On this day in 1935 Dallas Willard was born in Buffalo, Missouri. He went on to become a leading American philosopher and one of the defining spiritual writers of contemporary Christianity.
An accomplished professor of philosophy, Willard also became a household name with his writings on Christian living. Famous works include The Great Omission, Renovation of the Heart and perhaps most famouslyThe Divine Conspiracy.
His thought centred on a deep understanding of faith that involved not just a one-off prayer but the dedication and transformation of one's whole life, nourished through 'spiritual disciplines' like prayer, simplicity and fasting.
He challenged nominal and individualistic Christianity and pointed to a 'bigger picture' of the gospel that saw 'the Kingdom of God' at work in all spheres of life.
He died following a battle with cancer in May 2013, when his last words were said to have been 'Thank you'. Willard's legacy lives on – here are nine quotes that capture some of his insight.
1. Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone. – The Great Omission.
2. The idea of having faith in Jesus has come to be totally isolated from being his apprentice and learning how to do what he said. – The Divine Conspiracy.
3. The aim of God in history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons, with Himself included in that community as its prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant.
4. We must understand that God does not love us without liking us – through gritted teeth – as Christian love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core – which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word love. – The Divine Conspiracy.
5. I'm practising the discipline of not having to have the last word.
6. God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are, and if we faithlessly discard situation after situation, moment after moment, as not being right, we will simply have no place to receive his kingdom into our life.
7. Solitude well practised will break the power of busyness, haste, isolation, and loneliness. You will see that the world is not on your shoulders after all. Your will find yourself, and God will find you in new ways. Silence also brings Sabbath to you. It completes solitude, for without it you cannot be alone. Far from being a mere absence, silence allows the reality of God to stand in the midst of your life. God does not ordinarily compete for our attention. In silence we come to attend. Lastly, fasting is done that we many consciously experience the direct sustenance of God to our body and our whole person. – The Great Omission.
8. Anything done in anger can be done better without it! – Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard's Teaching on Faith and Formation.
9. The main thing that you bring the church is the person that you become, and that's what everybody will see; that's what will get reproduced; that's what people will believe. Arrange your life so that you are experiencing deep contentment, joy and confidence in your everyday life with God. – Living in Christ's Presence: Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God.