Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chris Rosebrough asks: "Is Dallas Willard a Christian?"

Chris Rosebrough, at his Fighting for the Faith and Extreme Theology sites, has posted his analysis of an audio clip of Dallas Willard’s recent question-and-answer talk with John Ortberg. Mr. Rosebrough’s analysis is spot-on. What Mr. Willard is proclaiming is law, not gospel. And his remark "All who deserve to be saved will be saved" isn’t a slip of the tongue--Mr. Willard says it three times.

I downloaded Pastor Bob DeWaay’s excellent and scriptural audio (Part 1; Part 2) and print critiques of Mr. Willard’s book The Spirit of the Disciplines and took the book out of the public library. I wasn’t impressed, although I don’t disagree with everything Mr. Willard says. Mr. Willard has nothing good to say about the Reformation, and his eschatology is classic post-millennialism: Jesus will come back only after man brings in the Kingdom of God through practicing the disciplines. Mr. Willard is also a dominionist who beleives that Christians should control the world's wealth so that we can use it to further the Kingdom of God--as if the world would just sit back and allow that to happen. If the book had been published in 1968 instead of 1988, I would have said that Mr. Willard’s views were probably the result of smoking too much weed. In the last chapter of the book Mr. Willard says that his belief may seem like a dream. Indeed, it made me think of John Lennon singing, in Imagine, "You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one." I’ve always liked the way Dave Hunt puts it: The Bible says that Jesus will meet us in the air; if you’re expecting to meet Jesus with your feet firmly planted on planet Earth, you’ve been building the kingdom of the antichrist. Mr. Willard definitely has his feet firmly planted on planet Earth. His derisive comment on Christians’ view of the millennial reign of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem as a totalitarian dictatorship is blasphemous and offensive.

Mr. Willard’s background is as a professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California, and he argues largely on the basis of human logic and reasoning rather than from what the Scripture actually says. As for his attempt to create a distinction between "Christ" and "Christianity," this is where the currently-popular term "Christ-follower" comes in. You can be in another religion and be a "Christ-follower" without being a Christian.


  1. Whoa.. you have missed what Willard and some of the most respected Hebraic scholar of the Scriptures have discovered. The Kingdom of God is near... which in the proper translation is that the Kingdom of God is here ... right now.. it can be experienced by repeating our sins, turning our lives 360 degrees toward God, and loving Him with all our hearts, soul and mind. Then this is expressed to others by love. Knowing God, by Loving Him. Confessing sin is a tool ( a very huge one) to reconciliation... to a loving relationship with God, made possible through Christ. But, is it black and white to say a person cannot have a loving relationship with God and not know God? I believe it is possible. Because of Christ, this person has received Grace and if they are honestly seeking God they will find Him. I believe this is true.

  2. mmm, I've watched, read & listened to a lot of what Dallas has said. No one is right about everything, but he is obviously a humble man. For me, life with God has changed since listening to what he has to say. I'm not easily led, in fact I've been called synical in the past, but when someone makes sense they make sense. Although God's truth is often above us, when we see it, it isn't illogical. In fact when we see stuff that God sheds light on, the usual response is "why didn't I see that before?" Jesus' sayings in the NT & God's voice in the OT make more sense of the world, not less.

    The whole law/grace or free-will/predestination thing ARE NOT beliefs you can use to determine whether someone is following Jesus or not, only whether they're in a particular religious club. 'Christian' in itself can mean anything or nothing. Tell someone you're a Christian & they may have no idea what it means or they may decide something wildly different from what you have in mind. Tell them you're a disciple of Jesus (where the word discipline comes from) and they only have to find out about Jesus to get a grasp of were your life is centred, or where it's headed or at least where it should be headed. What's a disciple? This has been said before by many, I guess, but a disciple is someone who's attitude is one of assuming there's a lot (maybe everything) to learn. They don't assume, act or talk like they know everything. They also assume that there are probably things that they think they know that will have to change.

    It's important to note that 'Christian' is in the NT 3 times and is a nickname used by the world to describe disciples of Christ. This may be uncomfortable but it is there to see.
    Jesus told the disciples to go and make disciples (not Christians!) & to teach them to obey His commands. He didn't give instructions on how to form a new religion, He wanted disciples to make more disciples & teach them how to be better disciples.

