics is restricted to the specialist. But Willard says no, it is for every Christian, and it can be done by every Christian. Loving God heart, soul, strength, and mind are possible. Jesus commanded us to do so. He does not command anything he will not assist us in attaining by his grace. Therefore, for those who will become his students, Jesus will help us love God with our minds.

    Have you ever wondered how you love God with your mind? You do it by focusing your mind on him and by submitting all of your powers of mind to him so that he might use them. We use our mind to think seriously about the message he has given us in scripture and in creation, and we teach others to do the same; that's how we love him with our mind.

    Willard writes, "Apologetics is not a contest of any kind, with winners and losers. It is a loving service. It is the finding of answers to strengthen faith."

    Such an apologetics is rooted in the eternal kind of life Jesus has made possible. It is an apologetics of kingdom citizenry, established in an unshakeable hope. More answers are there for the offering, for those who are spokespersons for Christ.

    Apologetics goes beyond the technical. It begins in the everyday. In the grocery line. Mopping floors. Preparing a meal. Having a conversation.

    Apologetics is for everyone.


    Book Review :: Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard's Teaching on Faith & Formation

    Image via Christianity Today

    Early May 2013, I found out that Dallas Willard had died. My wife read an announcement of his death on social media as we rode together in a car. We both shed tears.

    This surprised me. I had never mourned a public figure. I never met Dr. Willard, but heard him speak on three occasions: in 2006 at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, in 2009 at the Renovare Conference in San Antonio, and in 2011 at the Apprentice Conference in Wichita.

    But I had read his books. One beautiful benefit of the written word is the opportunity to commune with other minds. Through his writings, Dr. Willard had deeply impacted my thinking.

    At his death, in a very full sense I felt grief rooted in hope. Dr. Willard was in Christ. I am quite confident he still is.

    Since Dr. Willard’s death, his fellow kingdom workers and scholarly colleagues have prepared his last manuscripts for publication.  I have continued to seek the treasures, old and new, God so graciously brought forth in him.

    It was only a matter of time before a work like Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard's Teaching on Faith and Formation would be produced.  The book is a collection of essays written by many who knew Dr. Willard best. It is structured on three pillars of Willard’s life and work: the personal and familial, the scholarly and academic, and the pastoral and ecclesiological.

    Many of the contributors are familiar: Richard Foster, J. P. Moreland, Gary Black, Todd Hunter, James Catford, John Ortberg, and others. Contributions by family members Jane Willard, Becky Heatley, Larissa Heatley, and John Willard add authenticity and insight. Willard was a human being, possessing faults. But he was good, thanks to the sanctifying work of God. Gary Moon, director of the Martin Family Institute and Dallas Willard Center for Spiritual Formation at Westmont College, served as editor for this collection.

    The essays range from anecdotal to analytical, possessing something for every reader. For anyone seeking to grow in any field of endeavor, it is important to identify models for living, and to follow them. Dr. Willard taught valuable lessons as a friend and family member, as a scholar, and as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

    One of my favorite passages in this book is from an essay by James Bryan Smith of Friends University. Dr. Smith cites numerous questions he asked Dallas through the years, one of which was, “So Dallas, which do you think is right, Arminianism or Calvinism?”

    I have wondered this myself, both who is right, and what Dr. Willard might think.

    Smith recalls Willard saying “Neither.” Willard then “went on to say that both were right, and both were wrong, and he did not fit into either camp.” 

    In each reflection, we are reminded that Dr. Willard understood that in order to thrive as a friend, family member, scholar, or disciple, Jesus is of utmost importance. We are disciples first. The question is, "Of whom?" Willard feared “Willard-ites.” Rightly so. His best students will learn to look beyond Willard to the one who summoned him forth as a witness. 

    Reformers are often memorialized, and their time is heralded as the coming of the kingdom. We build statues and tell stories of their past victories, often as an excuse to avoid the task before us. Eternal Living could be regarded as a monument, or a charge.

    I choose the latter.

    As a student of Dr. Willard, I hope to continue his legacy, not by celebrating Willard, but the God who gifted us with such a life. The church is in continued need of reformation. There remains among us a hunger for knowledge of God. 

    May God rise up for us more teachers like Dallas Willard, who will immerse us in the Trinitarian reality of God and the everlasting kingdom, disciple us in the good news of Jesus, and help us to know eternal life, both now and forever.

    Note: Thank you to InterVarsity Press, who mailed me a copy of Eternal Living.


    Dear Father Always Near Us

    Dear Father always near us,
    may your name be treasured and loved,
    may your rule be completed in us--
    may your will be done here on earth
    in just the way it is done in heaven.
    Give us today the things we need today,
    and forgive us our sins and impositions on you
    as we are forgiving all who in any way offend us.
    Please don't put us through any trials,
    but deliver us from everything bad.
    Because you are the one in charge,
    and you have all the power,
    and the glory too is all yours--forever--
    which is just the way we want it!

