Knowledge of the Spiritual “Landscape” and the Spiritual Life

Dallas Willard Part 21 of 22

Dallas agreed to teach two separate weeks for the Renovaré Institute in Atlanta, a cohort of 40 students, mostly in ministry positions. He rehearses many of the themes from his speaking ministry elsewhere, so there is little new to be heard, but with more time with the group he is able to be more comprehensive than usual.


Dallas:  It has been a great joy to renew fellowship with you. [And also with you!] I’ve been looking forward to it since last October and I am refreshed and encouraged by this time we have had together.

I wanted to mention that we will be reading The Spirit of the Disciplines and the spirit of the disciplines is the love of Jesus. That’s the moving principle in the disciplines—loving Jesus. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Now, you can misunderstand that—like, “if you love me, you would buy me a new car,” BUT what He is really saying is “if you love me, you will learn from me and keeping my commandments will be a natural outgrowth of your association with me.” Your love for me will draw you to me and in that relationship, you will learn. [1:38]

Part of the learning will be when you pull it out in abstract, it will be disciplines and actually, he engaged his closest associates in a long period of discipline and leaving their families and businesses and all of that and spending the time with Him—watching Him—and then Him saying, “Now, you do it.” That was 2 ½ years of discipline that prepared them to go to further disciplines in watching Him die and then realizing that He was still alive and that He was talking to them and coming to a new way of fellowship.

That is what He did in training them and it is extremely important for us to understand that we train. We are in training and we have joined a fellowship that is a training fellowship. Of course, it would be nice if we understood that. The groups that have the name of Christ on them would be training schools. I think we can do that but we have to have understanding of how these things work and then do our part in leading and that is, I hope what you will step into in very comfortable way now. I want to give our last session to talking about how we do that—how we approach this business of living our life in our world and bringing the Kingdom of God to people around us. [4:04]

So let me just go back and review the path that we have gone over. Last October, we were mainly focused upon the Kingdom of God and the dynamics of personality and how those two come together so that was the main project of our time in October and then now, in this session, we have been looking at conversation and character. We started out talking about the “with God” life, the Renovare vision of renewal through living from the invisible world of God’s Kingdom—the two landscapes—the idea that we live in the flesh and in the spirit both and how to put those together so that the resources of the river in Psalms 46 are flowing to us and through us and the flesh takes its place and is glorified in the person who lives for the spirit and from the spirit. The flesh then is good. God’s gift—the place where we become who we are and grow on towards the full life that lies ahead of us forever. [6:06]

So now then, with that landscape established, we spent a good bit of time on words and what words are and how they work and how a Kingdom works by words and then we turned to living in the conversation—learning how to hear God and respond routinely so that it is an everyday kind of event that we hear from God and we speak to God. That’s a primary way a Kingdom works and in order for us to be in the presence of God, the first thing we do is turn our minds to God. We turn our minds to God. If you want to go see the river, you have to walk down there. You can’t see it from here.

If you want to be in the presence of god, you turn your mind to God and that’s the context of the conversation—the living in the presence of God—practicing the presence of God in the famous words of—that’s associated with Brother Lawrence actually. He doesn’t invent this idea! It’s a much older idea and the language first emerges as such in St. Francis’ introduction to The Devout Life. I don’t think that is something you have on your reading assignments but we are hoping with the reading assignments, it will get you introduced into a world of people and writings for whom what we are talking about here is of course—of course! [8:24]

Jeremy Taylor picks up that same theme of practicing the presence of God and you find a section in his book called Holy Living on practicing the presence and it becomes something that is a part of the atmosphere in Europe and Brother Lawrence picks it up and gives us a wonderful, wonderful treatment of how it was with him.

