Dallas, We Love You

Dallas, We Love You May 8, 2013

A person who has influenced many of us, Dallas Willard, has passed away from cancer. I met Dallas only once at a Renovare conference and it has a special memory for both Kris and me. I told him his voice sounded like Johnny Wooden and he smiled and nodded, so I said, “Do you know who he is?” He said, “Johnny Wooden and I were friends.” That was so cool to me. Kris and I were both impressed with his kindness, gentleness and grandfatherliness. We’ll miss him but every time I open one of his books I will think of what happened in my one time with him alone.

We had about thirty minutes alone sitting in the hotel lobby so I asked him about virtue ethics because I was concerned about how so many have turned the ethics of Jesus into modern day philosophical categories. I asked him about Aristotle, and Dallas observed to me that he was “cold.” I learned much that day and he said Jesus didn’t fit into any category but his own.

John Ortberg knew Dallas well, and this is from John’s piece in CT.

What are your favorite lines from Dallas Willard?

John Ortberg: One of the games I used to play with Dallas was to ask him for definitions of all kinds of words; every one would come with a clarity and freshness and precision that would require folks to sit and reflect for a while.

Spirit is dis-embodied personal power.

Beauty is goodness made manifest to the senses.

disciple is anyone whose ultimate goal is to live as Jesus would live if he were in their place.

Dignity is a value that creates irreplaceability. (This he graciously attributed to Immanuel Kant.)

Joy is a pervasive sense of well-being.

Once when I was asking him questions at a conference we talked about work, which he defined as “the creation of value.” He said something about play—so I asked him to define that one. There was a brief pause—with Dallas there was always a pause—and he said: “Play is the creation of value that is not necessary.”

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  • Thanks Scot!

  • Oh, how I’ve benefited from Dallas Willard (as I’m guessing so many others have as well). He will be missed. I pray the Lord’s blessings and comfort for his family:

    “Eternal Lord God, you hold all souls in life: Give to your whole Church in paradise and on earth your light and your peace; and grant that we, following the good examples of those who have served you here and are now at rest, may at last enter with them into your unending joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” (BCP, 253)

  • RJS4DQ

    I saw the reports earlier today.

    I have a couple of his books and read a couple others as well. His influence will be missed.

  • DrGailBones

    I remember being rocked back a bit when in The Divine Conspiracy he asserted that Jesus was the smartest person who ever lived. I guess I’d seen too many movies where Hollywood’s version of the Lord would not have given us that impression.” He is not just nice, he is brilliant. He is the smartest man who ever lived. He is now supervising the entire course of world history while simultaneously preparing the rest of the universe for our future role in it” (p. 95).

  • DrGailBones

    And then let’s go back to his chapter about moving out of our tent! Today he is “one who has stepped into the full world!” I also love p 87 of TDC, where he talks about the transition, about moving from one room to the next. Hmm, maybe we should just go back and re-read the whole book again, picking our way through the highlightings and underlinings, and thinking about how he is experiencing the joy he wrote about so compellingly.

  • Keith

    I took a course with Dr. Willard at Fuller on “Spirituality and Ministry.” What a privilege! He is simply the wisest person I have ever met.

  • MattR

    He will be missed! Very influential as a writer, and had the privilege of hearing him speak several times… he came across as warm, humble-yet-passionate, and with more of a sense of humor than I expected!

    Favorite Quote:
    “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an
    attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do
    with forgiveness of sins alone.”

    Then there is the chapter on ‘The Gospel of Sin Management,’ in The Divine Conspiracy. Brilliantly diagnoses our present situation, and points towards a more holistic view of the Gospel… a theological game changer!

  • Todd Jordan

    In June of 2003, I read Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard. For the past 10 years God has used this book and others written by Dallas and his friends to transform the way I understand and practice the Christian faith. I was sadden to receive an e-mail from the Willard Center that Dallas had moved from this world to the next. The e-mail stated that Dallas’ last words were “Thank you.” I as I reflect on his story, I am reminded that Jesus awaits us all. In my imagination, I can see Christ tell Dallas “Welcome” and “Well done”. It would be just like Dallas to simply say, “Thank you.” Thank you Dallas, for helping me to see Jesus more clearly.

  • danaames

    “Divine Conspiracy” changed my life. Dallas showed me what the Kingdom of God is, and convinced me that God truly is good. For all my life until then, all of it churched, I did not really believe it… I will always be grateful to God and to Dallas for his life and work.

    May the Lord grant rest to the soul of His servant, and make his memory to be eternal.


  • mkmangold

    Scot: all these things are true for Angie and myself too. Thank-you. He is dearly missed.

  • I encountered “Renovation of the Heart” in 2007, and had a privilege of translating it into Japanese. The Japanese edition was published in 2010. While I was working on it, I emailed him with a question–just to clarify something. He immediately responded, with a detailed explanation. In his reply he said this: “I am also glad you asked me about the passage on 82, and now with your comment I see how that sentence could be read misleadingly. I did not do a good job as a writer.” What a humble person he is!!

    And he thanked me for my work, and encouraged me in my walk with Christ. I was just blown away by his kindness and humility.

    I am so honored to be able to introduce his work to readers in Japan. If God’s willing, I would love to translate other books by him as well.

    I am currently translating “The Life You’ve Always Wanted” and “The Me I Want To Be” by John Ortberg—the books Ortberg called “Dallas for dummies.” I would like to spread Dallas’s heart for spiritual formation to Japanese Christians.

    Well, the Japanese translation of “The King Jesus Gospel” is coming out next week. My project team as well as readers who have been patiently waiting are excited! (Thank you, Scot, for quickly responding to my friend, Pastor Taka Kojima’s email. He’s writing several blog posts to introduce you to Japanese readers. And I will send you some recipes for Japanese food! 😉 )

  • mwkruse

    Two quotes:

    “The church is for discipleship but discipleship is for the world, the world under God.”

    “Salvation is participating in the life that Jesus is now living on earth.”

  • Angela Kantola

    : “Haste has worry, fear, and anger as close associates; it is a deadly enemy of
    kindness, and hence of love. … hurry is really based upon pride, self-importance, fear, and lack of faith, and rarely upon the production of anything of true value for anyone.” (From The Great Omission, I believe.)

  • “Non-discipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring” (John 10:10). From the Great Ommission.

  • bo white

    I too was at that same Renovare Conference and my wife and I have felt this has been a sad week. My memory is this: “Dr. Willard, thanks so much for reminding us that the Christian life is possible.” He smiled. And replied, “it is possible, don’t forget that.” I won’t. I promise.

  • Patrick Watters

    Somehow, while the rest of us “Christians” have and continue to argue and be divisive with another, Willard always seemed to be able to diffuse controversy and find common ground with grace and humility, and yet, to me he seems “bigger than life”, a super- Christian, I guess that’s because he really followed Christ in obedience? Still much to learn and grow into. }:-

  • Traveller

    This idea in that book totally hit me too. I realized I didn’t really deep down believe it, but that I should, of course, and needed to readjust!