    -- Dallas Willard, A Paraphrase of the Lord's Prayer, in The Divine Conspiracy 



    The 5 Most Important Reads of My Life

    Several months ago I shared a Kindle Deal for one of the books that will follow, saying it was "one of the five most important books I have ever read." A friend asked for the other four, and I turned to my book shelf and considered my choices. I pulled books and flipped pages. I made a stack. I have been carrying that stack with me ever since. It has been by my reading chair at home, on my desk in the office, in the back seat of my pickup, and in the book bag I carry to the library and coffee shops. I have thought, "Why these?" There is a theme that runs through all five.

    Discipleship to Jesus Christ.

    I've blogged a lot about books. I've written reviews and compiled lists of what I have read, and shared deals (when they come along) with others. I love books.

    When I was a graduate student at The University of Kansas, I spent hours in the stacks of Watson Library. It is an immense collection. I always felt like I was one of the few souls to wander back and forth in 1 East, the lowest level in the farthest corner of the library, where the Biblical Studies and Biblical Theology collections reside. The location is not without irony. One could say that the contents there were either forgotten or neglected, or its nearness to the foundation was somehow apt considering the origination of the university, as institution, itself.

    Any great book that I read during the academic years, filled with footnotes, sent me on a quest, searching the stacks for primary sources. I read Richard Adam's Watership Down and Karl Barth's Dogmatics in Outline thanks to one of the authors I'll cite below. I also read Soren Kierkegaard, Wendell Berry, Oliver O'Donovan, and many others thanks to Watson. I began keeping a record of the titles I had read in 2009--I wish I had done so during the entirety of my career at KU.

    I remember one day, leaving Watson Library, I had two book bags filled to the brim with titles. I ran into a colleague, Autumn Thompson. She asked, "What are you working on?" I said, "Oh, five or six of these are for a paper. The rest are for personal study."

    I am thankful for those years.

    Now, the list. These five books have shaped my imagination and have been foundational for my discipleship to Christ. They have also informed my philosophy of ministry. I don't agree with everything in each book. If you don't have at least one or two quibbles with any author, they either aren't giving you enough substance, or you aren't really reading. But I have found these men insightful and extremely helpful.

    5. Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship by N. T. Wright

    N. T. Wright is one of the most important New Testament scholars of our day. He is also a man of the church.

    I purchased this little book in the fall of 2005 or spring of 2006. It is a collection of sermons, dedicated to "the congregation of Lichfield Cathedral," but delivered in various ministerial settings. "A church without sermons," Wright declares, "will soon have a shriveled mind, then a wayward heart, next an unquiet soul, and finally misdirected strength." I was captured by this book because it was written for the people of God, and the object of each sermon is the person and work of Christ. Wright is correct in his preface saying, "The longer you look at Jesus, the more you will want to serve him in his world. That is, of course, if it's the real Jesus you are looking at."

    These sermons were helpful at the time, and as I glance back over the pages and review my underlinings and margin notes, I'm reminded of my own hunger to know Christ, to discern him as he is, and to serve him well. I also wanted to be part of a church that lived in to the fullness of his calling. But the reason this book has been an important read is because of what followed. Over the past eight or nine years, I've done my best to read everything Bishop Wright has published. I had read Borg and Wright's The Meaning of Jesus at Baylor University. But Following Jesus is what inspired me to chase Wright's work, evaluate it, critique it, and apply it. His work has helped me to grow as a disciple--even the academic work has had a pastoral function. Wright describes the disciple well:

    'Disciples' means not just head-learners, not just heart-learners, but life-learners. We have to discover, through prayer, study of the Scriptures, and above all devotion to Jesus himself such as we express when we come to his table, how we in our generation can implement the decisive victory which he won.

    4. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau, Germany in the year 1906. His story has become well known to many Christians, primarily for his resistance to Hitler and his death at the hands of the Nazi regime. His brilliance as a theologian has also been much discussed, and The Cost of Discipleship is his best known work.

    When I was in my mid-twenties, the demands of following Christ were the focus of much of my reflection. Whether this is simply a condition of young-adulthood or a reaction to the present age, I was discontented with aspects of the Christianity I had received. I had questions about sacrifice and suffering, about purpose and ecclesial identity. I had questions about God's reality, particularly his magnitude. I perceived that God, as I understood God at that time, had been presented as domesticated and tame. The wisdom of years has led me to reflect that the reasons for my discontent were likely internal rather than external. The blame could not be squarely placed on "the church" or "my church." I suspect they belonged largely to me, the learner. And I trust that God was at work in my dis-ease, drawing me nearer to his reality, challenging my preconceived notions, and calling me to consider his grandeur. I was being called to worship the only reality worthy of devotion, God, the Almighty.

