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DALLAS WILLARD’S 4 KEY THEMES FOR CHRISTIAN LIVING -Part 4: More on Dallas

In this blog, we complete our focus on highlighting four pervading themes in Dallas Willard’s writings about Christian formation and the Christian Life, listed below.


Theme #1 - Kingdom Now: Christian Formation is Uniquely Empowered within the Kingdom of God, which is Now Uniquely Present with the Coming of Jesus

Theme #2 - Following Jesus: Christian Formation is about Following Jesus and Putting Jesus’ Words into Practice.

Theme #3 - Heart Formation: Christian Formation is about the Inner Formation of the Heart.

Theme #4 - Spiritual Practices: Christian Formation includes Spiritual Practices with our Physical Bodies.


These four themes became evident in reading the following Willard books:

HG: Hearing God (1984)

SD: The Spirit of the Disciplines (1988)

DC: The Divine Conspiracy (1998)

RH: Renovation of the Heart (2002)


In this blog I include a few final thoughts and suggest some resources about Dallas Willard.


God has used Dallas Willard’s writings and his life in a powerful way in my own Christian formation journey. During the 1990s, through my friend and colleague, J. P. Moreland (for whom Dallas was his doctoral mentor), I got access to audio cassette tapes of Dallas’ various lectures, which I listened to while exercising on my NordicTrack (that dates me). Many of these introduced significant concepts that were later presented in The Divine Conspiracy. During that same period of time, Dallas permitted me to audit his History of Ethics course at USC. And, as others have done, I attended various conferences. For me, Dallas was a contemporary “holy man.” It was a joy to be in his presence—the radiance of Jesus was manifest. God has used the work he did in Dallas’ life to guide much of my own journey into increasing Kingdom living.

I mention a few resources (of the many available) for further study of Dallas’ thoughtful musings on the Christian life. For some even Renovation of the Heart can be hard slogging. A more readable version, wonderfully edited by Don Simpson, is


Revolution of Character: Discovering Christ’s Pattern for Spiritual Transformation, with Don Simpson (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005, 208 pp).


For a more devotional approach to the same material, see


Jan Johnson and Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice: Experiments in Spiritual Transformation (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2006, 192 pp), with 61 short selections from the book, along with illustrations of the concept being discussed by Willard and a practice or daily experiment to try it out.


I mention a few resources (of the many available) for further study of Dallas’ thoughtful musings on the Christian life. For some even Renovation of the Heart can be hard slogging. A more readable version, wonderfully edited by Don Simpson, is


Revolution of Character: Discovering Christ’s Pattern for Spiritual Transformation, with Don Simpson (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005, 208 pp).


For a more devotional approach to the same material, see


Jan Johnson and Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice: Experiments in Spiritual Transformation (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2006, 192 pp), with 61 short selections from the book, along with illustrations of the concept being discussed by Willard and a practice or daily experiment to try it out.


For orientations to the breadth of Dallas’ thoughts see


Steve Porter, “The Willardian Corpus,” Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care, 3(2), Fall 2010, pp 239-266 (who offers a more in-depth discussion of each of the books I quoted),

and

Gary Black Jr., The Theology of Dallas Willard: Discovering Protoevangelical Faith (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2013, 268pp)—the first book-length treatment of Dallas’ writings that grew out of Black’s doctoral dissertation.


Regarding Dallas’ life journey, see the insightful biography from Dallas’s early years onward,


Gary Moon, Becoming Dallas Willard: The Formation of a Philosopher, Teacher, and Christ Follower (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2018, 289pp).


An organized listing of key quotes by Dallas, by various categories is available,


Elane O’Rourke, A Dallas Willard Dictionary, 2nd ed (Coppell, TX: CreateSpace, 2016, 287pp).


Finally, audios of many of Dallas’ seminars are available at his official website: dwillard.org (click link to “Resources” and then “Audio and Video” box; for a timeline of his life, click on “Dallas”; on the Resources page, there’s a link to their YouTube channel).


For my own life, one of the important influences from Dallas is that I have spent much of my later years focusing my biblical study on the Gospels and Jesus’ life. So, of course I mention my own book that develops further biblical explanation on these four pervading themes from Willard: Living into the Life of Jesus: The Formation of Christian Character (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2012, 296pp). When my book was released by the publisher, I had a wonderful surprise—the Scripture index reveals that from each of the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—I cite at least one verse every chapter (with the exception of two chapters)!

I close with a final word from Dallas Willard:


“We know that we must, instead of just trying to obey, find a way to become the kind of person who does, easily and routinely, what Jesus said—does it without having to think much about it, if at all, in the ordinary case. . . . In engaging the [spiritual] disciplines we go to the root of the tree of life, the sources of behavior. We do the things that will transform [#3] our minds, our feelings, our will and [#4] our embodied and social existence, even the depths of our soul, to ‘make the tree good, and its fruit good’ (Mt 12:33 NASB). We cultivate and fertilize the tree (Lk 13:8). We don’t try to squeeze fruit out of the ends of the branches. . . . And in this way we become, by divine grace, the kind of person who does the things [#2] Jesus said to do and avoids what he said not to do. . . . All of this means that ‘He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust’ (2 Pet 1:4 NASB). [#1] This brings fully before us the picture of salvation as leading a life that is caught up in the kingdom of the heavens, or in what God is doing in human history.”

[Dallas Willard, “Spiritual Formation as a Natural Part of Salvation,” in Life in the Spirit: Spiritual Formation in Theological Perspective, ed. Jeffrey P. Greenman and George Kalantzis (Grand Rapids, MI: InterVarsity, 2010), 55-56.]

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