Thursday, October 26, 2006

Dallas Willard

Dallas Willard is loved by many evangelicals, especially those who are embracing the Emerging/Emergent Church. Here's a quote from his own website. This is a hypothetic discussion with a girl. Right at the end of the (hypothetical) discussion, she says:

"But I still struggle with how I should view those who have other beliefs. I'm not sure I am ready to condemn them as wrong. I know some very good Buddhists. What is their destiny?"

Dallas Willard ... on his own website ... responds:

"I would take her to Romans 2:6-10: 'God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.'

What Paul is clearly saying is that if anyone is worthy of being saved, they will be saved. At that point many Christians get very anxious, saying that absolutely no one is worthy of being saved. The implication of that is that a person can be almost totally good, but miss the message about Jesus, and be sent to hell. What kind of a God would do that? I am not going to stand in the way of anyone whom God wants to save. I am not going to say 'he can't save them.' I am happy for God to save anyone he wants in any way he can. It is possible for someone who does not know Jesus to be saved. But anyone who is going to be saved is going to be saved by Jesus: 'There is no other name given under heaven by which men can be saved.'"

Interesting ... any comments on this man who was interviewd by Christianity Today and the interviewer said:

"He teeters on the edge of openness theology, saying God can choose not to know the future if he wants to, but he doesn't go as far as many openness adherents, whose views he believes 'slip into process theology.'"

Thoughts, please ....


Matt Lytle said...

It sounds like Willard has been reading Rahner and Vatican II. It's been done before, and the response is still the same. Jesus is still the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through him.

Other than that little detail, it's alright.

dacroteau said...

I'm concerned with all the Willard-its around. I'm hoping someone can explain how what I posted isn't as it seems.

JeT said...

Willard's argument toward the end, that of an uncertain salvation, makes a lot of sense from the perspective of human thought. However, it fails on a couple more important levels when examined in the light of the divine revelation Willard himself claims as authoritative.

The assumption that a human being can be almost totally good is the linchpin in his argument. Isaiah 64 puts the lie to it, referring to our righteous works as filthy rags. Of course, there is Jesus’ Way, Truth and Life claim (John 14:6) which Willard skirts by quoting Acts 4:12 out of context. Then there's Jesus' charge to perfection in Matthew 5:48. Unless Mr. Willard believes humanity capable of perfection, "pretty good" is not good enough. Using human reasoning, why would Jesus’ perfection be so vitally important to salvation if “pretty goodness” is good enough?

Interesting, also, is Willard's description of the process of belief: "belief is something that comes along as you experience." This is not the belief described in Scripture. In fact, belief is depicted exactly opposite. We see fishermen casting their nets, their livelihood and only source of food, aside to follow Jesus without reservation in an instant. Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus, becomes a believer in the instant of Christ's appearance before him. 3,000 come to belief in Christ in one day at Pentecost. This is not a pattern of experience; this is a consistent theme of instantaneous repentance and abandonment of self to Jesus' authority.

While I pray this article is an aberration or a careless misrepresentation of his position, my fear is that this all too accurately describes Willard's personal belief system, and while the Creator God is, indeed, far beyond comprehension, He has chosen to make certain aspects of Himself known. What Willard proposes is in clear opposition to this revelation, and as such, is inferior, imperfect, and in need of correction, just as the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

I don't see what's objectionable about what Willard said at all, to be honest. He affirmed that anyone who's saved is saved through Christ. If someone who doesn't hear the Gospel still receives some light of revelation, that light is of Jesus, whether they know it or not. If they have enough light to damn them, then it would seem they have enough light to save them. No? I totally don't get Matt's criticism of Willard for leaving out the "detail" about nobody coming to the Father except through Christ -- a verse Willard explicitly affirmed. What's the alternative? To say that nobody to whom the Gospel isn't preached in this life is bound to go to hell? That's supposed to be a far more biblical notion and reflection of God's nature than what Willard said? I think not.

Matt Lytle said...

Rom 10:1-4 is instructive here. Here is what it says: "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (ESV).

Paul speaks here of a zeal for God, but a zeal that lacks specific knowledge. As a result, these people are not saved (or else Paul wouldn't pray for their salvation). Although they have a zeal for God, in their ignorance, they did not submit to God's righteousness. This leads to at least two conclusions: (1) Paul's language of failing to "submit to God's righteousness" seems to indicate that the people were not good enough, which may have some moral connotation (depending on how "righteousness" is being used here), and (2) there is specific knowledge that is necessary for salvation, which the people Paul refers to here lack. Paul says that Christ is the end (τελος) of the law for righteousness (εις δικαιοσυνην), thus stating that Christ (as the end of the law for righteousness) is the knowledge that the people in question lack (this can be seen by Paul's second reference to righteousness which answers the first mention in v 3 which also mentions the lack of submission to God's righteousness).

Knowledge of Christ, as the end of the law for righteousness, is necessary for salvation. Zeal is simply not enough. Without knowledge of Christ, according to this passage, there is no salvation, which coheres nicely with the missionary mandate given in the NT (and the OT).

Anonymous said...

The Romans passage is about Jews who were pursuing salvation by works, not faith. By "responding to light" I was referring to responding as God intended to what revelation is available, not salvation by works, which the Bible explicitly says is impossible. The point at dispute is not whether Jesus is necessary for salvation; the Bible says so, that's settled. But I think you're going beyond scriptural teaching to insist that explicit knowledge of Jesus in this life is necessary for salvation. God determines the fate of the unevangelized; we'd do best not to be presumptuous about such matters. And honestly, if you think that folks go to hell for bad luck (not getting someone to preach to them), that seems awfully hard to reconcile with our intuitions about how a loving God would conduct matters. So what do you think? Some people have enough light to condemn them, but not enough to save them? And some people go to hell forever because of bad luck?

dacroteau said...

Mr. Anonymous, would you agree with the following statement:

"Inclusivism is the belief there exists some "exception clauses" to the gospel that God grants to certain groups of individuals based upon their predisposed condition. This belief is rooted in the hope that God, apart from the hearing and understanding of the gospel, by His grace and sovereign love, still grants to those individuals prohibited by certain conditions forgiveness of sin, eternal life and fellowship with the Lord in heaven forever."
Do you hold to this definition of "inclusivism"?