Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dallas Notes: Dallas Willard Celebration of Life (USC, October 4, 2013)

Dallas Willard Celebration of Life

Most wonderful teacher and example for young people.
‘And so ended our friend, the best, wisest and most just man we have ever known’ — Plato of Socrates in the Phaedo

[I wish I’d gotten a PhD under Dallas. But I can study his work now as much as I want to, as much as You call me to.]

It is one of the great honors of my life to have been called friend by this man and I aim to make myself worthy of that distinction.

Many unique insights were ‘hard-won’
[Dallas exemplified his own teaching: work hard and trust God for the results, which will be beyond your own capabilities]
Seeking ‘cognitive clarity'

‘How do you become the kind of person who smiles at students [and means it?]?’
‘That is a serious question’
His answer went right through my heart, a life-changing conversation.

Thank you, Dallas Willard for the decisions you made to become the kind of person you were b/c you saved my life. [parallel example to heart surgeon]
I’m a far better man than I would have been. A better father, husband, friend.
I can’t think of higher praise for a teacher of ethics than to say Dallas Willard was without question the finest and best man I have ever met.

His greatest service may have been to generations of undergrads, to whom he was legendary

He taught me what it means to love a person.
On the first day of class he wrote his home phone number on the blackboard and told us to call anytime if we had a question
Love your enemy as yourself

I think Dallas was the best thing about USC
In class, everyone actually listened to what he had to say
Many students would go up to ask questions after class and I would go up even if I didn’t have a question b/c I liked to be in his presence, it made me feel better about the world.
Outside of class you could stop by his office and he had time for you. He cared about people.

Discussion of unfinished book: The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge

Exemplified more than anyone I know the beauty of virtue
Is Professor Willard for real? Is he as authentically good as he seems?
Gave students hope that they could be better people
Dallas’ life was a challenge. Some refused and left.
Legacy is changed lives represented by people who knew him
If we accept his definition that beauty is goodness made visible, Dallas is the most beautiful man I have ever met. 

‘I’m studying whatever that man teaches, b/c he knows what he’s talking about. … More than that, he lived what he was talking about. … His genius was in creating a safe and open dynamic that encouraged genuine reflection. … What I’m most grateful for is the life he showed me it was possible to live b/c he himself exemplified it.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Dallas Notes: Memorial Service (May 25, 2013)

Memorial Service
(Memorial Page)

"Father, make us the kind of persons that would make other people glad that God made the world and he put us in it."

Bill Dwyer
Dallas’ last words were ‘thank you’

Because he developed his character, when suffering came, his spirit continued to radiate
Special insight or pearl of wisdom about every painting
You will have all of eternity to fill in the gap.
The spiritual discipline of not having the last word.
[I need that kind of wit, that is not caustic]

Give ‘em Heaven

Metaphysical and epistemological realism
'The greatest privilege of my life was studying under the man.'
[I can read JP Moreland’s stuff now, too]

Lead, Kindly Light
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

I believe in sufficient depravity
What we love most in Dallas is the Jesus in him.
Hell is the best God can do for some people.
What has Dallas found out he was wrong about?
This will be a test of your joyous confidence in God
Felt he trusted too much to his cleverness with words. It must have been hard to be so smart.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dallas Notes: Understanding the Person: Including the Invisible Parts (February 22, 2013)

This was a talk Dallas gave at the February 2013 Dallas Willard Center "Knowing Christ Today" conference in Santa Barbara, California.

IVP has made them available on a DVD called Living in Christ's Presence: Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God and this is talk five.

Grace is God acting in our lives to do what we cannot do on our own
it goes beyond unmerited favor

Present your body, a living and holy sacrifice
     we are a nonphysical being with a physical body
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind

If we don't think Jesus was the smartest man who ever lived, we will think someone else is...

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself. Mk 12

the will or spirit
source of creativity, power to originate
executive center of self
have will set on what is best for God above everything else, that's how you love God with all your heart
love is the disposition to bring good into the object that is loved
we are able to participate in His life by setting our will toward what is good for Him
to love God with all your heart is to have your will and spirit entirely set on what is good for God

thoughts and feeling, capacity to represent things
will depends on mind and vice versa
what is on your mind sets scene for will to choose
and reflects where heart is
to love God with all of your mind is to take your feelings and thoughts and devote them entirely to what is good for God
when this happens, many things won't show up in your mind
and, therefore, you'll never think about doing it
revealing of character: if you have to think about whether or not you're going to do things that are wrong, there's something wrong with your mind. you have to work on your mind. may be feelings or representations (and they go together)
what you habitually feel is a major feature of your mind and it is tied to what you think about

to love God is to love neighbor as self
inject what is good for God in all relationships

Dallas Notes: How to Step into the Kingdom and Live There (February 22, 2013)

This was a talk Dallas gave at the February 2013 Dallas Willard Center "Knowing Christ Today" conference in Santa Barbara, California.