So, that’s living in the conversation, learning to hear God and in that conversation, then we are ready to look at the fruit of the spirit—the character and putting off the old person and putting on the new person and so our live sessions have helped with that in some detail and we’ve talked a bit about disciplines in relationship to that although we haven’t done much with it. [9:25]

Now, finally today I want to spend most of my time in this last session talking about all of this in the context of knowledge and I need to try to help you see the difference that makes because the way the life in Christ is often presented, if it’s presented at all, or the way that Christian religion is presented is that it is not knowledge but something else. I have put up here a statement about the historical displacement of the content of the Christian tradition out of the category of knowledge and into the category of mere faith and going with that is usually the idea that faith is some kind of leap or miracle that may or may not happen to you but it is not a matter of responsible knowledge of reality. [10:44]

Now, that would have been totally surprising to almost everyone who lived more than 100 years ago as a Christian and we don’t have time to do a lot of the history of it but fundamentally there was a passage in the 1800’s that the church accepted. It basically turned knowledge over to the devil. They didn’t know they were doing that. They thought they were turning it over to the flesh; that is, to natural human abilities and nothing is more important today than a recovery of the church as the unique purveyor of essential knowledge in response to the great questions of life. [11:43]

Now, I think you are going to be reading the book, Knowing Christ Today and you will have a chance to feel all of that out but when we look at the material you have been reading and studying, the aim of the Renovare Institute is to bring you to an understanding of the reality of Christ and His Kingdom in the world today; not just to proclaim it and see if it strikes fire somewhere, but to stand in the world with knowledge of Christ today. [12:32]

Now faith—you need faith, but your faith needs to be environed in knowledge and when it is not, it has nothing to stand on and you are just out there leaping around as you might say and nothing directs your leaping except you are just leaping. You may say, “Well, the Holy Spirit will make it happen” and He does make things happen. There is no doubt about that but He brings knowledge. The prophet Hosea—his saying is and you know it, “My people perish for the lack of knowledge.” Knowledge is what is missing and we need to talk about that in this hour and we are going to do that.

Q: And you are defining knowledge more in the Biblical sense, correct?

Dallas: Well, we want to understand knowledge in a common sense way that will also apply to Biblical knowledge and we are going to look at some descriptions or definition here in a moment but it’s really important to get the general point. [14:02]

Now, Romans 1 is a story about what happens when knowledge of God is put away. Of course, when knowledge of God is put away, faith will go with it and a part of our problem today is that faith is presented as if something that just hangs in the air. If you’ve got it, that’s great; if you don’t, okay. It’s very customary to hear around in my circles people say, “Well, it’s wonderful that you have faith but I just can’t make the leap.” They think they are off the hook and the response is of course “Well, why don’t you look into it? Why don’t you get serious about it?” They have been taught that that’s not the way it works—that faith is a miracle and it strikes like lightning or it doesn’t. And of course, it’s true that faith is a gift but the way you get the gift is by developing your knowledge and when you go back now and look at the Biblical stories with this in mind, you will see it all in place. [15:28]

Abraham went out not knowing where he was going but he knew WHO was going with him. David and Goliath stories are great illustrations because for David, it was just so obvious what should be done but that was because of his previous experience with these things and when people said, “You can’t go out to fight Goliath,” he said, “Oh yeah, sure I can. I’ve been over this road before—with a lion and a bear.” You have to understand this is a little kid talking; he is basically a teenager and he knew how it worked—that was knowledge. The teaching of the New Testament, Paul’s testament is knowledge. Knowledge—eternal life is defined in John 17:3—knowledge; and what I am saying is we have to recover that in order to stand as the people of Christ in our world and to make that available to others, we have to present this as knowledge. So, I put that out there and we will now begin to look at some wording about knowledge. [16:56]

The community of faith is to be a place where people have knowledge and make it available, live by it, make it available to others and invite them to test it because knowledge is always something that comes out of testing. It is verifiable and if we say things like, “the Kingdom of the Heavens is at hand,” we want to be in a position to help people verify that as knowledge.

That would probably involve two main parts, which is to look at us and see if we are operating in terms of reality or are we just got a bunch of stuff on our brain—words, words, words—only words. Words are effective when they put us in touch with reality and the only point of teaching is to help people take what they have heard and put it over against reality. Now, that’s true no matter what the teaching is—whatever the field. [18:21]

So, we want to think about the material we have been talking about—putting off the old person and putting on the new. See, you have to take that out of the domain of “whooooohhhhh” [Laughter] and say, “This is something you do and here is how it goes and this is how I’ve experienced it, this is what I know about it; here is how you can experience it and here’s what you can know.”

