“The ultimate apologetic — that is to say, the ultimate lifter of doubt — is the believer acting in faith in an interactive life with God. That’s it. People need to see individuals living in daily interaction with the kingdom of the heavens: praying and saying. If we want to really attack doubt, what we have to attack is our own hesitancy to step up.” — Dallas Willard, The Allure of Gentleness
“What God is going to bring out of human history in his people is going to be the greatest reflection of God’s own glory, wisdom, and love. That is what human history is about. It is to make a society of the redeemed that will be the crown jewel of creation. And when we look at the terrible things that happen in human history, when we look at the extent of human evil in it, we want to remember what would be lost if human history had not happened. What would be lost is precisely this crown jewel of creation, which consists of Christlike people living together with the kind of love that the members of the Trinity have for one another and enjoying that full, shared, self-subsistent being that characterizes God himself as God dwells in those people.”
— The Allure of Gentleness, pp. 95-96
“A part of our problem with understanding hell comes from the way we think about ehaven. We think about heaven as some kind of comfortable resort, but the greatest thing about heaven is going to be the presence of God. He has allowed us to avoid him here on earth in some measure if we want to, but if you go to heaven, God’s the biggest thing on the horizon. You’re no longer going to be able to avoid him. And that would be the supreme torture if you haven’t gotten over thinking of yourself as God. That’s why I sometimes say that the fires of heaven burn hotter than the fires of hell.” (The Allure of Gentleness, p. 67)
For the day, for your job, for the conversations you have, for the problem you need to solve at home… why not take Jesus with you?
Paul says this about Jesus:
in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col. 2:3)
The One who made everything “probably” actually knows everything. He really does know how to make things work.
Dallas Willard puts it this way:
Regardless of what you’re working on, Jesus has the knowledge required to solve your problems.
Why NOT take Jesus with you today?
In The Allure of Gentleness, Dallas Willard leads the reader in a path I wish I had offered to me when I was a teenager. I grew up with the concept that apologetics was winning the argument. My “rightness” would overwhelm their “wrongness” and then they would somehow just bow to Jesus.
Over the years I have adopted more of what Dallas writes about here, but more by fits and starts than a purposeful plan.
He lays out three basic attitudes to take in the subject of apologetics:
1. Have confidence in God and his truth. We need to understand God is on the throne and Satan can’t do a thing about it. No one can. Have confidence.
2. We are to be humble, generous, and open toward other people. Nothing is more damaging than telling a Muslim, for instance, what he believes, before HE has a chance to tell you what he believes. We need an openness to listen and walk with that respect toward others. Then, in kindness, we ask that same respect in return. I have watched Tim Keller do this time and again. It is marvelous to watch.
3. We need a true desire to lovingly serve.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 is a great example:
24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
I am back to Dallas Willard’s book, The Allure of Gentleness, and find myself challenged yet again by his careful words.
Apologetics for Christians isn’t about proving we’re right. We’re not saved because we’re “right.” We’re “right” because we’re SAVED. It’s about grace stepping in to show what is right.
That’s why so many churches have “Grace” in their name. Not many people want to go to “Right Church,” but we’ll gladly go to “Grace Church.” I’ve been to Right Church — you may have been there too — it’s a tough place. There are a lot of dead people at Right Church, because life comes by grace.
The value of being “right” is found in helping us deal with reality. When we see what is truly right, we integrate life much easier. But it’s not about proving our “rightness” to someone else.
There is no way to contain my joy in getting to read more words from Dallas Willard. I am so thankful his daughter is putting together his notes and lectures. This latest book is called The Allure of Gentleness, and takes up the cause of living out the apologetic of Christianity rather than simply trying to engage in and win an argument.
Some early gems:
It is because in suffering for righteousness’s sake you know the reality of the kingdom of the heavens in your life. that reality comes into you, and you find that you are leading a supernatural, deathless life.
If you do not exhibit the presence of a life that is above this world, something that is coming into you and giving you joy, peace, and strength in a situation that looks very bad from outside, there isn’t going to be anything for people to ask about.
I received Dallas Willard’s latest book today. It is so refreshing to know his work can continue. This one is on apologetics and approaching it with gentleness instead of a combative attitude. It is classic Dallas.
Big quote so far:
We need to be able to deal with doubt lovingly, helpfully, and especially without ever scolding or shaming anyone for doubting. We must allow people to be who they are and then be able to meet them where they are.
I received a review copy of Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard’s Teaching on Faith and Formation from IVP. I am under no obligation to give it a positive review.
But let’s be real, how would I NOT give a positive review on a book that celebrates a man who gave me the very idea for this blog? IVP knows I’m a sucker. 🙂
The book is full of testimonials from all facets of Dallas’s life. He was a family man, a leading professor of philosophy, and a church leader/teacher/reformer. Family members, close friends, colleagues, former students, and more line up to tell Dallas stories.
If I had ever had the chance to get to know Dallas (and I did have the pleasure of meeting him once), I know their stories would have been my own story.
Every one of them could remember two things distinctly: the first time they met Dallas and the last time they spoke with him. They could also remember just about every other time they connected with Dallas and here is why: Dallas let each person be the center of his focus when he was with them. When people were with Dallas, he was WITH them. He would let phones ring, doorbells ring, let people stand waiting in the hall, etc. He gave people attention. He answered questions. He gave humble answers.
The other witness of some friends is true of my own life learning from Dallas from afar: He was impossible to understand. Several freely admitted it took years to get what Dallas was saying. I felt so relieved! Here are smart people saying they didn’t understand Dallas! I just chalked my own ignorance up to my lack of brains!
For those who plow through the writings of Dallas Willard and find yourself on a journey learning from him, this book is a marvelous treasure. He was so deeply loved. He was easily the smartest man in the room… and the most humble. What an incredible combination.
This book is a treasure in my collection of Dallas Willard writings. I was so thankful many writers included new Dallas phrases that I have not yet read in Dallas’s books. He could summarize Kingdom truth with such power!
It is possible we will be able to hear from Dallas for years to come. He left so much unpublished. I hope the work continues.
Some Dallas sayings:
“The kingdom of God is never in trouble. And neither are those who are in it.”
“We live at the mercy of our ideas. They run, and often ruin, our lives.”
“There is no problem in the world today that apprenticeship to Jesus cannot solve.”
“The main thing you get out of life is the person you become.”
Two great answer Dallas gave about heaven and hell that John Ortberg reflects on:
People were always asking Dallas questions and would often begin with “Hey, Dallas.” Ortberg gives these quotes in that fashion.
“Hey Dallas, who’s going to heaven?”
“I’m quite sure that God will allow everyone into heaven that can possibly stand it.”
“Hey Dallas, what’s hell?”
“Hell is just the best God can do for some people.”
THAT was Dallas.
I am grateful for yet another volume of reflection to keep me stirred about a man that will affect my life for years to come.
In a new book honoring the life of Dallas Willard (Eternal Living) James Bryan Smith relates the story of a time he asked Dallas about who was “right,” Arminians or Calvinists?
“Neither.” He went on to say that both were right, and both were wrong, and he did not fit into either camp.
The more I read reflections from people who knew him best, the more I know why I have grown to admire him so deeply.