I read a beautiful article about the late-Dallas Willard written by John Ortberg. If you have never read any of his works, then I would highly recommend Willard’s books. Willard had a gentle brilliance that engaged the minds of grad students and laity alike. As a philosopher at USC, he knew how to engage the heart and mind, leading people to the depths of the Christian faith. Here is an excerpt that I found absolutely brilliant,
For Dallas’s students and friends—and these categories largely overlapped—the best moments, the ones I will miss the most, were the moments with no hurry, no schedule constraint, nothing in the world but time and God and love. Then you could ask him, “Hey, Dallas . . .” (There are a thousand stories that begin with the statement, “Someone asked Dallas.”)
“Hey Dallas . . .” You could see him thinking—not about the problem, which he had worked out long ago, but about how to express it in a way that those of us listening might be able to grasp it. So that it would not be a “pearl cast among swine”—one of dozens of Scripture passages I heard him explain better than any professional exegete.
Dallas and I used to play a game. I would ask him for definitions of all kinds of words. And every definition would contain a clarity and freshness and precision that would require folks to sit and reflect for a while. “Hey Dallas . . . ,” and then I’d ask him about any word or concept that mattered, and would receive a brief education in the possibilities of redeemed thought.
The word spirit. “Disembodied personal power.”
Beauty. “Goodness made manifest to the senses.”
A disciple is “anyone whose ultimate goal is to live as Jesus would live if he were in their place.”
Dignity is “a value that creates irreplaceability.” (This one, he graciously attributed to Immanuel Kant.)
Dallas was ruthlessly committed to logic, clarity of thought, and the constant cultivation of reason. He held such commitments because they were indispensible to navigating reality, and because helping people navigate reality is indispensible to love.
“Hey Dallas, what is reality?”
“Reality is what you can count on.”
“Hey Dallas, what is pain?””Pain is what you experience when you bump into reality.”
Because of this, Dallas had a deep aversion for Christian speakers or writers who use emotion to manipulate a temporary response from their listeners—a response that bypasses their “mental maps” and leaves the audience in worse shape than when they started. He said at one conference that speakers should never tell stories. This prompted a group of publishing types to propose the “Dallas Willard Study Bible,” with all the stories taken out. (Pretty much just Leviticus.)
“What is spiritual maturity?”
“The mature disciple is one who effortlessly does what Jesus would do in his or her place.”
“What exactly does it mean to glorify God?”
“To glorify God means to think and act in such a way that the goodness, greatness, and beauty of God are constantly obvious to ourselves and all those around us. It means to live in such a way that when people see us they think, Thank God for God, if God would create such a life.”
May you walk in God’s light and glorify him now and forever.
Do you have an influential mentor?