For many people, they really can’t get a start on it until they have become acquainted with people who are really doing it. Most people in the world are so confused and in such turmoil and distress that the only thing that could help, that could really begin to help them is to be in the presence of people who are living from the river. [Amen!] The very presence of some people—I‘m sure you’ve experience this—conveys the goodness of God. Now, that’s Jesus’ idea, remember, He said, “Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and say, ‘God is good. God is great.’” You’ve been around people like that and of course, there’s a string of them through the history of the church. Those kinds of people will have practices and they will especially have relationships to one another that will enable those who are lost and confused and in turmoil because they’ve been trying to run their own Kingdom and say, “Well, there is another world here. There has got to be something—another world,” and then you have a starting point to begin to teach them. They can begin to hear and of course God is involved in all of this—the Holy Spirit is involved in all of this—the living Word and so on but the important thing is that they would begin to sense the reality of it and begin to approach the teachings and the person of Jesus in terms of genuine knowledge which is available for people to live by.  Someone had a hand up—yes? [21:02]

Q:  Just wanting to clarify—are you talking only about the mind in terms of the hearing system? Or?

Dallas: I am not talking about the mind. The unit of analysis is the person. Now, the mind has a role in that and it’s very important that we understand that. Part of that is to gain knowledge and what I am addressing here is the confusion about what you are gaining when you begin to learn the things that we’ve talked about. What is that—because now that’s going to determine what you are going to do about it? [21:47]

Comment: So, in that sense, are we knowing God with all of our mind and heart and soul?

Dallas: Yes, Dr. Jesus seems to have thought that too. [Laughter] And so we stop this sort of thing of beautiful words and going on down the road and say well, “That’s something real.” Now, of course your mind is the center of your knowledge but your knowledge lives in your body and in your social relations but the mind is what we focus on as Paul puts it in Romans 12—the mind has to come to a grasp of things. Like for example, “God so loved the world that He gave His unique Son” as knowledge. Now you don’t have to accept it as knowledge because that’s one of the things about knowledge is that you can always dodge and avoid—at least for now.

So, when you tell someone, “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son and who so ever puts their confidence in Him will not have a futile and failing existence but an eternal kind of life. “ When you tell someone that, how are you thinking about what you are telling them? If you think that’s knowledge and that you might not get that if you went to Harvard, which is supposed to be in the knowledge business and was founded precisely to present that knowledge. But the people who are there now are so much more intelligent than the ones who started it. [Laughter] OK. [23:50]

The mind is central but it doesn’t function apart from the system—emotion, heart and all of that—that functions as a part of the person. So, the unit of analysis in understanding the Biblical picture is the person and the person has these essential dimensions that we put up on the circle diagram. Those dimensions don’t float around by themselves. They aren’t invented to do so. OK? [24:30]

All right; let me try to cover and work through a Biblical wording here on page 26 and following of your notes. Knowledge—the importance of knowledge and not just faith for spiritual growth and spiritual teaching—so that’s what we want to talk about.

The current thought of faith among the people of faith is that it is a blind or irrational leap; perhaps drawn from you by the spirit having nothing to do with knowledge or even essentially opposed to it.  This undercuts every effort at spiritual growth and the mastery of life in the Kingdom of God and it is one of the things that you have to—if you want to try to understand the pervasive weakness of the church in the world, this is one of the things you have to understand.

Now, when Christ and His people came into the world, they were understood and understood themselves to be presenting knowledge and then faith on the basis of knowledge. That stands out if you just read your New Testament. Paul said, “that I might know Him;” not just have party faith—“that I might know Him.” See, knowledge is different from faith because it gives you a grasp on reality. Faith is readiness to act as if something were true but in fact it may not be true and that’s one of the great differences between faith and knowledge. There are many others and I can’t be systematic in discussing them here but knowledge, for example provides a common ground for people to meet on and the system of education and culture that we live in now discounts the possibility of common ground. If you want to understand for example, why the Republicans and the Democrats are behaving like they do, you have to understand they don’t believe in common ground and so there is nothing left but to stand over and holler at one another and insult one another and try to force things and so on. See, that’s all that is left if you can’t have knowledge as a common ground. [27:29]

Comment: Dallas, this dichotomy between faith and knowledge grew out of a rationalism of the 17th and 18th century you think where the church—we talk about Harvard being founded on a Biblical sense of knowledge—how did we get here? [27:44]

