Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Dallas Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God...some quotes and comments

Dallas Willard is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California. He also wrote The Divine Conspiracy, among many other books. He is one of my favourite writers...juicy and rich.

Hearing God was first published in 1984 by InterVarsity Press. It is a thoughtful, non-wild-eyed-charismatic exploration of how we humans can actually hear God and act on our hearing responsibly.

Here are some bits that caught my attention. First, this comment on Jesus and our human need (italics are Willard's):
While l was teaching at a ministers' conference, one minister asked me what was the human issue, irrespective of church life or religion, that Jesus came to address. This is the question facing the Christian church today. My answer was this: Jesus came to respond to the universal human need to know how to live well. He came to show us how thorough reliance on him we can best live in the universe as it really is. 212
How to live well: I like that. That is what I'd like StB to be about...living well transcends mere happiness or prosperity. Living well is about deep joy, faithfulness in suffering and the abundant life of which Jesus spoke.

I also like the way Willard views the Bible, its inerrancy and the need to according to its teachings :
The Bible is one of the results of God's speaking. It is the unique written Word of God. It is inerrant in its original form and infallible in all of its forms for the purpose of guiding us into a life-saving relationship with God in his kingdom. It is infallible in this way precisely because God never leaves it alone . 141

The inerrancy of the original texts is rendered effective for the purposes of redemption only as that text, through its present-day derivatives, is constantly held within the eternal living Word. Inerrancy by itself is not a sufficient theory of biblical inspiration because as everyone knows, the Bible in our hand is not the original text. Inerrancy of the originals also does not guarantee sane and sound, much less error-free, interpretations. Our dependence as we read the Bible today must be on God, who now speaks to us in conjunction with it and with our best efforts to understand it. 142

In light of our discussions so far it is clear that while the Bible is the written Wond of God, the word of God is not simply the Bible. The way we know that this is so is, above all, by paying attention to what the Bible says. 142

That we lack the desire to receive God's word merely for what it is, just because we believe it is the best way to live, is also shown by a disregard of the plain directives in the Scriptures. Sanctification from sexual uncleanness (1Thess 4:3) and a continuously thankful heart (1 Thess 5:18) are among the many specific things clearly set forth in God's general instructions to all people. It is not wise to disregard these plain directives and then expect to hear a special message from God when we want it. 198
The book has good, practical, down-to-earth instructions on actual listening and what to do if we don't (or think we don't) hear anything from God:
James Dobson has given some of the best practical advice I have ever heard on how someone who really wants the will of God and who has a basically correct understanding of it should proceed. Describing how he does it himself, he says, "I get down on my knees and say, 'Lord, I need to know what you want me to do, and I am listening. Please spaak to me through my friends, books, magazines I pick up and read, and through circumstances'" 199

But suppose that no such specific word has come to us on some matter of great importance to our lives. For example, should we enter this school or that? Should we live here or there? Should we change employment?) Does this mean that in the matter at hand we cannot be in God's perfect will or that we can be so only by chance, following some anxiety-ridden guessing game about what God wants us to do? 206

Most assuredly it does not. We must resolutely resist the tendency to blame the absence of a word from God automatically on our own wrongness. And we must equally resist the idea that it means we must be somewhat off the track and living in something less than God's perfect will. lf we are living in sincere devotion to the fulfillment of God's purposes in us, we can be sure that the God who came to as in Jesus Chsist will not mumble and tease and trick us regarding any specific matter he wants done. 206

In those cases where God does not speak to you on the matter concerned, take the following steps:
a. Ask God to inform you, in whatever way he chooses, if some hindrance is within you. Be quiet and listen in the inner forum of your mind for any indication that you are blocking his word. But do not endlessly pursue this. In prayer set a specific length of time for the inquiry about hindrances: normally no more than three days. Believe that if a problem exists, God will make it clear to you...
b. Take counsel from at least two people whose relationship with God you respect, preferably those who are not your buddies...
c. If you find a cause for why God's word could not come, correct it. Mercilessly. Whatever it is. Just do it.
d. If you cannot find such a cause, then act on what seems best to you after considering the itemized details of each alternative. If certain alternatives seem equally desirable, then select one as you wish. This will rarely be necessary, but your confidence, remember, is in the Lord who goes with you, who is with his trusting children even if they blunder and flounder...214-215
Good stuff.

Look for it in the StB library in the new year.