IVP has made them available on a DVD called Living in Christ's Presence: Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God and this is talk three.

Seeking is the key to entering and living in the KoG
God wants to be wanted and sought
the promise is never to half-hearted seeking
[whole-hearted seeking takes humility]
we have to want the Kingdom more than anything else
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength
Seeking: looking everywhere [like when I lost my wallet]
Look for it to be present and in action and to identify yourself with that action
[like Experiencing God]
especially in face to face relationship w/ another person
the most important people are the ones closest to us. we can bless them
it's only in seeking that we're pulled out of who we were and into who we can be in the freedom of Christ
we do not change quickly and seeking is designed to pull us as quickly as we can stand it (including allowing those around us time to respond to our change)

2 Chr 15. 4, 15 (context below)
4 but when in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them
15 And all Judah rejoiced over the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and had sought him with their whole desire, and he was found by them, and the Lord gave them rest all around.

God is active in this process and we will not find Him until He is ready to be found of us
Seeking allows us (and those around us) to grow and change
allows us to grow into the kind of people who can receive X into our lives
[and maybe more of X...]
[they thought 'fencing the Torah' would fulfill God's demands for righteousness. but it did not. in fact, it made them less righteous by their legalism and the idolatry thereof. so when Jesus attacked the fence and their legalism and their hearts and said their method didn't work, they became homicidal. They had to kill Him.]
Beyond the righteousness of the scribe and the Pharisee is where we experience the Kingdom
we have to believe in X, and believe X, and believe what He believed

Joshua 1.8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

the Law is designed to line us up with the KoG

Psalm 1
1 Blessed is the man[a]
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

All that is good is God in action
we are called to want the Kingdom more than anything else, like the pearl of great price or the treasure hidden in a field.
--how do i see the Kingdom that way? please help me, Lord.
what is defeating me?

there are so many passages on seeking the Lord, it's crazy

Deuteronomy 4:29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

1 Chronicles 28:9 “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever."

2 Chronicles 7:14  If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple.

Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Isaiah 55:6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;

Jeremiah 29:12-13 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and [its -- Dallas says] righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Ps 105 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
    make known his deeds among the peoples!
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wondrous works!
3 Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
4 Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually!
5 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
6 O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
    children of Jacob, his chosen ones!

2 Chronicles 15
The Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded, 2 and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. 3 For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law, 4 but when in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them. 5 In those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for great disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. 6 They were broken in pieces. Nation was crushed by nation and city by city, for God troubled them with every sort of distress. 7 But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”

8 As soon as Asa heard these words, the prophecy of Azariah the son of Oded, he took courage and put away the detestable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities that he had taken in the hill country of Ephraim, and he repaired the altar of the Lord that was in front of the vestibule of the house of the Lord.[a] 9 And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and those from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon who were residing with them, for great numbers had deserted to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him. 10 They were gathered at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. 11 They sacrificed to the Lord on that day from the spoil that they had brought 700 oxen and 7,000 sheep. 12 And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul, 13 but that whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman. 14 They swore an oath to the Lord with a loud voice and with shouting and with trumpets and with horns. 15 And all Judah rejoiced over the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and had sought him with their whole desire, and he was found by them, and the Lord gave them rest all around.

Dallas Notes: What Skepticism Is Good For (Claremont Consortium, February 12, 2013)

What Skepticism Is Good For

1. To undermine illegitimate authority claims
2. Initiates and stimulates inquiry

Two kinds of skepticism:
1. Extreme
usually dogmatic
shuts down serious inquiry
2. Targeted
can be responsible
Responsible skeptic seeks to discover and know [not just disclaim]
intellectual duty. Comes out of need for truth in responsible living

What should we be skeptical about? Not the things everyone else is. Skepticism has a way of creating its own social conformity.
Especially things typically assumed to be obvious
you are your brain
Marriage should be based on romantic and sexual feelings

[Something we really need to be skeptical of is our self-interest. Do I want there to not be a God? Do I want God to be distant?]
Universities and colleges used to be concerned with ultimate issues. Pastors used to be college presidents, even of ‘secular’ colleges.
John 3.16
Familiarity first breeds non-familiarity (b/c people stop thinking about it), then it breeds contempt.

Would you like for there to be a god roughly of the sort represented by Jesus?

[Part of the deal with walking by faith and not by sight is that we don’t limit our objects of knowledge to the physical/material. The spiritual world is much larger and still knowable.]

Targeted skepticism is in many ways the only hope of humanity.

We need more skepticism, not less. But it needs to be well channeled and targeted. It needs to be under logical control and not at the behest of social impulses. It has often been socially impelled, not logically impelled.