Dallas: Well, it’s a long story and you just mentioned an important part of it because in roughly the 15, 16, and 1700’s, the authority of the church was seen to be misguided in many, many ways and that developed—you had a series of people like Descartes and others who were trying to provide a rational basis for believing the essential things of the faith and they didn’t do very well with that project. But, gradually and especially in the 1800’s, the church simply signed knowledge over to the secular mind and gave up. That was a defensive move and you will still hear it said by many people if Easter is coming up and you watch the programs on public television, you will see wise Christian men and women saying, “Facts don’t refute faith; faith is impervious to facts.” Now then, you will see some others, more conservative types, saying, “Well, knowledge is work; faith is grace.” And so it’s a long story and that’s a major part of it, right?

So then, the church had to fight a battle against rationalism. It had to but the way it turned out, what was left when many of them were done with it was simple believing and you know, believing tends to generate into profession and maybe commitment; and commitment and profession and faith and knowledge are just different things. There is a place for all of them but if you try to base your religion on commitment or profession, it won’t stand up. Commitment has to be grounded in an experiential faith that is based on knowledge. [30:18]

So, the outcome as I state in the second thing there on page 26 is that knowledge becomes secular and that’s where we now stand. That is why in some intellectual circles, so called, in the academic circles, to be a Christian is to be non-intellectual and that is something that has grown progressively into the position now but the idea is simply this—you can be the best informed and equipped person in any area of knowledge and have no knowledge of God at all and you can just verify that by thinking about fields of knowledge that you are committed to. None of them involve knowledge of God or even belief in God. [31:19]

So, this re-categorization exacts a terrible price because it leaves you out there just sort of hollering and a minister for example, thinking about what they do when they stand to preach or to teach and generally it comes down to “I’m trying to get people to do things instead of I am providing people with knowledge on the basis of which they will do things.” Very often we will wind up trying to get people to make a profession of faith and we baptize people and bring them into the church on their profession of faith. [32:10]

Now, profession of faith is not the same as faith and the consequences for life of professing something are not the same as the consequences for life of believing something. And if you want your belief to stand up, it needs to be environed in knowledge. There is a great difference between mere belief and commitment and profession that is not based on knowledge of that which is.

Now, I don’t want to lose you in a philosophical discussion. I am talking about what we’ve been talking about. I’m talking about what you’ve been studying with your readings and I am saying to you, you have to understand this is knowledge of reality. It isn’t just someone’s belief. There is a lot of belief in it and there is always a place for faith but your faith has to be environed in knowledge.

The Bible is a book of knowledge, not a book of faith.  In the world now, even the government has divided us out so that there are people of faith. The big struggle about whether or not the government could in any way contribute to an operation that is by the people of faith. It gets down to issues like providing contraception; all that is superficial. What underlies it is this issue of faith and knowledge and when you hear people go back and talk about the founders and what they said about the Bible and about God and all of that, see, they don’t understand what’s going on there. They think those people were just expressing their faith. They didn’t think they were expressing their faith; they understood themselves to be expressing knowledge and faith on the basis of it. [34:44]

So, you will watch people listen to what George Washington or John Adams or these other people said about the Bible and government and all of that and it doesn’t mean a thing to them because they say well, “That’s just—they are people of faith and the people of faith is just something to be sort of tolerated in our country. That’s a good thing. [Laughter] People are supposed to let you believe what you believe and not give you are hard time about that. Working it out is another thing but the people who founded the country were people who understood what knowledge was and believed they had it. And on the basis of that, then you can begin to talk about tolerance. If you don’t have a background of knowledge, tolerance means nothing and if you have a basis in knowledge for tolerance, it means a lot. Actually, there is very little to tolerate if there is no knowledge to base it—[36:10]

Now, at the top of 27, I give you a little description of knowledge and you might want to try it out.  I try to state something here that would cover the knowledge that we presuppose in public servants; hopefully, they have a little knowledge—in dentists and automobile mechanics. Notice the wording here—“you have knowledge”—this is right at the top of 17—“you have knowledge of something if you are able to represent it and deal with it as it actually is on an appropriate basis of thought and experience.” There are two things there: basis and truth.  Knowledge—you can’t know what isn’t so and you need a basis and if you have that, then you have something now that you can meet on common ground with people and you can discuss and you can learn and you can correct your views when they are wrong because of what knowledge actually is. [37:30]

