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The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
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The Divine Conspiracy (1998)

by Dallas Willard

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I wanted to like this book because it was recommended highly to me by someone I very much respect but I found it very difficult. I think the author came from somewhere culturally that seemed very unfamiliar to me. Also there was a lot of repetition and complicated issues were very much brushed aside.

I think I'm just becoming far more Catholic in my view of the world and the lack of imminence in this book made it feel very deeply Protestant. ( )
  chive | Nov 28, 2013 |
Enjoyed this challenge of discipleship to Jesus as the very heart of the gospel, and these favorite quotes:
More than any other single thing, in any case, the practical irrelevance of actual obedience to Christ accounts for the weakened effect of Christianity on the world today, with its increasing tendency to emphasize political and social action as the primary way to serve God. It also accounts for the practical irrelevance of Christian faith to individual character development and overall personal sanity and well-being.
"The command 'Be ye perfect' is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command." C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Kingdom praying and its efficacy is entirely a matter of the innermost heart's being totally open and honest before God. It is not an informational but intimate communion with the one who truly knows our needs It is a matter of what we are saying with our whole being, moving with resolute intent and clarity of mind into the flow of God's action. In apprenticeship to Jesus, this is one of the most important things we learn how to do. He teaches us how to be in prayer what we are in life and how to be in life what we are in prayer.
"The discipline of secrecy will help us break the grip of human opinion over our souls and our actions. A discipline is an activity in our power that we do to enable us to do what we cannot do by direct effort. Jesus is here leading us into the discipline of secrecy. We from time to time practice doing things approved of in our religious circles – giving, praying, fasting, attending services of the church, and so on – but in such a way that no one knows. Thus, our motivation and reward for doing these things cannot come from human beings. We are liberated from slavery to eyes, and then it does not matter whether people know or not. We learn to live constantly in this way."
"The adult members of churches today rarely raise serious religious questions for fear of revealing their doubts or being thought of as strange. There is an implicit conspiracy of silence on religious matters in the churches. This conspiracy covers up the fact that the churches do not change lives or influence conduct to any appreciable degree." Clyde Reid
Prayer is a matter of explicitly sharing with God my concerns about what he too is concerned about in my life. And of course he is concerned about my concerns and, in particular, that my concerns should coincide with his. This is our walk together. Out of it I pray.
Prayer as kingdom praying is an arrangement explicitly instituted by God in order that we as individuals may count, and count for much, as we learn step by step how to govern, to reign with him in his kingdom. To enter and to learn this reign is what gives the individual life its intended significance. This high calling also explains why prayer frequently requires much effort, continuous effort, and on some matters possibly years and years of effort. Prayer is, above all, a means of forming character. It combines freedom and power with service and love. What God gets out of our lives - and indeed, what we get out of our lives - is simply the person we become. It is God's intention that we should grow into the kind of person he could empower to do what we want to do. Then we are ready to 'reign for ever and ever' (Rev. 22:5).
"Brother Lawrence, who was a kitchen worker and cook, remarks, Our sanctification does not depend upon changing our works, but in doing that for God's sake which we commonly do for our own. . . It is a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times. We are as strictly obliged to adhere to God by action in the time of action as by prayer in the season of prayer."
Nondiscipleship is the elephant in the church. It is not the many moral failures, financial abuses or amazing general similarity between Christian and non-Christians. These are only the effects of the underlying problem. The fundamental negative reality among Christians believers today, is the failure to be constantly learning how to live their lives in the kingdom among us. And it is an accepted reality. The divisions of professing Christians and to those for whom it is a matter of whole life devotion to God and those who maintain a consumer or client relationship to the church has now been an accepted reality for the last 1500 years.
