Tuesday, January 04, 2005

PART 2- DALLAS WILLARD INTERVIEW

SUBVERSIVE INTERVIEW - DALLAS WILLARD PART 2
By Keith Giles
(These 3 articles all appeared in Relevant Magazine's online column "Subversive" by Keith Giles)
http://www.relevantmagazine.com/article.php?sid=3743

In our second installment of a three-part conversation with author and professor Dallas Willard, we discuss the taking up our cross, the irrelevant church and why doctrine and tradition have crippled believers on both sides of the issue.

[RELEVANT MAGAZINE]: “Let me ask you this. I have been reading through the works of A.W. Tozer and Charles Finney and I am amazed at the drastic contrast between these men and their teaching as compared to the ‘seeker-friendly’ sort we hear today. It’s a shock to my system. Christianity seems to have lost that power to communicate that Jesus was right on in what he was teaching. The proof should be in the lives that we live day-to-day. Lives that are different from those in the world around us. Since we’re not living a life that’s different, the Gospel has lost its power.”

[DALLAS WILLARD]: “Well, it’s lost its power because it’s no longer intelligent. I recognize that the Spirit has to work. And none was better than Finney in understanding the relationship between the Spirit and the Word. But when you read his directions you sense the incredible intelligence in this fellow. By the way, that’s true of Tozer and Wesley and Jonathan Edwards, and all of these people. As intelligent men they were capable of addressing issues clearly and that is what you do not hear today. The level of intelligence in our sermons, the abysmal story telling that you hear constantly is just hopeless. The power that comes through the Bible itself, which is the most intelligent book ever written, is lost. If we didn’t just go, like you’re mentioning in the passage in Peter, to go and get a verse to endorse what we think we want to do, and if we read it with our intelligence and dependence on the Spirit of God then we would come out with what you’re hearing when you read Tozer. The same thing is true with C.S. Lewis. What comes through with all of these people is that they speak with such force because what they know what they’re talking about. That is not something that is opposed to the power of the Spirit, that’s what the Spirit would lead you into if you would ever open yourself to God and become His disciple.”

[RM]: “It’s not a very popular thing to say, ‘We’re passing out crosses today, come and die to yourself!’”

[DW]: “It’s unheard of today. The meaning of the Cross, the meaning of death to self, all the things Tozer and, in his own way, Finney, and certainly Wesley, all understood this. That isn’t heard today.”

[RM]: “It’s very sad and a lot of young Christians today are saying that church is irrelevant and they don’t get anything out of it. Some are leaving the church, but others are asking the question, ‘What does it really mean to be a follower of Christ?’”

[DW]: “That’s right, and their points about irrelevance are, generally speaking, absolutely right on. My way of putting this, as I mentioned earlier in my last chapter of Renovation Of The Heart, is simply that the churches don’t do what Jesus asked them to do. They’ve got all these other things and their main problem is distraction. They’re distracted from the main thing and they’re thinking about their tradition or about being really Baptist or Catholic or what have you, and the truth of the matter is, ‘Who cares’? That’s what the young people are sensing. In many respects they’re turning to the more ‘High Church’ models where you have a non-leader emphasis, where you have a person who is basically does rituals and there are wonderful, rich words there and so on. Many others see through that too because that is just as empty as the other, except for those wonderful words, which if you listen to, they will do a lot for you. But of course you don’t have to go long before you discover most people are not listening to those words, they’re just going through the ritual.“I think the hope, the great hope, on these young people, and it’s extremely important that they not be lead into over-reaction and simply become negative and loose the whole thing under phrases like ‘post-modernism’ because there is no Gospel of post-modernism. Post-modernism is basically of liberation which might set you free to go into something right, but it is not itself the Gospel, or a form of life even. It’s amusing for me to see, as I travel around, for people to try to do something that would be called post-modernism, but there isn’t anything like that. You just do kind of funny things and maybe it helps a little bit, but the important thing is that instead of going in that direction that they do what you have done and turn to Finney and Tozer and these other folks.”

[RM]: “My feeling is that what is lacking for these young people who sense this unrest and unease about their faith is that there is no one for them to look to who is actually living this sort of discipleship out, or even teaching about it. The most fascinating thing to me is that, for a modern Christian, the most radical thing one could possibly do would be to simply read the words of Jesus and then go and do exactly what he says to do.”

[DW]: “That’s exactly right.”

[RM]: “And if people did do that they’d be looked at by people in the Church as if they had two heads.”

[DW]: “And God would come down on them, they would be blessed and prosper, just like people who have done this at every period in the history of the church have been blessed and prospered and the Kingdom of God has come. But that’s the one thing that the whole culture and system around them is designed to keep them from doing. Most of this is theology. It’s the bad theology that is the main block because the people who will resist them and not think that they have anything to say are the ones who have a theology that reinforces their rejection. That’s the same thing that was true in the day of Jesus. He said, ‘If you can believe Moses you would believe me’ and it’s a recurring thing that happens when people get absorbed in their self-righteous traditions and their own rituals and they close their mind and they say, ‘Oh, we believe the Bible’. They don’t believe the Bible. If they did they would do what you’re talking about.”
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[Dallas Willard is a Professor in the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Since 1965 he has taught at USC where he was Director of Philosophy from 1982-1985. He’s largely known for writing books about spiritual formation, Kingdom Theology and living a more Christ-centered life. He also lectures and publishes in religion. Renovation of the Heart was published in May 2002, and received Christianity Today's 2003 Book Award in the category of Spirituality. The Divine Conspiracy was released in 1998 and selected Christianity Today's Book Of The Year.]

[Keith Giles is a pastor at a new church-plant in Tustin, California called “The River”. He’s currently writing his own book of Subversive thoughts and musings, but you’ll just have to wait. Until then, check out one of his subversive projects at: http://www.parabolicjournal.com]

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