    Bonhoeffer, then, became a friend. His work was centered on learning from Christ and its consequences. He writes, "The actual call of Jesus and the response of single-minded obedience have irrevocable significance. By means of them Jesus calls people into an actual situation where faith is possible." Through obedience, we learn to trust. By applying the words of Jesus and living according to his calling, we discover that his commands align us with the reality of his kingdom, and thus we confirm the utter reliability of his word.  Of course, this kind of obedience is not without suffering, rejection, and crucifixion. As Bonhoeffer states, "Discipleship means adherence to the person of Jesus, and therefore submission to the law of Christ which is the law of the cross."

    Bonhoeffer's meditations on suffering and the demands of discipleship, contrasted with the "easy-believism" and fluffy theology of our age, renewed my vision for the gospel. His writings enabled me to see differently, and to imagine a different kind of life for the disciple. I appreciated Bonhoeffer's exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, which I have come to believe is a key text for any renewal or revival of Christian holiness. And I also appreciated his love for the Church--the community of Christ. Bonhoeffer's theology carries ecclesiastical assumptions. Discipleship is undertaken to Christ, but always together with those whom he has called.

    3. The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene H. Peterson

    I would not be back in pastoral ministry at University Baptist Church if not for this book, and a small company of friends who were gracious enough to discuss it with me. That's how profound, and how healing, I found Peterson's reflections on the pastorate. I have read this book three times since publication in 2011, and the underlinings and margin notes in my copy are plentiful.

    Peterson writes with insight concerning the pastoral vocation. Like the others I have listed, his work has been generated within the context of church. Rather than lobbing holy hand grenades from the ivory tower of academia or scoffing from the margins, Peterson has led and participated in God's work among his people. He's been there for births and for funerals. He's lived the life of the pastor. And life as a pastor is serious work and hard work, not to mention troubled work, at least during our time.

    Peterson writes:

    North American culture does not offer congenial conditions in which to live vocationally as a pastor. . . In the process of realizing my vocational identity as a pastor, I couldn't help observing that there was a great deal of confusion and dissatisfaction all around me with pastoral identity. Many pastors, disappointed or disillusioned with their congregations, defect after a few years and find more congenial work. And many congregations, disappointed or disillusioned with their pastors, dismiss them and look for pastors more to their liking. In the fifty years that I have lived the vocation of pastor, these defections and dismissals have reached epidemic proportions in every branch and form of church.

    I wonder if at the root of the defection is a cultural assumption that all leaders are people who 'get things done,' and 'make things happen.' That is certainly true of the primary leadership models that seep into our awareness from the culture--politicians, businessmen, advertisers, publicists, celebrities, and athletes. But while being a pastor certainly has some of these components, the pervasive element in the two-thousand-year pastoral tradition is not someone who 'gets things done' but rather the person placed in the community to pay and call attention to 'what is going on right now' between men and women, with one another and with God--this kingdom of God that is primarily local, relentlessly personal, and prayerful 'without ceasing.'

    Peterson tells great stories, all of which provide some insight in to the vocation. He's honest. The pastoral vocation is glorious and heartbreaking. It is challenging. But it is good work. Though this book contains many lessons, it reinforced for me the importance of prayer, and the nature of witness. Peterson writes, "A witness is never the center but only the person who points to or names what is going on at the center--in this case, the action and revelation of God in all the operations of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

    As a pastor, I call attention to that reality--and together we heed the direction of the Triune God.

    2. A Community of Character: Toward a Constructive Christian Social Ethic by Stanley Hauerwas

    As most of my readers know, I received my seminary education at Dallas Theological Seminary. My interest in Christian ethics reaches back to Baylor University, where I sat under Dr. John A. Wood and Dr. Dan McGee. Molly, concurrently, was a student at Perkins School of Theology - SMU. After one of her classes, she told me that I should read Stanley Hauerwas, whom she thought I would enjoy. And so during the 2006-2007 academic year, I grabbed a copy of Community of Character either from a second hand book shop or from a book give away hosted by a retired United Methodist bishop at Highland Park United Methodist (I'm not really sure), and I started reading.

    I was captivated.

    The emphasize on narrative, story, and the implications for ethics transformed my approach to my formation as a Christian. Hauerwas deepened my understanding of virtue, and how the virtues are best understood within a tradition, a community. His five essays on the family, sex, and abortion, which constitute the third and final section of the book, impacted my thinking on each of those topics.

