The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard - My Book Notes - Part 2 - Gospels of Sin Management


Last week I started a series sharing my book notes from Dallas Willard's 'The Divine Conspiracy'. If you want to look at my introduction click here.

Each week I will be covering a chapter; below is the chapter contents, click on a chapter to go to that specific blog post (I will update the chapter list with the links as I go).

My Story of Dallas Willard

I first learned of Dallas whilst reading Richard Foster. I was intrigued and bought a copy of 'The Divine Conspiracy'. Frankly the book was so daunting that it sat on my shelf for several years. Later I started a subscription with Audible and used one of my credits to get an audio version of The Divine Conspiracy. Again it was so daunting (at over 14 hours of listening time) that it just sat in my library for a long time. One day I lost internet access and wanted to listen to a book; the only book I had downloaded was The Divine Conspiracy, so I begrudgingly started listening to it, and about half an hour in I was absolutely hooked. This book changed my entire perspective on reality (or I should rather say it re-oriented my perspective on reality back to where it should have been), and helped me to fall in love with scripture all over again.

What I Learnt From This Chapter 

The main takeway for me from this chapter was the idea that our transformation into Christ-likeness and movement into the Kingdom of God is something that we should expect and seek as Christians. We can start living the eternal kind of life now.

Chapter List

Chapter 2 - Gospels of Sin Management
Chapter 3 - What Jesus Knew: Our God-Bathed World
Chapter 4 - Who is Really Well Off? - The Beatitudes
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 2 - Gospels of Sin Management

The Invitation Diminished

How does the message sound today? - "christians aren't perfect, just forgiven".
Just forgiven? Is that all there is? A retreat from living an eternal kind of life now.
There is a lot of room between being perfect and being forgiven.
Christians are forgiven, and being perfect is not a precondition of forgiveness, but this is not the whole extent of it.
Popular view of christianity - like a barcode scanner, a different sticker stuck on so barcode scans it differently.

Would God Really Do It That Way

Referred to as "cheap grace", or "fire Insurance".
Grace IS cheap from the point of view of those who need it - making grace expensive will add confusion; and if a fire is really coming then insurance is good.
Would God establish a bar code christianity?
Does being saved really have nothing to do with who are?

Some Puzzling Facts

94% believe in God.
74% made a commitment to Jesus.
34% to a new birth experience.
Compare to statistics on same group for unethical behaviours etc.
Surely something has gone wrong when failures are so massive and widespread.
Perhaps we are not eating what we are selling?

God Really Doesn't Change Our Behaviour?

Mike Yaconelli - The Terror of In-betweenness.
Compare Yancey article on Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky in christianity today.
Maybe the problem is not in spite of what we do, but precisely because of what we do.

Gospels of Sin Management

Gospel has more to do with sin than with life.
Only thing essential in right wing theology is forgiveness of personal sins.
Only thing essential in left wing theology is removal of social or structural evils.
Stephen Neil - to be a christian means to be like Christ - to be related to Christ - and all other relationships are transformed - "the difference in being a christian".
Bishop Kallistos - "How Are We Saved?" - clear articulation of Greek Orthodox view of salvation.

The Gospel On the Right - the Atonement as the Whole Story

Jesus died to pay for our sins, and if we believe this then we will go to heaven when we die - a specific theory of atonement has become the whole of the gospel.
Justification has taken the place of regeneration - this replacement has an absorption of christology into soteriology (Karl Barth).
Demythologisation - Peter Berger.
  • Vampire christians on the right
  • Pharisaism on the left.
Salvation seen as "private act" with no social consequence.
We have become nothing positive - but we will not be kept out.

Lordship Salvation

Lordship salvation debate - John Macarthur - cannot have a saving relationship with Christ without obeying him.
Charles Ryery - just belief .
Zane C. Hodges also.
Kingdom of God tied up with future millennial reign.
Abraham's faithfulness was to do with things that were taking place in this life (a baby).
No friend of God will be in hell.
Difference in trusting Christ and trusting some arrangement that has taken place - it is the person that we trust.
Sensed irrelevance of what God is doing in our lives is the primary flaw in christians today.
All that can be said for "right" theology is that Christ made the arrangements to get us into heaven.
The gospel is the good news of the availability and the presence of life in the kingdom of God now and forever through reliance on Jesus the anointed - this was the faith of Abraham (John 8:56)
Only description of eternal life in gospel - John 17:3 - that they may know God.
Biblical "know" always refers to a personal relationship.

The Gospel on the Left - the Gospel as Entirely Social

Not necessarily "liberal" but are the offspring of the liberal movement.

Religion Becomes Social Ethics

James Findlay - movement into activism - "Church People in the Struggle".
For many engaging in social reform of civil rights was a life transforming moment.
In many ways this became their faith (religious belief = commitment to civil rights).
Older liberal theology died and became a social ethic.
Includes inclusivism of all beliefs other than oppressive ones.

God and Jesus Iminent in Human Love

John A. T. Robinson - popularised this theology. - 'But That I Can't Believe'.
Gospel of left = love wins (love comes out on top).
Jesus love as last word for mankind - real Jesus one who loves oppressed peoples and ones who are different, calling us to do the same.

The Political and Social Meaning of Love

Bishop James Pike - "I don't believe in a God who tinkers".
What is accomplished by a revised view of God?
William James - universalistic or a refined supernaturalism - confines itself to sentiments about life as a whole whilst the essence of practical religion evaporate - Varieties of Religious Experience, page 511.
Boils down to not treating people as different whilst liberating them and enabling them to do what they want (basically the american dream).
Becomes just another gospel of sin management based on western ideals of existence.

Toward Integration of Life and Faith - the Case of the Missing Teacher

No effective bridge from faith to life.
We believe that the "latest studies" have more to teach us than Jesus.
10 Commandments - God's best teaching on how to live well.

The Centrality of the Pulpit

"Your system is perfectly designed to yield the results that you are currently getting".
If gospels of sin management are preached then that is what congregations will accept (and if they reject christianity, then that is what they will be rejecting).

The Kingdom Must Make Sense

Michael Green.
I. Howard Marshall - twice over last 16 years heard sermons on the kingdom of God.
Peter Wagner - leader in church growth movement - kingdom of God was the message of Jesus "why haven't I heard more about it in past 30 years as a christian?"
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