Dallas Willard

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Dallas Albert Willard (1935-2013) was an American philosopher also known for his writings on Christian spiritual formation.

Willard taught at the University of Wisconsin in Madison from 1960–1965. Since then he has taught at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he served as Director of the School of Philosophy from 1982–1985. He has also held visiting appointments at UCLA (1969) and the University of Colorado (1984).

His publications in philosophy are concerned primarily with epistemology, the philosophy of mind and of logic, and with the philosophy of Edmund Husserl. He has translated many of Husserl's early writings from German into English, and is widely regarded as an international authority on the philosopher's works.

In addition to teaching and writing about philosophy, Willard gave lectures and wrote books about Christianity and Christian living.

Willard explains the crucial role of engaging in spiritual exercises in his book The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives -- a book that was written after In Search of Guidance: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God.

Christian books

  • The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (1988).
  • The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God (1998).1
  • Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship With God (1999). (formerly titled In Search of Guidance: Understanding How God Changes Lives
  • Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ (2002)2
  • The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus's Essential Teachings on Discipleship (2006)
  • Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (2009)
  • Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God (2012)
  • The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus's Essential Teachings on Discipleship (2014)
  • The Divine Conspiracy Continued: Fulfilling God's Kingdom on Earth (2014) with Gary Black Jr.
  • Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (2014)

1Christianity Today’s Book of the Year for 1999
2Christianity Today’s 2003 Book Award for books on Spirituality
2 The Association of Logos Bookstores' 2003 Book Award for books on Christian Living

A focus on the claims of The Spirit of the disciplines, by Pastor Bob DeWaay

Entire article

Christianity Today, November 2004, Vol. 48, No. 11, Page 36:

He (Brian MacLaren) cites Dallas Willard and Richard Foster, with their emphasis on spiritual disciplines, as key mentors for the emerging church.

  • Willard wrote the foreword in Kingdom Triangle, by J. P. Moreland.
  • Moreland encourages the witings (and practices) of St. Ignatius Loyola, (P. 156), saying such practices will help us to "cultivate the ability to discern the divine components" within us.

  • Willard's book Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God includes a companion DVD containing conversations with Richard Foster and John Ortberg about conversations with God.



The Martin Institute & Dallas Willard Center for Spiritual Formation

Willards Words

  • Death to Self: The willingness to trust the Kingdom of God where we are with what we are and what we're doing in a way that will allow that Kingdom to come into play.
  • The Divine Conspiracy: God's plan to overcome evil with good in human history.
  • Eternal Life: interactive relationship with God and Jesus.
  • Evil: Human wrath that is an explosive, unrestrained impulse to hurt or harm. It is the raw intention to harm others. Evil gets worse when combined with "righteousness" (a sense of one's own superiority), which is a deadly combination.
  • Kingdom of God: The range of God’s effective will, where what God wants done is done. It is an everlasting metaphysical reality, the natrual home of the soul: God and His reign "from everlasting to everlasting."
  • Knowledge: The act (or capacity) of representing (thinking about, talking about, dealing with) a corresponding subject matter as it is, on an appropriate basis of thought and experience, including good “authority.” Knowledge, biblically, is interactive relationship with what is known.
  • Law: The course of rightness, but not the source of rightness.
  • Regeneration: Entry of God’s nature and life into our real existence and identity.
  • Repent: to change the way you've been thinking and acting
  • Salvation: Participating now in what Jesus is doing on earth. A life, not an event.
  • Self-Confidence comes from relentlessly adhering to what you know to be good and right. (Allowing others to do whatever dance it is they're going to do around you.)
  • Spiritual Formation in Christ: The process by which we become like Christ in our inner being, and its result is love of God with all of the heart, soul, mind, and strength, and of the neighbor as oneself.
  • Vampire Christians: Those who just want a little of Christ's blood.
  • Worship: The overall character of the renovated thought life and the only safe place for a human being to stand.

Willard excerpts

  • THE “GREAT COMMISSION: Matt. 28:18-20—”I have been given say over everything in heaven and on earth. Therefore go and make disciples of all kinds of people, submerging them in the Trinitarian reality, and teaching them to do all that I have commanded you. And look, I’m with you every minute, until the job is done.
  • Leaders must emerge to live and teach a Gospel vision of Life now in the eternal Kingdom of the heavens—a Gospel that leads naturally intodiscipleship to Christ.

    And this in turn mean:

    • Rewriting the "contract" the understanding of what people think "church" is all about what they and their leaders are supposed to be doing.
    • Recognizing that the standard activities of "church membership" are simply not adequate means for spiritual formation in Christlikeness.

Certainly ‘nominal’ Christianity, or Christianity merely as a social form, does not involve union with God on the relational model. That is always a sore spot within the social/historical reality of the Christian movement. From the earliest centuries, however, Christians who have thrown themselves into the actual following of Jesus Christ have lived from their experiences of union with God. They have always insisted that correct belief and outward conformity is not what the life in Christ is about. A long line of famous and not so famous Christ-followers have kept the "mystical" substance of their living "union with the Absolute" alive down to the present time.

  • Willard in The Great Omission: The real issue relating to exclusiveness is whether or not the Christian actually has a relationship with God, a presence of God, which non-Christians do not have. Apart from Christian spiritual formation as described here, I believe there is little value in claiming exclusiveness for the Christian way.
  • Willard in http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=36 in 2006: Most of the activities commonly identified as "religious" activities can be a part of the process of spiritual formation, and should be. Public and private worship, study of scripture, nature, and God's acts in human history, prayer, giving to godly causes, and service to others, can all be highly effective elements in spiritual formation. But they must be thoughtfully and resolutely approached for that purpose, or they will have little or no effect in promoting it.

    Other less commonly practiced activities such as fasting, solitude, silence, listening prayer, scripture memorization, frugal living, confession, journaling, submission to the will of others as appropriate, and well-used spiritual direction are in fact more foundational for spiritual formation in Christlikeness than the more well known religious practices, and are essential for their profitable use.

  • Dallas Willard endorsed the contemplative book The Papa Prayer (2006) by Larry Crabb together with Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Bob Buford, Brennan Manning and John Ortberg.
  • Richard Foster wrote the front cover endorsement on Dallas Willard's The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (1999).  Bill Hybels, Sue Monk Kidd wrote the back cover endorsements.
  • The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus's Essential Teachings on Discipleship (2014) is endorsed by John Ortberg, J. P. Moreland, Ruth Haley Barton and back cover endorsed by John Eldredge, Ken Blanchard and Eugene Peterson
  • The Divine Conspiracy Continued: Fulfilling God's Kingdom on Earth (2014) is back cover endorsed by Bob Buford, John Ortberg, Richard Foster and J. P. Moreland.
  • Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge (2014) is back cover endorsed by John Ortberg and Richard Foster.

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