    Hauerwas has written many books, but this work was my first foray into this thought. I own most of his works, and I've read nearly everything he has published. Hauerwas has continued to help me think as a Christian, and refused to allow me to neglect the church. Following John Howard Yoder, Hauerwas also helped me to see the political nature of Jesus' life, message, and kingdom, and the implications this holds, at present, for our constitution as a people. As Hauerwas states, "there can be no separation of christology from ecclesiology, that is, Jesus from the church. The truthfulness of Jesus creates and is known by the kind of community his story should form." As Hauerwas states elsewhere, the church does not have a social ethic, but is a social ethic, and therefore, the story of Jesus is one which the church must exemplify. Jesus must be determinative for our story together, one that encompasses the totality of our ecclesial life. Hauerwas writes, "Jesus determines the story as the crucial person in the story. Thus his identity is grasped not through other savior stories, but by learning to follow him, which is the necessary condition for citizenship in his kingdom."

    Once again, this book has continued to impact me because of its emphasis on discipleship, and for the claim that the calling of the disciple to follow Jesus is inseparable from the calling into the body of Christ. In the essay "Jesus: The Story of the Kingdom," Hauerwas claims, "To be a disciple is to be part of a new community, a new polity, which is formed on Jesus' obedience to the cross."

    Hauerwas solidified my interest in ethics, which I suspect will last my whole life long. Most importantly, however, is that he helped me to see that Christian ethics are inseparable from the person and work of Christ. Christian principles cannot be abstracted from his person. They must be lived within the context of his kingdom, under the reality of his present lordship, in the unique, particular locality of the ecclesia, or the church. Life under this rubric is dynamic, creative, and bold. It is the call to witness, to live together as the people of God under the reign of God, secured in Christ. Our present reality, and our future hope, is firmly established in his completed work.

    1. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God by Dallas Willard

    Dallas Willard is best known among Christians for his work in the area of Christian spiritual formation. Though I never knew him personally, Molly and I were deeply saddened when we learned of his death in May of 2013. Like many others who have read his work or who heard him speak, it was not only Willard's words that were striking, but his character. Seldom have I encountered such a striking correspondence between someone's message and overall presence. And from the stories I have heard from those who knew the man, my impressions have only been confirmed.

    The Divine Conspiracy is a masterful work, and though it was not the first book by Willard I read, it endeared me to his work. My friend Mike Hibit encouraged me to buy this book in the spring of 2006. I can remember Mike reading an excerpt at his apartment, located above The Golden Goose in Gardner, Kansas. The illustration Mike selected was about a plane in flight, upside down, and our need to be turned right side up. Soon after, I was working through my own copy in my apartment in Overland Park, thinking hard about "Gospels of Sin Management," and my own communication about the life and message of Jesus. I was challenged in my own discipleship, and wondered if I, too, had fallen victim to neglecting Jesus and his teachings in favor of a transactional understanding of salvation or a sloganeered, politicized gospel that claimed Jesus as champion, but paid little heed to his person, presence, and reign.

    Willard helped me to see that Jesus has been lost as our teacher and to rediscover that Christ is accessible and knowable as our Master. Willard's claim that Jesus is the smartest man to ever live, and that his way is best, resulted in a new approach to my own spirituality. Willard's argument in The Divine Conspiracy hinges on the intelligibility and unity of The Sermon on the Mount. His emphasis on kingdom as present and available to those who call on Jesus as King helped me discover the richness of life with God. Jesus, despite claims the contrary, has remained incredibly relevant and intriguing, quietly standing at the center of history, calling all people to himself.

    Willard writes:

    I think we finally have to say that Jesus' enduring relevance is based on his historically proven ability to speak to, to heal and to empower the individual human condition. He matters because of what he brought and still brings to ordinary human beings, living their ordinary lives and coping daily with their surroundings. He promises wholeness for their lives. In sharing our weakness he gives us strength and imparts through his companionship a life that has the quality of eternity.

    He comes where we are, and he brings us the life we hunger for. . . To be the light of life, and to deliver God's life to women and men where they are and as they are, is the secret of the enduring relevance of Jesus. Suddenly they are flying right-side up, in a world that makes sense.

    Before his death, Dallas Willard said that he believed the church very well may be on the precipice of a new and exciting chapter in its life, one in which the redisovery of Jesus as teacher and the reality of life in his kingdom could lead to genuine transformation. Willard's enthusiasm, I believe, stemmed from the groundswell of interest in Christian spiritual formation, and the redisovery of a gospel that brings us into an encounter with Jesus, as well as a reconceptualizing of faith as knowledge that leads to action (for more, see Willard's Knowing Christ Today).

    I have since become a student of Willard, and have read all his other works. My philosophy of ministry has been profoundly shaped by his intellectually sophisticated, yet pastorally sensitive presentation of Christian truth. I recommend this book to anyone--though it does demand work on the part of the reader. I've been glad to discuss it, to great benefit, with other Christians.

    Have a comment?

    Please, resist the temptation to Jesus Juke. The Bible happens to be important to me as well.

    What are the most important reads of your life?