It is written from an American Christian background and places great stock in systems and checklists, but if you can avoid judging the book initially because of that there is much to listen to God about and consider to live for and serve God more effectively.
The only place I have ever seen where all the disciplines practiced by Jesus are listed in one work. Hope to be able to put into practice what I read. Would like to hear how others have faired in their applications. God Bless You, Mike.
Dallas Willard is not only one of the most important writers and thinkers of our time, he is also a professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California. Back in the early 90s, one would find his desk in the center of a sprawling maze of lumbering bookshelves packed with all the books that we should have read, but didn't. The student would approach him with great fear (their own fears of intellectual inadequacy large in their mind) only to be greeted with the warmth of a man who really cares about human beings. Indeed, distinguished professors from all over have a high regard for the man and the power of his intellect.
Though it is certain that his intellect is powerful, these colleagues often don't know that his intellectual genius is complemented by spiritual genius. Dallas is an uncommon man who has exercised and increased the rich and abundant gifts that God has given him. He is no mere mortal. Were he a Roman Catholic, I would anticipate his cannonization as a saint!
If you agree that Chesterton and C.S. Lewis were forceful and entertaining apologists of Christianity; you will find Professor Willard is the superior. Not only is he profoundly wise, his wisdom is agile, and he communicates it with ease. "The Spirit of the Disciplines" explains the most important things in readable, plain english.
If you are well read (you have Aristotle, Aquinas, and Augustine under your belt) or you are a security guard working the late shift in a Westwood office building, this book is for you. If you just want the scoop on Christianity or wonder how to live a Christian life, get this book right now!
This is the rare book that you will want to will to someone because it will serve them far better than mere money ever could. It is priceless. If you are lost, you will be found. If you are blind, you will see... if you read and reread (many times over) "The Spirit of the Disciplines."
-Stan Faryna, Black and Right (Praeger Trade, 1997).
Having recently been ordained and commissioned as a Salvation Army officer, I was all too familiar with Professor Willard's work and writing and indeed recently had the privelege of meeting him. The Spirit of the Disciplines is a truly exceptional work and invaluable to the life and study of any Christian wishing to be a true disciple of Christ, for non -Christians I believe the work to be equally important not only as an aid to helping them decide whether Christianity is for them but also as an instructive manual of how to understand the human condition in more depth and how to take steps to creating a society that is better to live in. I am looking forward to receiving the second book in the series having already purchased the third "The Divine Conspiracy" some time ago.
Though I have never met either man, Dallas Willard and AW Tozer are my spiritual role models. Both men have an acute grasp of the philosphical and practical implications of true heart beliefs for walking with Jesus Christ. Whereas Tozer models classic prophet gifting through a blunt, sometimes abrasive, proclamation of truth, Willard tempers his gift with an unusual balance.
Many academic writers of spiritual material tend to be much too erudite. They seem to be more interested in categorizing God than in knowing him. They also seem to be more interested in identifying and pigeon-holing people than in loving them. Willard cuts against the grain of professiorial arrogance and demonstrates instead an excellent balance of love of God, love for people in community and well-thought out philosophy of Christian faith.
Spirit of the Disciplines discusses the role of the body in the development of spiritual maturity. Willard addresses Christianity's fear of the flesh by walking the user through an intellectually challenging discussion on his perception of the importance of bringing the body into relationship with Christ.
If I could reduce Willard's argument to a single concept (at the risk of too much reduction that might offend brother Willard), I would say this: 'No matter where you are, there your body is. For this reason, your body is key to all that you do as a disciple of Jesus.'
Think about it: the essence of faith is love and love is not expressed through abstract ideas or expressions. Love is done in action for someone else. Love can be spoken or it can be acted out but the body is the source of all expressions of love. Love is not merely thinking how nice it would be if I raked my neighbor's yard. Instead, love is expressed when I move my body to grab a rake and step into my neighbor's yard to complete the job.
Likewise, the body is the source of all expressions of sin. It is for this reason that disciplines are required to bring the body into progressive submission to obedience to Christ. I believe Willard to be saying that the degree to which we express love and sin through our bodies is a measure of our maturity in the faith and the depth of our vital love for God and others.
This book, along with Willard's, "In Search of Guidance," has been one of the most formative books for my walk with Christ. I strongly recommend this rigorous book for excellent brain and heart food.
I came to this book after being blown away by the brilliance of "The Divine Conspiracy" by the same author. I hoped it would provide some more practical guidance on the spiritual disciplines as a key tool for Christian discipleship.
The first chapter offers a teaser. True followers of Christ want to be like him - want to react the way he reacts to situations and want to demonstrate his quality of goodness. "The secret described within these pages has been placed within your reach" says the author. I read eagerly on, but found the first half of the book disappointingly dry.
The author makes a strong and detailed theological and psychological case to explain how and why the spiritual discplines, which are essentially physical practices, are effective in spiritual development. To be honest I was prepared to take the author's word for this. Other like-minded readers could skip a few chapters to where the author switches from theory to practice. From that point onwards I found the book rich, inspiring and practical. The main spiritual disciplines are explained concisely but with enough information for the reader to start the journey of putting them into practice. The author's treatment is complementary to that of Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline.
The final two chapters of the book address two very important subjects. Firstly, is poverty to be treated as a spiritual discipline - are there spiritual benefits in deliberately giving away our wealth to embrace poverty? The author's strongly argued position might surprise you! Secondly there is an empassioned treatise on the role spiritual disciplines could play in addressing the negative power structures and tendancy to violence of society today, if sufficient numbers of Christians, distributed throughout society, took the disciplines seriously and became increasingly Christlike. It is an exciting, if radical, vision. Dare we believe it to be possible? This book renewed my belief in the transforming work of God's Kingdom - not just in the future age - but right now.