Monday, August 08, 2005

The Divine Conspiracy

Well, here is the first of what hopefully will be many book reviews on Page 132.

In The Divine Conspiracy, Dr. Dallas Willard – professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Philosophy – examines the kind of life that God has offered us in his Kingdom. Dr. Willard begins by arguing that the eternal life of this kingdom is available now. He then examines both the theologically conservative and liberal and reveals that, essentially, they both endorse systems of, what he calls, “Sin Management,” which is far from the triumphant and eternal sort of life that God offers humanity in his kingdom.
Dr. Willard asserts that, “Jesus’ good news about the kingdom can be an effective guide for our lives only if we share his view of the world in which we live” (p. 61), and that the world in which we live is a, “God-bathed and God-permeated world,” (p. 61). And it is in such a world that Jesus enters into and proclaims the good news of the kingdom – which everyone is welcome to come in and partake of God’s blessings.
Chapters five, six, and seven formulate a compelling and challenging interpretation of Jesus’ description of life in this kingdom through the lens of “The Sermon on the Mount.” According to Dr. Willard, “The aim of the sermon…is to help people come to hopeful and realistic term with their lives here on earth by clarifying, in concrete terms, the nature of the kingdom into which they are now invited by Jesus’ call,” (p. 133). In the sermon, Jesus intends not to heap more laws and regulations upon our already burdened souls, but, rather, paints for us a picture of the sort of person God intends to make us as we trust and obey in his eternal kingdom. In other words, as we continue to live in the kingdom of God – recognizing Who its king is and immersing ourselves in his reality – he will transform us into the sort of person for whom turning the other cheek will become the natural response to violence. It will be attacking our attacker that will be the difficult thing to do, not the other way around!
Dr. Willard comes to the conclusion of his book by examining what it means to be a disciple of Jesus– for it is only under his care that we have a hope to put on the sort of life God intends for us in his kingdom. To be his disciple means that we must be, “Simply someone who has decided to be with another person, under appropriate conditions, in order to become capable of doing what that person does or to become what that person is,” (p. 282). For Dr. Willard, becoming a student of Jesus involves asking to see Jesus to, “see him more fully as he really is,” (p. 295) as well as dwell in Jesus’ words. Dwelling in Jesus’ words involves centering our lives upon the good news of the kingdom as well as putting off that which draws our attention away from the reality that is available in God.
On the personal side, The Divine Conspiracy is the third book I’ve read by Dr. Willard, and have come to find him a valuable and reliable mentor – if he can be called that – in my Christian walk. I appreciate Dr. Willard’s desire to put his reader at the feet of Jesus. His books do not resemble a “how-to” for the Christian life, and are free from soul captivating dogmas and laws, but rather, seek to reveal the truth of God’s kingdom because Dr. Willard knows that if we enter into that truth, we have come to one who is a far greater teacher than he. I highly recommend any of Dr. Willard’s books, but especially this one. At a time when our most trusted Christian Leaders seem bent on Christianizing the world through political and social means, here is a book that reminds us of what the Gospel is and of that Gospel’s power for effecting change for time and eternity!