Dallas Willard is one of the great Christian thinkers, theologians and writers of our time. I’ve read a few of his books before, including The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives and The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God. So when I was offered the chance to get a preview of his new book, Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge, I jumped at the chance. It was just released today in hardcover – and you can get it on Amazon.com.
Here is a quick blurb of what the book is about:
In KNOWING CHRIST TODAY, renowned philosopher, teacher and bestselling author Dallas Willard answers the most provocative questions facing the church today. Willard persuasively argues that we need to re-think our understanding of tolerance, that we can rationally affirm the existence of a creator on the evidence of the created universe, and that Christian spiritual truths are a body of knowledge that, when treated as such, become a life-changing and reliable source that should be granted the same authority as other disciplines.
Willard covers a TON of ground in this book, writing on such topics as miracles, Christian pluralism, moral knowledge, faith and the role of pastors in the world today.
This is not an easy, devotional type of book. Rather, it is one that looks at some of the most profound Christian truths, and examines them in light of Willard’s argument that “knowledge” is not a bad thing and is essential to faith. As mentioned above, Willard covers a great deal of subjects, and I don’t have time to go over them in detail in this short review. But I did want to share with you a few quotes that I found very helpful.
Towards the end of the book, Willard deals with the question of Christian pluralism. I found this specifically enlightening to read in light of the Plurality 2.0 series on my blog. Here are some of Willard’s thoughts on Christian pluralism:
What this Christian pluralism says is that, because God is who Jesus Christ shows him to be, any person who in God’s eyes it seems right for him to accept certainly will be accepted by him. That acceptance will in every case be an act of mercy. This is a faith in God that excludes boasting of any kind – especially religious boasting – and places everyone on an even footing before God’s mercy (Rom. 3:27–31).
Christian pluralism thus concedes that people of “other” religions or no religion at all may be “right with God.” But from within the resources of its knowledge it insists that, if that is so in a given case, it will not be because the individuals concerned merely profess the beliefs and sustain the practices thought to be essential to recognized members of their particular religious culture – including Christians. It will not be because of their religion. Rather, it will be because their lives are centered on that same love that is expressed in the person and teachings of Jesus and of his people at their best. It will be because God is love. (181-2)
He goes on to discuss the slight variations between weak and strong versions of pluralism and what is compatible and incompatible with Christian faith. The chapter, as well as the discussion questions provided, would provide for some really interesting conversations.
In his final chapter, Willard speaks about the role of pastors in the world today. Using the Great Commission as a model, he believes that the pastors are supposed to be the teachers to all the nations. He has some very interesting thoughts about the role of the pastors today, and here is just one quote:
Their [pastors] task is not to get people to believe things, to share “Christian” feelings or rituals, to join Christian groups, or to be faithful to familiar Christian traditions…The task of Christian pastors and leaders is to present Christ’s answers to the basic questions of life and to bring those answers forward as knowledge – primarily to those who are seeking and are open to following him, but also to all who may happen to hear, in the public arenas of a world in desperate need of knowledge of what is real and what is good. (198)
If you’re a fan of Dallas Willard, this book will be just one more of his that you will want to have in your library. And if you’ve never read a book by Willard before, this will be a great way to get acquainted with a really profound and influential Christian philosopher and theologian.