Now, the basis of thought and experience does not exclude legitimate authority. Legitimate authority is authority that can be questioned and can give you the basis for what they say. That’s legitimate authority and most of the things we know, we know on the basis of authority. How many of you have ever worked out the multiplication tables? [Written them out?] No, prove them! [Oh, prove them—no!] [Laughter] But you know them and you know them on authority and it’s good authority because if you decide to, you can sit down and actually demonstrate that 7 X 5 is 35. You can demonstrate that. You probably, and it would be pointless because you already know it but someone did it and authority is indispensible to human life. It needs to be good authority and it needs to be the kind of authority that someone can check out. Maybe you can’t but someone can. [38:46]

Our world runs on authority and that’s just fine as long as it’s legitimate and open to questioning. So, when we bring the truth about the spiritual life—about living in the invisible realm or living from the invisible realm—okay, that’s something that we teach and we can teach it with authority but people can move into in, and investigate it and come to know on the basis of their own experience or other factors what we have communicated to them about putting off the old person and putting on the new.

Putting off the old persona and putting on the new is the solution to the enduring problems of the human race thinking about God wrongly, thinking about one’s self wrongly, living in a bunch of habits that are very harmful to you and to others. See, all of that can be tested and really, that’s what we are in the Institute leading you to do is to look into it—test it-come to know it. [40:08]

So, now the Christian and Biblical tradition rightly understood and carefully handled is a tradition of knowledge. That doesn’t mean that everything that has been believed in that tradition is knowledge. A lot of it isn’t obviously. Yes?

Question: A way of testing—will you talk a little bit about that in relation to the scientific method of testing?

Dallas: Well, they are basically the same. The difference is that science is tied to the visible world. That’s the basic difference and now the pressure has been to say that only that is knowledge. Only that is knowledge but the idea is the same that you form concepts and beliefs and you develop images and stories and then you put them to the test by examining the relevant facts. It’s in the world of the gospel, if you wish—the relevant facts are not just sense perceptible. Some of them are but that’s not the preferred way by calling down fire out of heaven is impressive and it has been done, but probably we won’t do that and you have to begin to think about why. Well, what would it mean to your life if you did that and word got out? [Laughter] [42:05]

And so the working of God is more supple, but now when we say things like, “Bless those who curse you.” That’s an instruction about how to live in the Kingdom of God. That’s meant to be verified in putting it into practice so you essentially the same thing as you do in science; it’s just that you have a different domain now but you put into practice claims of various sorts and see what the result is. That’s how knowledge progresses. That’s how faith grows.

By the way, that’s one of the things that really people have a hard time with when they start taking the Bible seriously is learning how to put the things into practice and you hear a lot of people say, “Well God doesn’t exists because I prayed for my mother and she died.” Well, is that an adequate test for the existence of God? You just have to take those things seriously and of course tradition play a role, both in science and in religion. If it weren’t for tradition, we wouldn’t have out sciences. If you don’t believe that, just try to invent one. They come to be over a long historical process and if some people—Arabic or Indian—hadn’t invented “0”, you would still be multiplying in roman numerals and you’ll want to try that out and see how it works. [43:58]

Century after century after century—that’s how knowledge develops and the same thing is true in religion and that’s why it’s important for us to study the past and read the Bible. Look at the people who tried to respond and learn how they formed community and then you find some wonderful things that come out of that communal effort to live the truth of the scriptures. A lot of mistakes and that’s a part of the story but then you get some incredibly bright spots—like for example, Ignatius Loyola and the Jesuits. If you want to get a good grip on how this works from time to time, you have to look at people like that or the Wesleyan people who put it into practice and saw the results. Today, the big issue is will we put it into practice? So, that’s why we’ve been talking about things in the way we’ve been talking; trying to say, “let’s put it into practice; let’s learn from that” and let’s see how the reality of God announces itself to us when we do that. [45:46]

Now, the picture of faith that many people have is we would never put it to the test and many people will say if you did that, that would show that you didn’t have faith because you are supposed to believe without evidence and that’s a sure sign that it’s a miracle and so forth. Now, on that same page, let me just carry on here for some of the other wording here. We can’t do all of it but we can get the essence of it.