At least every other day you might doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs.
Natural trajectory should be following belief to knowledge (like Galileo)

Look at the details and be willing to change
Empirical and logical grounds are the two main avenues of pursuit of religious knowledge (as with any other pursuits of knowledge). 
E.g., look into Jn 3.16 empirically. Did He? What’s the evidence? 
Instead, people are content with operating within the assumptions that are accepted in their field.
'All that religion requires of philosophy and science is a fair field and no quarter given.'
Authority is an important part of empirical reasoning. Most of what we know is known on the basis of authority [i.e., we have not proved it or observed it ourselves]

[Dallas is so frail in this talk. It was about 3 months before his physical death and he’s just not as capable of handling questions on the fly as he used to be. But he’s still gracious, of course, and a great witness. The prepared presentation was excellent. The answers aren’t bad, just not as good as the younger, not-sick Dallas.]

Part of the temptation of extreme skepticism is just to be thankful you’re off the hook

Morality teaches what it is to be a good person and what that would be like and something about how a person would get there.
How can I do what I should do to be a good person when I don’t want to do it and how can I not do what will make me a bad person when I want to do it?
The conflict b/t desire and good is the primary element in systems of morality.

Dallas Notes: The Genius of Jesus (Ohio State University, January 1, 2013)

The Genius of Jesus

[Note: I have adapted the notes below from html slides that are available on Dallas' website.]

Any system of education that ignores the moral and religious nature of the student is fundamentally defective
I don't have time to tell you all the things I don't mean by the things that I will say :-)

1 Ohio State Veritas: Theme: The Genius of Jesus
•Human beings are responsible for their future.
•They determine what their future will be and who they will be by what they do now.
The Human Burden: To find an adequate knowledge basis for life.

2 What is Knowledge?
the only point of taking classes is gaining knowledge
Our ability to represent things as they are, on an appropriate basis of thought and experience. Knowledge involves truth.
NOTE: We must define knowledge in such a way that it does not presuppose answers to substantial questions. For example, does not presuppose secularism or naturalism, or their opposites.
We have defined knowledge today in such a way that the most important matters of life cannot be knowledge.

3 What is Truth?
A thought or statement is true if what it is about is as that thought or statement represents it.

4 The University’s Role
•“Standard 1:A of the WASC handbook is: Integrity in the pursuit of truth.
•The first sentence under that standard is: “An institution of higher education is, by definition,dedicated to the search for truth and its dissemination.”
•Later: “Those within an educational institution have as a first concern, knowledge, evidence, and truth.”

5 Belief
We are in tension b/t truth and desire
•Belief is readiness to act as if what you believe were true.
•We often believe what we don’t know and even fail to believe what we do know. Such is human life.
We know a lot of things we don't believe b/c our will is set against it
•Leadership requires followers to believe that leaders KNOW, that the leader has TRUTH.
•Thus, mere rumors of knowledge are often used by leaders to govern belief and action in individual and group life. – Remember Enron,etc.

6 "Our contemporary society with its..."
•Our contemporary society with its “news” is a thriving rumor mill: rumors touted as knowledge by “experts.”
•The danger is that our beliefs and our policies will be based on mere rumors of knowledge, and not on knowledge.
•Rumors of knowledge originate from those who have authority in our culture.
•But they often are responses to desire and will, not necessarily to truth.

7 The Four Great Questions Of Human Life
• The nature of reality?
what you have to deal with. what you run into when you're wrong.
truth enables you to harmonize your life with reality
• Who is well-off?
– Blessedness
– The Good Life
• Who is a “really good” person?
• How to become a “really good” person
Buddha, Plato, Freud, Derrida, Oprah, etc. etc. Of course these questions should always be open to the most serious and searching inquiry.

8 The University Gives Answers To These Questions
•Not in a straightforward and responsible manner, but by how it proceeds.
•By what is regarded as ‘adequate’ teaching and research in the various fields, or ‘adequate’ course content.
•For example: that expertise in no field of knowledge requires knowledge of God.

9 The Three Stories About Our World
•The Theistic Story: everything derives from a personal God who is ultimate
•The Nirvana Story: everything derives from a reality that is undifferentiated – the realm of “no thing.”  ‘New Age.’
•The Materialist Story: the physical universe itself is the only ultimate reality.

10 Agnosticism
•“I don’t know” is the default position from The Three Stories.
•It looks innocent, but it really isn’t because it doesn’t just mean “I don’t know,” it means we can’t know!
•And to defend “we can’t know,” is as tough a job as defending one of The Three Stories.

