Tag Archives: The Divine Conspiracy

The foolish, weak, lowly, and despised

In a passage describing the availability and nearness of the Kingdom brought to us in Jesus, Willard has a wonderful passage on the Church. Here is a brief excerpt worth a share:

These are the grubby people. In their midst a Corrie Ten Boom takes the hand of the Nazi who killed her family members. The scene is strictly not of this earth. Any spiritually healthy congregation of believers in Jesus will more or less look like these “brands plucked from the burning.” If the group is totally nice, that is a sure sign something has gone wrong. For here are the foolish, weak, lowly, and despised of this world, whom God has chosen to cancel out the humanly great. -Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 125


Questions for preachers to ask themselves (via Dallas Willard)

Dallas Willard expresses concern in The Divine Conspiracy that the idea of discipleship is lost on both the “left” and “right” sides of the theological spectrum. He believes that discipleship has been replaced by doctrines of “sin management” (or what Bonhoeffer might call “cheap grace”) that is disconnected from the person of Jesus Christ. This leads Willard to exhort Christian teachers:

“Must not all who speak for Christ constantly ask themselves these crucial questions: Does the gospel I preach and teach have the natural tendency to cause people to hear it to become full-time students of Jesus? Would those who believe it become his apprentices as a natural “next step”? What can we reasonably expect would result from people actually believing the substance of my message?”

In contrast to doctrines of “sin management” and teaching a gospel that is disconnected from our “real” lives Willard offers this solution:

“To counteract this we must develop a straightforward presentation, in word and life, of the reality of life now under God’s rule, through reliance upon the word and person of Jesus. In this way we can naturally become his students or apprentices. We can learn from him how to live our lives as he would live them if he were we.

Dallas Willard on the absurdity of trite slogans

This excerpt from The Divine Conspiracy was written by Dallas Willard in 1998 before Facebook “memes” was a thing. Imagine if these paragraphs would have been written today.

In shambles of fragmented assurances from the past, our longing for goodness and rightness and acceptance – and orientation – makes us cling to bumper slogans, body graffiti, and gift shop nostrums that in our proofed upside-down-ness somehow seem deep but in fact make no sense: “Stand up for your rights” sounds so good. How about “All I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten”? And “Practice random kindnesses and senseless acts of beauty?” And so forth.

Such sayings contain a tiny element of truth. But if you try to actually plan your life using them you are immediately in deep, deep trouble. They will head you 180 degrees in the wrong direction. You might as well model your life on Bart Simpson or Seinfeld. But try instead “Stand up for your responsibilities” or “I don’t know what I need to know and must now devote my full attention and strength to finding out” (Consider Prov. 3:7 or 4:7) or “Practice routinely purposeful kindnesses and intelligent acts of beauty.”
Putting these into practice immediately begins to bring truth, goodness, strength, and beauty into our lives. But you will never find them on a greeting card, plaque, or bumper. They aren’t thought to be smart. What is truly profound is thought to be stupid and trivial is thought to be profound. That is what it means to fly upside down. (from The Divine Conspiracy, 9 – 10)