What does knowledge bring? Bottom of page 27—Knowledge brings with it the right and responsibility to act direct action formulated, supervised policy and to teach. Faith doesn’t bring that and you want your dentist not just to strongly believe things about your teeth, but you want him or her to know—see, that authorizes them to act. We see someone doing something that doesn’t seem like they are succeeding, we say, “You don’t seem to know what you are doing.” It’s “knowing!”

Now, there is aw hole dimension here—doesn’t knowledge make us arrogant and pride and so on—all of that has to be addressed. Actually, it’s knowledge that leads you out of that. The saying, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing;” See, that’s where you have knowledge going on its own and against knowledge of knowledge. Paul—“love builds up, knowledge puffs up!” You need to understand why knowledge does that and the limitations of what it can do but if you don’t want to get in the position of saying the cure is to get rid of knowledge. The cure is knowledge of knowledge and where are you going to get that? Actually, it’s one of the most interesting things in the world to me. There are almost no discussions at all of knowledge, especially in relation to character in the “knowledge factories” that we call universities and colleges. That’s one reason why you don’t have Knowledge Universities. You’ve never heard of a Knowledge University. You hear of Research Universities and you can get funding for research but not for knowledge—very interesting. But what lies back of this is the recognition of the authority that knowledge brings and people are very skittish of authority—often with good reason but you have to understand that the authority operates whether or not you are involving religion. It’s an essential part of life and in any science, almost everything that people well develop in that science believe, they believe on authority. Yes? [49:38]

Question: How much knowledge is enough?

Dallas: Depends on the task….

Comment: Let’s flesh that out a little bit. We’ve learned a little bit about gravity and then eventually we act upon that and accept that. Do we learn a little bit about faith and after learning that it’s true……

Dallas: That structure you are describing is true in all knowledge, right? You learn something about gravity and then you can shoot satellites and things, but is there anything you still want to know about gravity? Yeah! And that’s front line research, isn’t it? [Sure] And one of the things we would like to know about gravity is how to suspend it and how does it interact with electro magnetics. [50:42]

Comment: I guess in our church I see almost an obsession with knowledge but very little imitation [knowledge of Christ?] and no action upon that knowledge.

Dallas: Well, I gather you are talking about knowledge of the Bible for example and so on, yes? But, that’s all done under the assumption that we are not actually going to do it. [Laughter] That’s the common assumption!

Comment: Say more; what do you mean, “we are not going to do it.”

Dallas:  Well, we are going to read the Sermon on the Mount and maybe we can quote it but we are not going to do it. [51:26]

Question: So, you want to know more because you don’t have to do it?

Dallas: Well, we believe that knowledge is what gets you into Heaven. You have to pass the test of knowledge—knowledge of the Bible—knowledge of doctrine and so on.

Now, I want to go back to Jan’s question some time ago. Knowledge biblically is always interactive relationship—always, interactive relationship. Now actually, I think that’s pretty much true of all knowledge.

Interactive relationship—that’s the sense in which Paul says, “that I might know Him.”—the sense in which John 17 talks about knowledge—eternal life is knowledge of you the only true God and Jesus Christ. That’s interactive relationship and actually most of what we have come to know of as knowledge that we get in school isn’t interactive relationship and it isn’t knowledge. It’s something that you need to remember until the test is over but you don’t need to know it to pass the test. You just need to be able to say it. The very idea of knowledge has been debauched and so people go to school and get a degree and that seems to give them some authority but they don’t really know many times what they got the degree for. Yes? [53:19]

Question: How would define sort of the difference in the way we see information and knowledge?

Dallas: Well, information is often false. See, that’s one of the things again we are losing touch with because people now do their studies through the internet and all sorts of information out there but information is often false. It’s often baseless, groundless—you can have it and not understand it so there’s a huge gap between information and knowledge.

Question: What language would you use because when I introduce discipleship as knowledge to people, immediately they think of school, information, testing and they just shut down. How would we help them distinguish between Biblical knowledge and the knowledge that they’ve been conditioned to understand? [54:15]

Dallas: Well, I think we should go to Dr. Jesus again. Now, He said to people who believed in Him, but maybe were not His disciples in John 8—if you look at that context, John 8:30 and following, you’ll see—He addresses this issue and He says “if you live in My word.” Now, it’s not a non-stop Bible study. That’s where you take His words and put them into practice. The word there is the same word that gets translated later in John 15 and elsewhere—dwell. If you dwell in my word and that means, put it into practice—then “you are really my students and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Now, you have to take each part of that and pay attention to it and one of the good things about information is you can put it to the test and maybe it will turn out to be right but you have to put it to the test to get information to pass over into knowledge or not knowledge.

