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Knowing Christ Today Hardcover – May 26, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
In prose that is both decisive and austere, Willard (The Spirit of the Disciplines) throws down the gauntlet to those in both the secular and religious realms who claim it is impossible to know Christian truths. A professor at the University of Southern California's School of Philosophy, Willard attempts to demonstrate how knowledge and faith can support each other. Arguing that the standard of knowledge is truth and proper evidence, the writer leads readers through his proofs for the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus, God's ongoing intervention in the world and the then logical possibility of a vital spiritual practice centered on interactive life with Christ. Christian discipleship, as the author sees it, includes such crucial elements as humility, intent to be inwardly transformed, the practice of the presence of Christ and obedience. As Willard admits in his introduction, the book is a mental workout—even the questions at the end of the chapters are challenging. Woven through with the ideas of classical and contemporary philosophers, theologians and sociologists, this volume will engage readers who are willing to follow Willard on his self-assured way, and trust him as a guide. (July)
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“Dallas Willard focuses like a laser beam on the issue of moral knowledge as a legitimate source for understanding reality and applying it to daily life. It is a must read.” (Richard Foster)
“A spiritual defense of the proposition that faith and reason are not contradictory.” (Peter L. Berger, Director, Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs, Boston University)
“This is clear, lucid thinking about what matters most, as is desperately needed today. Only Dallas Willard could have written this, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t need to read it.” (John Ortberg, Pastor, Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and author of Faith & Doubt)
“In prose that is both decisive and austere...this volume will engage readers who are willing to follow Willard on his self-assured way, and trust him as a guide.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Willard is always fascinating reading. [In Knowing Christ Today] he cares not only about God’s people being rooted in solid theology and thought, but also in Christ’s apprentices actually living out the life of the Spirit.” (Baptist Standard)
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He navigates these and shows the plausibility of the truth that Jesus came to teach us how to live life in its fullest sense. A life like his - a life of love. I've read this book multiple times and find myself hearing Jesus speak to me through it every time about life, the church and reality. It's a great book, but dive into it prepared to think deeply.
Author: Dallas Willard
New York, HarperCollins, 2009
Number of pages: 212
The universe hangs on the Word of God but knowledge of God is not treated as a credible by contemporary scholars and educators. What can actually be known about God is not even given passing consideration but off-handedly and unfairly relegated to education ghettos by those responsible for educating about what is real and knowable.
"In practical terms, reality is what you rely on... Mistakes about reality lead to brutal encounters with it. Illusion, a mistake about what is real, is what will let you down, what you cannot count on. Knowledge of reality tends toward successful and confident interactions with reality," writes author Dallas Willard. "The double minded person is someone with a reality problem."
Christian Spiritual truths are a body of knowledge and should be treated as such. They are not a hunch. They are not strong feelings. Christian Spiritual truths are reality and can be known and taught as verifiable reality.
"[Atheists] literally do not know what they are talking about when it comes to knowing Christ as a life that some people actually live. They have not taken the trouble to understand even what they could know as 'outsiders' by sympathetically studying the lives of the great 'insiders,'" says Willard.
"'Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks the door will be opened' (Matt. 7:7-8). If, after some serious effort, you find that this is 'not working' for you, stand back and reflect on what part of what you are seeking is not really wanted or what part of you does not want God's way."
Willard challenges those with the most serious responsibility of teaching about God and reality. "Pastor - spokespeople for Christ - must first of all have knowledge of the truth and reality they communicate to others. They must do whatever is necessary to gain that knowledge. It is not enough that they be trained to function well within a certain brand of Christianity - to be successful in that context. Their field is real life under God."
Willard's argument is strong. At first, as Willard lays his foundation, I had to read and re-read. I wasn't sure where he was going. He uses terms like "pluralism." This is taboo in the conservative circles of Christianity I learned doctrine in. But guys with a bare-bones education like mine need to hang in there and try to grasp what Willard is saying; it's important to get it. Christian pluralism is: "...a pluralism based on the generosity and justice of the God revealed in Christ," he writes. It doesn't mean that everyone agrees with everyone else's religion. That's ideologically and psychologically impossible. It's also important to say that it isn't unloving or arrogant to disagree with someone that is genuinely wrong. In fact, it is often important for someone who is right to disagree with someone who is wrong and then -lovingly- help him or her correct the error. It would be immoral, in most cases, not to.
Christian pluralism is accepting those we disagree with as neighbors and living them as ourselves.
This is not light reading. But it is excellent reading. For me, it was reading over my head, but it's worth the effort. This is how you grow.
Many believers I know tend to lead with their feelings in discerning what is true and real. Willard writes to bring our thinking back into the realm of thinking and knowing. This he posits will lead us to not only a deeper and clearer understanding of truth but provide a basis for discussion with others. There is another point that to accomplish our task as followers of Christ we must witness to what know is true and not only what we feel is right or good. This brings us into a connection with God that can empower us to move out in humility and love. Once again Dallas Willard brings together clear thinking and a passion for Christ and the world.
"To know him in your world now is to live interactively with him right where you are in your daily activities. This is the spiritual life in Christ. He is, in fact, your contemporary, and he is now about his business of moving humanity along toward its destiny in this amazing universe. You don't want to miss out on being a part - your part - of that great project. You want to be sure to take your life into his life, and in that way to find your life to be "eternal" as God intended.
There is a real danger that you will miss out on this involvement with eternity and thereby miss the entire point of your existence. Eternity is now in progress. Silently it moves along. But it will not run over you. You have to really want it - deep down - or you will miss it. That is why Jesus said to seek it more than anything else."