11 The Historical Power Of Jesus
•Arguably the most influential person inhuman history—who else?
•Book: “What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?” (Kennedy)
•Current influence on people in other religions. (Nov. ’02 issue of Touchstone magazine)

12 Why So Influential?
•Because of His answers to the four great questions of life.
–His vision of reality, and
–His teaching about how we can become the persons we ought to be.

13 Jesus On Reality
•Reality is God and his kingdom.
•The ‘Kingdom’ of God is the range of His effective will.
•It is where what God wants done is done.  
•As your ‘kingdom’ is the range of your effective will.
Atheists are embarrassed when they feel grateful and have no one to be grateful to. -- Chesterton

14 The Trouble With My Kingdom Or Yours
•It cannot run on its own.
•Kingdoms in conflict.
•The impossibility of being who we ought to be by our own efforts and devices.
•We must have grace, from others, from God.
•Only life in His kingdom harmonizes the lives of human beings.

Only loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength can enable us to love our neighbor as ourself
God invites us to live in a spiritual reality in which all of the aspirations of the human heart for welfare and being a good person can be realized.
Jesus understood what would make life work, that the basic problem for human beings is to find a spiritual home in which they can know that they are eternally cared for and from which they can care for others
Can't we all just get along? Obviously no because we want our way and we can't find a larger kingdom in which to live with others

15 What Is Morality?
A shared (public) understanding, with associated emotional postures, concerning which types of persons are to be (or are not to be) admired, approved, imitated, encouraged and supported, without regard to whether they prosper or are able to accomplish what they desire.

As long as we take humanity as the ultimate reference point, we won't be able to be moral
the historical power of Jesus came from the fact that he knew what to do and could enable people to do it. He provided a morality that would actually make people good

16 The Good Person: A Matter of the Heart
The morally good person is a person who is intent upon advancing the various goods of human life with which they are effectively in contact, in a manner that respects their relative degree of importance and the extent to which the actions of the person in question can actually promote the existence and maintenance of those goods.
a lot of people don't love themselves, to say nothing of their neighbor
in a consumer culture, the pursuit of pleasure is confused with the pursuit of happiness
Jesus refines 'love your neighbor as yourself'
Love one another as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their life for their friends
do I love my neighbor? am I learning to?
if we follow what is the good life with 'how do you become a good person?' that is where, above all, Jesus shined

17 How To Live It
•By serious inquiry and personal testing.
•That will require honest comparison of Jesus and his teaching with others.
You have to regard Jesus as someone who is seriously dealing with the facts of life. 
•And surrender of ‘what I want’ as ultimate point of reference
•If there really is a better way, Jesus would be the first to tell you to take it.

18 Truth Will Not Set You Free!!!
•One of the most misquoted lines in human history.
•The statement is: “If you continue in my word <put it into practice> then you really are my apprentices; And then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31)
•Free from inability not to do evil.
We know a lot of good but systematically don't do it
We must see Jesus as providing the most essential knowledge about the most important areas of human life (switch from seeing him as nice)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dallas Notes: What Jesus Said About Following Him (Day of Discovery, May 6, 2012)

What Jesus Said About Following Him
May 6, 2012

The New Atheists don’t major on arguments but are mostly sick of what they see in professing Xians
We should be reproached for this. In a sense, they’re beating us with our own stick and it’s legitimate.
Instead of looking at Xians (which you are free to do), it is better to look at the substance of Xian faith that has made it a movement of such proportions.
If you obsess about Xian weakness you won’t find anything good and your own condition will get worse. But if you look for the good in X and Xians who have made the movement vital, you will find something worth looking into.
Example: Bertrand Russell. People who knew him and loved him thought he was a failure as a person. What does atheism give you to help you live your life?
[Or is it to some degree an excuse to do what you want?]
Most people don’t know what Xianity is and don’t associate with followers who are demonstrating life in X
Our culture views Xians as ex-bullies who are still unkind and judgmental.
People think Xianity is obviously bad, boring or wrong and don’t feel any need to inform themselves, particularly about X. Indeed, He is the source of many things they hold dear. The root of diversity as a value is in neighbor love like J taught
Misunderstanding: you can have justice w/o love
The ideal and J and that’s what we measure people against.
Many of our Xians don’t understand the Xian faith much better than nonXians
There’s a gap b/t what people believe and what they say they believe. We bring them in to our churches based on professions.
The best thing to do is to base our beliefs on knowledge when we can.
We always live up or down to our beliefs. We rarely live up to our professions.
You don’t have to be a disciple to be a Xian.
You don’t have to be a disciple to be a church member.
We are learning from Jesus to live our lives as He would if He were we.
Is the KoG real? Can I depend on it? Can it make a difference in my life?
The KoG is just God at work, what He’s doing.
You can become a good person in d’ship to Jesus.
Having a category for Xians who aren’t disciples is a curse upon the earth
Walking with Him is what makes the calling easy and the burden light.