This is a slow series – slow in coming, and slow in explaining my views. Sorry – I’m reflecting as I write, and keep being pulled away by other things. But thanks to the several people who’ve said in person or electronically that they’ve appreciated this series.
I find that I’m still stuck in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was in the late 1990s that I discovered two Christian authors who were to have a big effect on my thinking. In both cases, I’m still processing their thoughts, still going back to them, still re-reading.
In this post, I’ll discuss the first of these: Dallas Willard, professor of Philosophy and USC, and well-known writer on Christian spirituality. While at Biola I’d heard him talk at an SCP, and was vaguely aware that some profs at Biola had studied with him, such the man who introduced me to philosophy, Del Hanson. His philosophical work that I’ve read is well done and helpful. But his magnum opus is his Divine Conspiracy, clearly the product of many, many years of studying and reflecting on the Bible, and learning to live it out as a disciple of Jesus.
I found this book staggering for many reasons. It took me a long time to read it the first time; each chapter required a lot of thought to process, and I’d read one, then stop to think about it for several days or weeks. To call it a book a Christian spirituality is to shortchange it. It is that, but it’s also a theology of the Kingdom of God, and a practical one at that.It is dripping with insights about the New Testament, about Jesus and God, about human psychology and relationships. Name a Christian classic – Augustine’s Confessions. The Imitation of Christ. C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. I hold that Willard’s book is far superior, and affords far more insight.
Back in the winter of 1999-2000, based on my study of this book, and taking its advice, I went on a spiritual retreat, alone at a Catholic retreat house in Massachusetts. I read through all four gospels, and rededicated my life to God, to discipleship to Jesus. It gave me a huge boost in faith, in trust in God, which saw me through the process of job hunting, c. Oct 1999-April 2000. Most find this process terrifying, but I thought it was fun!
I’ve read it maybe five times or so (I’m reading it again now), and I’ve worked through it with about three groups of people. But I wouldn’t say that I’ve really learned and lived its message. I’m still working on that. Other Christians I’ve read it with have usually either (1) pooped out before the end, or (2) thought it was really neat, but they seemed to go on understanding the message of Jesus and Christianity as they always had – like, in one ear and out the other. These responses, I could never understand.I’d be a happy man if I could be a part of a group of Christians who really got the good news of the Kingdom, and who would throw aside all tradition, if that’s what it took, to get it.
The content of the book Continue reading »