The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard - My Book Notes - Part 5 - The Rightness of the Kingdom Heart: Beyond the Goodness of Scribes and Pharisees

Welcome to part 5 of my blog series on Dallas Willard's book "The Divine Conspiracy". Please look at the chapter list to move between the other parts of this series.

What I learnt From This Chapter

The main thing that I learnt from this chapter is that there is an order to the sermon on the mount. It is not just a random collection of saying by Jesus but should be seen as a full sermon where the points lead into one another and build upon what has gone before. This has been an extremely profound and life changing insight.

Chapter List

Chapter 5 - The Righteousness of the Kingdom Heart: Beyond the Goodness of Scribes and Pharisees
Chapter 6 - Investing in the Heavens: Escaping the Deceptions of Reputations and Wealth
Chapter 7 - The Community of Prayerful Love
Chapter 8 - On Being a Disciple, or Student, of Jesus
Chapter 9 - A Curriculum for Christlikeness
Chapter 10 - The Restoration of all Things

Chapter 5 - The Rightness of the Kingdom Heart: Beyond the Goodness of Scribes and Pharisees

The Talk on the Hill

Should be read as a complete sermon, rather than each part in isolation.

The inner self must be changed, rather than just trying to obey the law. (Like tying peaches to tree branches).

Outlining the Sermon

Fulfillment of law is good because the law is good. Matthew 5:20-48, what does fulfillment of law look like in human life aka the kingdom heart.

Matthew 6-7 - sequence of warning of practices and attitudes that deflect us from living for the kingdom. I.e. depending on things other than the kingdom.

1/6th of sermon is devoted to doing what it says:
  1. Background assumption
  2. Ordinary people are light and salt.
  3. Kingdom heart of goodness.
  4. Warning against false securities.
  5. Warning against condemnation engineering.
  6. Doing what it says.
Must keep order in mind when reading.

Later parts rely on earlier parts.

They are stages in a progression towards agape love.

The Centrality of God's Law to Human Life

Law is not the source of rightness, but the course of rightness.

The Deeper Beyond from Which Actions Come

How can one keep the law?

We cannot keep it by trying, but must aim at something other, to become the kinds of people who do it.

A Lesson from the Dishwasher and the Farmer

Washing the outside but not the inside (Matthew 23:25-26).

The washing from the inside thoroughly naturally cleans the outside.

Farmer - good tree produces good fruit etc. (Matthew 12:33) 

Actions faithfully reveal what is in the heart.


Matthew 5:20-48

Condition for right living in Plato’s 'Republic' is "dikaiosune" - called justice in republic.

Aristotle replaced dikaiosune with arete (virtue) Aristotle won the battle for the word define the goodness in a person.

In Old Testament and New Testament dikaiosune is used predominantly (although arete is used sometimes).

Six Contrasts of the Old and the New Moral Reality

1. Irritation with ones associates:

Old - no murder

New - intense desire to be of help, no anger or contempt,

2. Issues of sexual attraction:

Old - no intercourse

New - no cultivation of lust.

3. Unhappiness with marriage partner:

Old - divorce, give pink slip.

New - no divorce.

4 - Wanting someone to believe something:

Old - keep vows or oaths made to convince.

New - only say how things are or are not. No verbal manipulation.

5 - Being personally injured:

Old - inflict same injury on offender

New - don't harm, but help the one who has injured you.

6 - Having an enemy:

Old - hate your enemy

New - love and bless your enemy.

In the Cauldron of Anger and Contempt, the Primacy of Anger and the Order of Evil

Trace wrongdoing to heart we find most cases either anger or contempt.

What Anger Is

Anger is a spontaneous response that has a vital function in life - it is not wrong.

Anger and the Wounded Ego

We often 'will' to be angry and indulge it.

Road rage as an example

There is nothing that can be done with anger that cannot be done better without anger - due to our sense of self-righteousness.

Contempt is worse than Anger

It is a studied degradation of someone.

"Whoever says to his neighbor 'raca' etc." (Matthew 5:22) - this is contempt.

Contempt makes it easier for us to hurt someone.

It is much more refined than anger.