So now, all of these things I mention at the bottom here—act, direct action, formulate and supervised policy and to teach—now, that’s what all of our battles are about in the public arena today is about “who has knowledge?” So, the Catholic Church takes a position on contraception and the government takes a different position, what is the question? The question is who is right? If the government were convinced that the Catholic Church had knowledge of this, and I presume that if the Catholic Church were convinced that the government had knowledge, well, okay—the discussion is over. That’s how knowledge works—it provides truth, reality an objective basis, responsibility, common grounds, and that is why people demand it in responsible people and perish without it. People perish without knowledge because they get crosswise on reality and that can kill you. [57:15]

Now, that passage in Hosea is actually talking about not having knowledge of the law but you understand the law of God is supposed to express the reality of God and of God’s world and to be in line with it, is to be in line with reality and to be able to prosper in your undertakings because you are depending on what is real. [57:44]

Reality actually is totally unforgiving. I like to give my students in class who believe firmly that truth is just what you believe to consider believing you have gas in your tank when you don’t and see how that helps. Or maybe you get a committee to agree or an election or get a government grant for there being gas in the tank. It’s no different. See, reality does not adapt to our beliefs and our wishes and that is a fundamental fact about living in the world we live in. God has made us in such a way that we have minds and systems of dealing with what we think is reality but reality just stands there. No matter what the issue is. It is completely unforgiving to those who do not get it right. [59:02]

Now, next page, 28—knowledge does not jump down your throat! You would think it ought to. If its knowledge, it would force itself on you. No, it doesn’t! You have to want knowledge. You have to seek it. Seeking is the route to knowledge and we have many fine teachers and equipment in our schools trying to teach students who don’t want to know and in many parts of the world, we have students with no equipment and bad teachers but they want to know. It’s not a good situation and I am not recommending that but it is simply true.

If you want to know, especially in the realm of God, you can know if you seek. “You shall seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” God sees to it that a person who is seeking Him finds Him! But a person who does not want to know does not have to know; at least for now and that’s the posture of the human race really ever since “the jump.”

In Romans 1, Paul in his usual, careful, analytical way goes over this and describes what happens when you turn away from knowledge of God and he has a lovely phrase here about “men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” He is talking about the gospel in Romans 1—“it’s the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes it” because it integrates them with the reality of God. The righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel. The nature of God is revealed and that’s what allows Him to be just and the “justifier of the ungodly.” [1:01:50]

Now, verse 18—“the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Human beings have a vested interest in suppressing truth and that is not just individual; that is systematic, that is institutional and that is the reality that has come to pass under this transition I started talking about.

And one way of suppressing the truth is to relocate truth into the domain of faith—that which is known about God is evident. Now, that is a truth, which is busily suppressed and the word is, “it isn’t evident” and anyone who thinks they know that this is unbalanced—what is known about God is evident among those people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness because God has made it evident to them. Well, since the creation of the world is in visible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature has been clearly seen. That’s on the record of course that it has to been clearly seen but if you want to say it’s not obvious, it’s not clear, and that there is a God, you can do that and you can discount the evidence that is present. Now, when you do that, then everything begins to swirl into chaos because when you put God out of His proper place, then you are out of your proper place and the story that goes on in verse 21 and following. I won’t work on it now but that’s the natural course once you suppress the truth of God. [1:04:20]

Verse 28 is especially haunting—“just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a mind that does not work—a depraved mind—a dysfunctional mind to do those things that are not proper being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed” and so forth. Now, here come the deeds of the flesh again, right? And that is the natural result of turning away from God and turning to the body and sex and violence and the more of that, the more confused the field of knowledge becomes.

