The Quotable Dallas Willard

Most families would be healthier and happier if they treated one another with the respect they would give a perfect stranger.

Interestingly, “growing up” is largely a matter of learning to hide our spirit behind our face, eyes, and language so that we can evade and manage others to achieve what we want and avoid what we fear. By contrast, the child’s face is a constant epiphany because it doesn’t yet know how to do this. It cannot manage its face. This is also true of adults in moments of great feeling – which is one reason why feeling is both greatly treasured and greatly feared.

Vague reference to “particles and progress” do not provide a coherent picture of life.

The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years ago.

In our day learners usually think of themselves as containers of some sort, with a purely passive space to be filled by the information the teacher possesses and wishes to transfer – the “from jug to mug” model. The teacher is to fill in empty parts of the receptacle with “truth” that may or may not later make some difference to the life of the one who has it. The teacher must get the information into them. We then “test” the patients to see if they “got it” by checking whether they can reproduce it in language rather than watching how they live.

“Spiritual” is not just something we ought to be. It is something we are and cannot escape, regardless of how we may think or feel about it. It is our nature and our destiny.

As the professor of education at Bradley University recently stated, the American dream is that ‘people can do or be what they want if they just go ahead and do it.’ Desire becomes sacred, and whatever thwarts desire is evil or sin.

And what social or political arrangements – however important in their own right – can guide and empower me to be the person I know I ought to be? Can anyone now seriously believe that if people are only permitted or enabled to do what they want, they will then be happy or more disposed to do what is right?

But the fine arts capitulated to absurdity by the mid-twentieth century – having briefly exploited “cute” as a legitimate aesthetic category and then allowed a few quickly trite ways of being cute and clever to dominate the arts… Art is lost in “pop art” as sport is lost in professional “sport” – which is an oxymoron of the strongest kind… Absurdity reigns, and confusion makes it look good… You have to “stay tuned” and you can arrive at a perpetual state of confusion and, ultimately, despair with no effort at all.

[Of the people Jesus cares about] The flunk-outs and drop-outs and burned-outs. The broke and the broken. The drug heads and the divorced. The HIV-positive and herpes-ridden. The brain-damaged, the incurably ill. The barren and the pregnant-too-many-times or at the wrong time. The overemployed, the underemployed, the unemployed. The unemployable. The swindled, the shoved aside, the replaced. The parents with children living on the street, the children with parents not dying in the “rest” home. The lonely, the incompetent, the stupid. The emotionally starved and the emotionally dead.

We keep hammering the sex button in the hope that a little intimacy might finally dribble out. In vain.

One of the profound misunderstandings of the erotic that prevail today actually represents the inability of humanity in its current Western edition to give itself to others and receive them in abiding faithfulness.

Persons rarely become present where they are not heartily wanted.

The ego bloats and the soul shrivels.

A major part of this important work is coming to understand what the people we are dealing with really do believe, and not pretending – often with them – that they believe that they don’t believe at all. In a setting where a social premium has been placed upon believing certain things for the sake of group solidarity, we must face the fact that human beings can honestly profess to believe what they do not believe. They may do this for so long that even they no longer know that they do not believe what they profess. But their actions will, of course, be in terms of what they actually believe. This will be so even though they do not recognise it, and they will lose themselves in bewilderment about the weakness of their “faith”. That bewilderment is a common condition among professing Christians today…“Your system is perfectly designed to produce the result you are getting”. We need to let our minds dwell on it.


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