One of my heroes passed away earlier this year. I found Dallas Willard to be one of the most insightful Christian thinkers in recent days. Willard will be remembered as one who contributed much to the discussion of the Christian life. I was fortunate to meet Dallas and to share a 10 minute conversation with him. I found him to be a hospitable person and kind to those whom he had just met.
I’ve read through many of his books and I want to re-read them. Slowly, thoughtfully, and enthusiastically. I thought that I’d put my thoughts about what I am re-reading here on the blog, at 500 words a post.
My favorite of Willard’s books is The Divine Conspiracy. In the Forward, Richard Foster claims to have been looking for a book like this, “all of his life.” Foster was also convinced that, if the renewal of all things were to be delayed, The Divine Conspiracy would join a pile of other Christian classics from the halls of Church History. The Divine Conspiracy is a large book, perhaps a book that one would like to take some time to go through in order to feel its weight of insight. I will make some careful notes about my favorite themes within it.
Willard suggests that this book is geared towards those who will give Jesus a fresh hearing, particularly among those who may be his followers. (xiiv) Willard suggests that our current experience of Jesus is a mere shadow of its potential when we investigate what Jesus and his disciples were about. Instead of moral imperatives on the one hand and escapism salvation on the other, Willard suggests that something else (and deeper) seized the early followers of Jesus. Willard gets to the bottom of it here:
“The early message was, accordingly, not experienced as something its hearers had to believe or do because otherwise something bad – something with no essential connection with real life – would happen to them. The people initially impacted by that message generally concluded that they would be fools to disregard it. That was the basis of conversion.” (xiv)
Willard suggests that if we miss the essence of Jesus’ words, we will miss what he was ultimately about. Ultimately, what Jesus is about is to create people who are like him in order to fill the world with those who are anticipating the new creation that he announced was/is arriving.
Willard insists that we intend on doing what Jesus said that we should do, then. We should not only attempt it, but find vital ways to practice it.
I find this to be a great challenge in my life and in the church that I am a pastor. I cannot wait to stroll through this book to find new, fresh ways to take hold of it.