Henri Nouwen well describes our common situation: “We simply go along with the many "musts" and "oughts" that have been handed on to us, and we live with them as if they were authentic translations of the Gospel of our Lord. People must be motivated to come to church, youth must be entertained, money must be raised, and above all everyone must be happy. Moreover, we ought to be on good terms with the church and civil authorities; we ought to be liked or at least respected by a fair majority of our parishioners; we ought to move up in the ranks according to schedule; and we ought to have enough vacation and salary to live a comfortable life.”
Do we now even have any idea of what discipleship evangelism, as we might call it, would look Ilke? What message would we preach that would naturally lead to a decision to become an apprentice to Jesus in The Kingdom Among Us? I hope we can now understand what it might be, having worked our way this far. I hope that our understanding of what it is really to trust Jesus Christ, the whole person, with our whole life, would make the call to become his whole-life apprentice the natural next step. That would be discipleship evangelism. And it would be very different from what is now done.
One of the greatest weaknesses in our teaching and leadership today is that we spend so much time trying to get people to do things good people are supposed to do, without changing what they really believe. It doesn't succeed very well, and that is the open secret of church life.
Very little of our being lies under the direction of our conscious minds, and very little of our actions runs from our thoughts and consciously chosen intentions. Our mind on its own is an extremely feeble instrument, whose power over life we constantly tend to exaggerate. We are incarnate beings in our very nature, and we live from our bodies. If we are to be transformed, the body must be transformed, and that is not accomplished by talking at it. ( )
  dannywahlquist | May 14, 2013 |
Half way through and I can already say that every Christian should read this book (in fact they should read all of Dallas Willard’s books). It will take patience and determination to stay completely engaged because the reading level is not for the faint of heart. He’s a Philosophy Professor at USC and his writing is a direct reflection of higher education. If the Lord Jesus tarries, his writings will be considered classics. I wish he were a professor at my seminary, I would have taken every one of his classes. If you are involved in any kind of ministry, you need to read this book! ( )
  charleswood1 | Jul 9, 2009 |
The Kingdom of the Heavens is not then and there, but here and now. Jesus’ radical reordering of society in His ‘sermon on the mount,’ offers a sustained and penetrating look into this new reality. Willard provides a methodical and immensely practical examination of this profound sermon. Although at times drifting into questionable exegesis, Willard’s central thesis is rock solid. In particular, Willard’s explanation of the Kingdom of God and discipleship make this a must-read. A- ( )
1 vote bsanner | Oct 19, 2007 |
If you are a Christian and want to take in something that will challenge you to live a radically Christlike life, then this is one book you must read. Willard, a professor of philosophy at USC, uses the Sermon on the Mount of Matthew 5-7 as the basis for this 1997 work that is already widely recognized in evangelical circles as a classic in the genre of Christian spiritual formation. He gives practical, concrete teaching on living as subjects of the King in the “kingdom of the heavens” (Willard’s preferred rendering of the Greek). While his understanding of Christian theology at times seems to be influenced more by Plato than Moses – and this is a shortcoming in my opinion – he skillfully explains discipleship in terms of present kingdom realities. His “curriculum for Christlikeness” (chapter 9) is worth the price of the book alone.

Willard’s syntax is sometimes complex, even cumbersome, which means it may not be the easiest reading for some. However, those willing to work slowly and carefully through the book, as I did, will enjoy an abundant feast of spiritual nourishment. There is an ample index and a wealth of endnotes. ( )
1 vote deanc | Jul 15, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060693339, Hardcover)

Dallas Willard, an acclaimed theologian and professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California, fulfills the longing of many Christians who want to live as true disciples of Christ rather than distant dabblers. Likewise, he scoffs at consumer Christians who are simply banking on admittance to heaven as their payoff for attending church. Or worse still, those who use Christianity to advance their political agendas rather than their spiritual ones. But this is not a scolding book. Rather, Willard devotes his efforts to discussing specific and inspiring ways to develop a discipleship to Jesus--not as an act of sacrifice or even one of spiritual luxury--instead, as everyday people committed to the teachings of Christ. "The really good news for Christians is that Jesus is now taking students in the master class of life," writes Willard. "So the message of and about him is specifically a gospel for our life now, not just for dying. It is about living now as his apprentices in kingdom living, not just as consumers of his merits." --Gail Hudson

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:40 -0400)

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