The Inner Ring - C.S. Lewis - on contempt and belonging.

The term fool is much stronger than our current usage - meaning willful defiant and evil.

These 3 Prohibitions Are Not Laws

Jesus is giving us a revelation of human needs.

Merely not killing others is not the point.

The point of just not doing them is not the point.

When I go to New York, I don't have to think about not going to Atlanta or Georgia.

Therefore we do not need to think about not hating people; that is just part of the package.

Laws that deal with the human heart cannot get to the heart.

Positive Illustrations of the Kingdom Heart

Two illustrations of what law could never capture:

1 - About to offer gift at temple and remembering you have something against a brother, you leave the gift and make up.

To get full picture we need to imagine something big like wedding day, ordination etc. and then making up with someone who is not there.

Moral above ritual (like in Old Testament, "I desire righteousness rather than sacrifice" - Hosea 6:6).

What kind of thought life would a person like this have?

Jesus isn't stating a law; he is illustrating the rightness of the kingdom heart.

2 - Adversary before legal system (being sued), be well disposed (kindly minded) to adversary. Resolve it before it comes to trial.

Once again not a law.

The destructiveness of fantasized desire - The poison of sexual desire indulged and fantasized.

2nd contrast.

Violence is the sure overflow of anger and contempt in the heart. Anger and contempt constantly intermingle, as well as the other desires of the heart for power, fame etc.

Jesus uses one of Ten Commandments "you shall not commit adultery".

The command is an absolute prohibition.

As we have seen with murder, just because you have not committed adultery with someone, it does not mean that your relationship with that person is what it should be, or that you are as you should be in that domain.

Jesus was talking to people who thought that they were pure because they had not done the act.

Job's Eyes

"I made a covenant with my eyes" - Job 31:1.

- If feet have carried me to wrong places,

- Heart followed my eyes ,

- Hand touched what it ought not to touch.

Have a detailed and established practice of not engaging (his or her bodily parts, perceptions, thoughts and desires, in activities of wrong course).

To be kind of person for whose feet, hands, eyes and heart and all the rest simply walk in the good person that they have adopted because of the knowledge that it is good and right.

Adultery in the Heart

All the elements of adultery barring the physical act are there in the heart of one who lusts after a person in the heart.

The person is not caring for the other, but using them.

Visual lusting makes its presence known through body language and expressions.

This then has pervasive effects on everyone in the situation.

The look is a public act which restructures social structure.

See The Rule of St. Augustine on "the look" (4:23).

The person subjected to the look (and others alongside) is deeply affected. And often leads to some kind of action (and is itself a form of harassment.)

But Actual Adultery is Worse

That they do not commit adultery is important.

Aristotle - adultery is wrong.

Lust glorifies itself as something deeper in order to have its way (one is "in lust" rather than "in love").

Rightness of sex is tied to a solemn and public covenant for life between two people - and therefore sex is a response to the gift of a uniquely personal intimacy to the whole person, that each person has conferred an enduring faithfulness upon the other.

Intimacy is the mutual mingling of souls who are taking each other into themselves into ever increasing depths.

The truly erotic is the mingling of souls.

Because we are free beings, intimacy cannot be passive or forced. And because we are extremely finite, it must be exclusive.

Personal relationship has been emptied out to the point where intimacy is impossible.

Intimacy is the spiritual hunger of the human soul.

Intimacy comes only within the framework of an individualized faithfulness within the kingdom of God.

Such faithfulness is violated by adultery of the heart.

Anger and Contempt in Sex

Marital intimacy is deeply undermined by contempt.

Contempt for body, mind, family or something they have done.

Contempt always elicits anger, which elicits anger in turn.

These feeling grow.

Sexual delight then becomes impossible.

People are then invariably drawn into fantasy.

Dissatisfied mates project fantasy images that the real people are forced to fit into or fall short of.

Never forget that many things that cannot be called wrong or evil are not good for us (advertising, TV, etc.)

But Merely to Think or Desire is Not Wrong

Sexual desire is not wrong any more than anger or pain is.

It must serve a proper function in life.

Merely to be tempted is to desire another person, and temptation is not wrong (but should not be entered).

