Honoring the life of Dallas Willard


Dallas Willard died yesterday, at the age of 77. I think its important to honor the lDallas-Willardives of those who have left significant contributions, and he was without question one of those. A professor of philosophy for the last 40+ years at University of Southern California, Dallas Willard also emerged as one of the great minds of modern Christianity. He had a way of talking about familiar Christian concepts in a really unfamiliar way, and it drew in a whole generation of believers to think more deeply.

I was particularly drawn to the way he talked about the concept of the kingdom of God. This can be a very confusing and abstract concept, but Willard was able to bring it down to the level of everyday life. I just finished reading one of his books last week called Knowing Christ, and it he shared a number of quotes that were helpful about both the kingdom and the life of faith. I am attaching a few of my favorites below.

Also, its worth reading John Ortberg’s tribute to Dallas here. John is actually the one who introduced me to the writings of Dallas Willard, and his fondness for him clearly comes out in this well written article.

Some of my favorite quotes from Knowing Christ:

“To know Christ in the modern world is to know him in your world now. To know him in your world now is to live interactively with him right where you are in your daily activities. This is the spiritual life in Christ. He is, in fact, your contemporary, and he is now about his business of moving humanity along toward its destiny in this amazing universe. You don’t want to miss out on being a part—your part—of that great project. You want to be sure to take your life into his life, and in that way to find your life to be “eternal,” as God intended it.”

“How are we to think about Jesus’s presence today? No doubt volumes could be written on that question, and have been. But the simple fact is that Jesus Christ is present in this world, the only world we have, and in many ways. His teachings, even mangled and broken, have an incredible power to disrupt human systems, including the ones that claim to own him. He is the misfit and thus is available to all who would seek him. His crucifixion and resurrection announce the end of human systems and stand in judgment over them. He is the man on the cross calling us to join him there. He makes himself available to individuals who hear of him and seek him. In many forms both inside and outside the church, with its traditions, symbolisms, and literature, he is simply here among us. He is in his people, but he does not allow himself to be boxed in by them. He calls to us by just being here in our midst. There is nothing like him. The people in the churches also have the option of finding him and following him into his kingdom, though that may rarely be what they are doing.”

“But how are we to enter into this interactive relationship of knowing Christ that is life with him in the kingdom of God? There are two preliminaries that must be observed if we are to enter the interactive life with Jesus Christ and, through him, with God. Humility: The first one is, very simply, we must humble ourselves and become like little children (Matt. 18:3–5). That means we must be turned around (“converted”) from the normal human attitude, the attitude that says we are in charge of our life and that we are quite competent and capable of managing it on our own. Little children, on the other hand, come to others for guidance and help and simply presume upon them for it. They have no other option, and they do not think they do—in spite of occasional outbursts of what in adults might be called “self-will.” Now, for many people, perhaps for most, that will simply be the end of the story. They are not going to humble themselves. That would be beneath their dignity. Or they may try to “negotiate a deal with God” in which they are still the ones in charge of their lives and just occasionally get at little help from him for some of their projects. It simply doesn’t work that way, however. They will never come to know the reality of the kingdom or the King if that remains their approach. Any efforts they make in such an approach will meet with a blank wall.”

“We can never understand the life of faith seen in scripture and in serious Christian living unless we drop the idea of faith as a “blind leap” and understand that faith is commitment to action, often beyond our natural abilities, based upon knowledge of God and God’s ways.”

“Faith, indeed, is not the same thing as knowledge, and it arises in many ways, often independently of knowledge. But it is possible, and a very good thing, to have knowledge of the same things we have faith in. Knowledge strengthens faith, sometimes by allowing us to grasp an item of faith in such a way that it also becomes an item of knowledge. Knowledge also can and often has laid a foundation for faith. We do often believe things because we have come to know them, and that is an ideal condition of belief. On the other hand, faith commonly acts as a framework and guide for the development and use of knowledge. Neither is complete without the other.”

How about you? Any favorite quotes from Dallas?

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