The Answers to Life
In the Introduction to The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard makes a rather startling observation about the gospel as it was preached and received in the first century after Christ. The basic idea here is that prior to the Incarnation of Jesus, Greek philosophers (and others before them) had been wresting for several centuries with four of the greatest questions of life — without arriving at an answer that was either satisfying or workable. The great questions they were trying to resolve were:
- What is ultimate reality?
- What constitutes a good life?
- What is a good person?
- How does one become a good person?
But Jesus arrives on the scene and answers all four. That became a major part of the “good news” that was then preached by the apostles. In Dallas’ words …
The life and words that Jesus brought into the world came in the form of information and reality. He and his early associates overwhelmed the ancient world because they brought into it a stream of life at its deepest, along with the best information possible on the most important matters. These were matters with which the human mind had already been seriously struggling for a millennium or more without much success. The early message was, accordingly, not experienced as something its hearers had to believe or do because otherwise something bad — something with no essential connection with real life — would happen to them. The people initially impacted by that message generally concluded that they would be fools to disregard it. That was the basis of their conversion. (The Divine Conspiracy, p. xiv).
Unfortunately, to a great extent, we no longer see or hear the gospel on those terms. Rather …
Whatever the ultimate explanation of it, the most telling thing about the contemporary Christian is that he or she simply has no compelling sense that understanding of and conformity with the clear teachings of Christ is of any vital importance to his or her life, and certainly not that it is in any way essential. (The Divine Conspiracy, p. xv).
Willard then makes the connection that current state of Christianity is a direct result of this loss of meaning; that this is precisely why the Christian message is no longer taken seriously by the world today and why the Church has lost most of its influence in the Western world.
Of course, he goes on throughout the rest of his book to present a Christian worldview in terms we rarely hear, which is why this book has had such a tremendous impact on so many of those who have read it. When I picked it up in 1998, it was like water to my soul; it was the book for which I had been searching for over 30 years.
If you have never read The Divine Conspiracy, I urge you to do so. Yes, it is a difficult read. But not because of big words or complex theology. It is difficult because it rattles the status quo of the modern church, and tells us things we should have been told from the beginning of our walk with God; things we are not very familiar with, but need to be, if we truly desire to follow Christ.
Thank you Dallas, for this great gift!