Translations that say "when a person looks at someone with desire" are wrong as this is just temptation.

Terminology - looking at a woman with the purpose of desire.

We desire to desire.

Lusting of the heart is not something that bypasses our will - it is the purposeful entertaining and stimulation of Desire that Jesus marks as the manifestation of a sexually improper condition of the soul.

Not Enough Just to Avoid Adultery in the Heart

The point is the condition of the inner most self or heart.

Illustrates a wrongness of the inner self even if no outward wrongness is committed.

There are times when we can only run from temptation or avoid the possibility, that must be regarded as a Temporary expedient, it cannot be a permanent solution, or change who we are. One cannot live by it.

Reductio Ad Absurdum - Of Rightness in Terms of Acts

If you think that laws are what make you right then you will indeed cut off your arm our gouge out your eyes (reductio ad absurdum).

But we would still have a wicked heart.

The deeper questions always concerns who you are - what would you do if you could? 

Mark 7:21-23 - it is from the heart that all evils come.

Beyond the Divorce Papers

The divorce paper was useful for a woman to stop adultery charges etc.

Hillel permitted adultery for any reason.

Shammai only for some reasons.

The law as practiced was favourable for the husbands every whim.

The Principle of Hardness of Heart

Better a divorce occur than life be unbearable.

Forced into Adultery

Woman had three choices if divorced.
  1. Go to live with a wealthy relative.
  2. Marry again, but as damaged goods.
  3. Become a prostitute.
This is why Jesus says that if a man divorces a woman he has forced her into adultery.

Is It Then Better Not to Marry?

Remember the order of the Sermon on the Mount!

How many divorces would occur if anger, contempt and obsessive fantasized desire were removed?

Transparent Word and Unquenchable Love - A Yes that is Just a Yes

Fourth point - giving oaths.

Making oaths was a huge part of life in Jesus' world.

The point Jesus is making is not about our relationship with God but about our relationship with people.

Essence of oaths is using something that is impressive, but not relevant to get others to believe you and have your way.

Wrongness of swearing is making use of people and bypassing their will to use them.

Swearing common in sales.

Saying yes's that aren't yes's and no's that aren't no's.

People should be left to make decisions without your coercion.

Evil intent of getting ones way by verbal manipulation.

We do not develop character well when our will is overridden and we are coerced.

Responding to Personal Injury

5th aspect - personal injuries (not war).

Lex Talionis (law of retaliation) - eye for eye.

When we are injured we do not become our injury. We see things in the wider scope of reality. (Hence "father forgive them, they know not what to do" - Luke 23:34).

Some Cases of Non Resistance

Jesus gives 4 cases (types of different kingdom responses).

1 - Turning cheek

Jesus does not say that we should turn someone else's cheek.

Leaves ourselves to be vulnerable.

2 - Let him have your shirt.

Be deeply interested in the needs of others.

3 - Go with him 2 miles.

4 - Give to him who asks.

These 4 are deeply familiar, and we regard them as laws.

But each of these are just illustrations of the character of one who is living the kingdom life.

Reversing the Presumption

Our responsibility is to determine the appropriateness of my response in that situation.

- This is why it is not a law.

"Am I being the kind of person that Jesus’ illustrations are illustrations of"?

Shifting the Scene

The kingdom is beginning its work.

The people involved will be profoundly affected; therefore we need never worry about becoming a doormat.

Formed by a love for all, and with a willingness to sacrifice what we want.

We see it with the view of eternity in mind, and knowing that we will be taken care of.

What to Do With Enemies

Pray for them.

Goodness is Love - Completing the Picture of the Kingdom Heart: Agape Love

1 Corinthians 13 - it is not us who do all these things, but love. Our job is to get love (to dwell in love), and these things automatically follow.

Are These Things Hard to Do?

These things are very hard if you have not been transformed at the core of your being. Once this happens then these things are not hard.

To bless his enemies was not hard for Jesus. What would have been hard would have been for him to curse his enemies.

The Pharisee takes as him aim the keeping of the law. Rather than becoming the kinds of people who keep the law (transformed by love).
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