    To say that Dallas Willard only relies on human logic is not true. One of the points he makes about Jesus' greatness is how Jesus' logic is so awesome. He said things like "you've read that such & such is true, so what about this". He gave people the tools to work out truth. If something is provable by human logic, and no errors have been made, God's truth may well add to it, in fact almost certainly it will, but it will not contradict it. Often human logic has flaws, in which case God's truth will show the arguments to be false; e.g. if you think you've used logic to prove that the universe has always been here & therefore there's no need for a creator, even human logic will disprove this theory, it just cannot be. Human logic will only seem to support this if beliefs are decided in advance & presumptions are made. So, we can prove that the universe had a beginning, and we can also prove that there needs to be a creator of some kind (I'm assuming that people reading either know or can find the relevant arguments). However, human logic doesn't necessarily get as far as knowing what this creator is like. BUT, when God reveals himself, as He promises, to those who seek Him, we say "of course, I see it, the creator had to be this way", even though we had little or no chance of working it out on our own.


  3. ...cont

    I would suggest that it's better to deal with the arguments, and not resort to personal attacks. If you want to obey Jesus, even if you think that Dallas Willard is wrong, you will still love him & want the best for him. Looking down on people was never Jesus' style, even when he had direct stuff to say. So if you think someone's in error & there really is a need to correct them, think & pray carefully about how this might be done, and do it with love for the person.

    Life seems full of paradoxes. There are people in my church who have similar views to me. Some of these people are like Jesus & some aren't so much. There are other people who have views that quite frankly I find a bit weird. Again, some of these people are like Jesus, some not so much. Now, you will have to admit that no one can be like Jesus just by trying hard on their own. If one is to become like Christ, whatever you believe about our part in it, God himself IS involved. So, I have to be humble enough to see that God is a bit less concerned with other people's theology than I might be. Even when I can 'clearly see' that another person is wrong about something, their heart can still be set towards God in love. Jesus asked people to follow Him, so lets do that. Where I live, many different churches work together. A few years ago I'd have been uncomfortable with this, because "what if THEY, want to make us like them?" "We might become compromised". However, what actually happens, is nothing like this. When a group of diverse Christians come together for the purpose of finding out where God is moving in a town, the side issues don't matter, there are no arguments about which kind of baptism is correct, which kind of clothes God likes, which kind of music God approves of etc. God does actually lead, and Jesus becomes the focus and people outside the church start to see it. If they mostly see 'Christians' attacking other 'Christians' it just brings God's reputation into disrepute.

    Do we trust God enough to take Paul's attitude in Philipians 3:15 "All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you"

    If someone thinks differently to me, I can leave the convincing to God! But, but, THIS issue that's so important to ME surely doesn't come into that category? Well, great things often happen when I shut up for a while & let God speak, and often when I decide on my own to have an argument about something 'REALLY' important I do more harm than good. I'm sure we can all identify! So on that note, hope this was of some use, but if not, spend some time in quiet & listen for God's still small voice without deciding in advance what He will say!

    Grace & peace to you all.

  4. The commenters are entitled to their opinions, however wrong I believe them to be (I hardly need to say that the fact that I publish certain comments doesn't necessarily imply that I agree with them).

    Alarm bells go off in my head when I see the somment that Jesus isn't out to make Christians. That's the same message proclaimed in The Shack, my review of which may be found elsewhere on this blog. Although Christian was originally a pejorative term, the early believers adopted the term for themselves. I consider myself to be a Bible-believing Christian, and I was a Christian long before the term "Christ-follower became popular.

  5. I am horified at the lack of discernment I see in this comments. Sunday schools are either failing to lay the foundations of Christianity or people just aren't paying any attention whatever. Isn't it amazing how no one wants to listen to so called boring theological lectures on the truth of Scripture, but when some heretic comes along with something NEW and INTRIGUING, everyone is all of the sudden and expert to say he is on to something. Simply amazing.

  6. Agreed Dr D. Heresy and apostasy are now rampant.

  7. Heresy and apostasy are more in ourselves than we ought to think, only the fruit of who we are (Mt 7:21) can validate our truth claims and profession of faith, even that is not quite easy to see into others. Apostasy is never only out here. It is in all who produce evil, even if they profess doctrinal truth. I try not to forget to look at the fruit of a life before judging someone on what they said that seem strange, even dangerous.