This humbling work, subtitled "Rediscovering our hidden life in God", OUGHT to make a profound change in me -- as is always the case, the reality of that will depend on the DOING not just on the reading.
The book opens with the example of a fighter pilot flying at night who pulled back on the controls for a steep ascent and immediately hit the ground. They were flying upside down and were not aware of it.
The theme of the book is that we moderns are flying upside down and don't know it. As Tolstoy discovered to his dismay, we think that "particles and progress" are reality, and "spirit" is fantasy, but in fact, the opposite is true.
"The mantle of intellectual meaningless shrouds every aspect of our common life. Events, things and "information" flood over us, overwhelming us, disorienting us with threats and possibilities we for the most part have no idea what to do about".
Christianity has largely been reduced to a "consumer product".
"... the only thing made essential on the right wing of theology is forgiveness of the individuals sins. On the left it is the removal of social or structural evils."
"A Christian is either one who is ready to die and face judgement or one who has an identifiable commitment to love and justice in society. That's it.The pointing out of problems is always relatively "fun" for we humans -- we love to point out the failings of others, systems, world views, etc -- and this is where the conviction descends on me personally.
"We ought to be spiritual in every aspect of our lives because our world is the spiritual one. It is what we are suited to. Thus Paul, from his profound grasp of human existence counsels us, " To fill your mind with the visible "flesh" is death, but to fill your mind with the spirit is life and peace".
"To belong is a vital need based in the nature of being human. Contempt spits on this pathetically deep need. And like anger, contempt does not have to be acted out in special ways to be evil. It is inherently poisonous. Just by being what it is is withering to the human soul."And we know it to be true, as we feel it profoundly. My "excuse" has been that obviously our modern society is contemptuous of Christians, so it is "only fair" that we are contemptuous in return. Only our soul knows that is wrong. We are to be like Christ, who hung on the cross AFTER going through a scourging that few survived, and being jeered and spit upon by the masses. And what did he do? He said "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do".
But we who have tasted of the blood of forgiveness DO know what we do -- if we let the shame or our contempt for those who are contemptuous of us well up within us. It is much like "the dark side" in Star Wars.
So what are we to do?
"Intensive internalization of the Kingdom order through the written word, and learning from the Living Word establishes good epidermal responses of thought, feeling and action. And these in turn integrate us into the flow of Gods eternal reign. We really come to think and believe differently and that changes everything."The book gives some introduction to the path of becoming a disciple of Christ. It is not an easy path, nor is it a "required" path -- but it IS the goal. Either here or in eternity, if we believe, we WILL be his disciples and reign with him forever.
For those of us who are not premillennialists, eternity is NOW -- the kingdom of God is HERE, and has been since Jesus began his ministry! Christ offers us the way through the gospels and the sermon on the mount to begin that reign in this life -- through meditation on his word and prayer.
As you might guess, this could easily be one of my longer and less reachable blogs if I was to get into the depths of what Willard expertly covers. Instead, I'll just touch on one basic point -- the fact that this IS God's universe, and the fear of God is STILL the beginning of wisdom, even though in the present day, the entire system is intended to declare it foolishness in the extreme. (p 231)
But if this actually is God's universe, the lords of knowledge have made what is surely the greatest mistake in history. Believing the world is flat or the moon is made of cheese is nothing compared to their mistake. To believe that the lords of knowledge are right on the other hand, is to omit the spiritual God and the spiritual life from the literally real. It is to make them to be illusions; and two or more centuries of "advanced thinking" have been devoted to showing that they are illusions. So the battle to identify our universe as God's and our existence as part of his creation must go on. We cannot stand aside. And in training people to "hear and do", we must take an open, intelligent, and loving stand on these fundamental matters.I've covered this topic many times in a number of different ways in this blog -- my base assertion is that "epistemology", a part of philosophy must be understood to even begin the discussion. Another strange twist is to ponder with Elon Musk, the idea we are "simulated". For extra credit, there is consideration of the odds of us being here if the universe is "godless". I totally agree with Willard, to be a disciple of Christ, we must have rock solid understanding that God is creator and be able to show that faith to be at least as "reasonable" as any other faith on human origins.
A profound and discerning work. Will my level of condemnation in this blog drop? I pray it does ... there is no question that this book convicted me.