Now, the biggest problem for people such as we are when we go out to talk about things like this, is precisely the confusion about knowledge and the intellectual world without God has an interest in confusing us about knowledge and that’s what has happened. [1:05:45]

So, now, a great sea—a great covering of skepticism covers everything and the basic idea that comes out of the knowledge factor is we don’t have knowledge. We construct things. Everything is a construction and that of course is where post-modernism comes it and says, “Yes, that’s right.” So, now if you constructed it, you can reconstruct it and get a movement out of some sort and get the institutions that are supposed to be in charge of acknowledging to cooperating with basically the flux of events in the world and there you are. You are just stuck and there is no way out.

So, I can only encourage you here in a cool moment to take your concordance and study knowledge in the Bible and then think about knowledge in ordinary life. What I have said to you here about what knowledge is is the kind of thing you actually require of people that you live with and it’s what they require of you. They want you to represent things as they are on an appropriate basis—it’s called growth and experience.

Knowledge is not esoteric and it’s not rare. Let me just say that to you. You don’t have to be infallible to know and you don’t have to know that you know in order to know but all these things get heaped up and if you have had introductory courses in Philosophy or some intellectual field in the universe, you have probably heard a lot of this already. [1:07:50]

Comment: Dallas, I think one of the things even within the Christian world that we struggle with in knowledge is when you have competing knowledge’s, like the example you gave of contraception and views on that. It’s not really just the Catholic view against the government but even within the Christian world, we have different views on that. [Absolutely!] So, how do you come to the point of determining knowledge when it doesn’t always seem to be really clear on a concept like that where we….

Dallas: …the only answer or general answer is, “with great difficulty.” You have to learn from others, learn from their traditions, sit and sort and keep working and then when you begin to establish a few things, you can use those as guideposts to further things. But there is no general answer to that question. You have to be very careful. [1:08:49]

Comment: But, are there times where, you know, where Paul talks about in Romans 14 about eating meat sacrificed to idols and this sort of thing and he talks more about in terms of there are certain things that have become convictions and to use their knowledge and they might be maybe right or wrong and to someone else they are not, you need to have some sort of grace with each other.

Dallas: You always have to have that. That’s right! And you always have to recognize that you may not know. But now, you don’t take the further step of “well, if I may not know, then I don’t know.”  See, that’s the issue and remember that whatever you say about this, claims to knowledge are going to exercise authority over human life and recognize what the battle is; then things like, for example, isn’t the bible a source of knowledge and if so, how does that work? Do we receive things from tradition that we can rely on as knowledge even though we might be wrong? Yes, we can. We do! We do it all the time! So, there’s no general answer to the question and the fact that even within well meaning people and institutions, people disagree, right?  And if they disagree in most cases, they can’t both be right. They might both be wrong but they can’t both be right. [1:10:25]

So, we have to think about knowledge as Christians and how to respond to these kinds of issues and NOT doing that is one of the things that has pushed the basic teachings of the Christian people out of the domain of knowledge and into the domain of faith in which case it can be dismissed because it doesn’t have authority if it’s just faith. Could be wrong; okay. Maybe it’s groundless so that is where tradition becomes very important because it should establish us in a path that would be basically reliable but also would be correctable where it needs to be corrected. Yes?

Question: It seems as though without Christians actually walking the Kingdom life, then knowledge of the Kingdom is almost impossible. [1:11:30]

Dallas: Yes. I think that’s right, you know? I mean, suppose there were no dentists who were walking the dentist life? [Laughter] You are lost! See? The history of that particular subject is so gruesome that you don’t want to think about it but now; it’s amazing what they can do! Just stunning! For someone who started out on that particular path when you went into the dentist and there was all this shining metal equipment and blood and you didn’t want to go there! [Laughter]

So, now, we stand in tradition and we make real what we are living by as knowledge by living it and that’s just how it is for human beings. Knowledge is not a highly individualistic thing—testing, proving and so on—individuals have to work at it but we don’t just do what occurs to us out here and that’s it. We live in historical community.

Comment: I was thinking of a modern example. I don’t know if anyone has ever had an old computer with an old backup drive and now you cannot access your information because no one can plug it into anything or fix it. We have lots of lines.

Dallas: Yes! Well, now the last section in the notes have to do with the particular issue of the spiritual landscape and spiritual life and I quote Paul here “that I may know Him in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death.” Now, Paul is operating in a high level of efficiency in his spiritual life when he says this. I mean, this is something he came to for a course of experience which involved blind, stupid opposition to the reality of Christ risen in His community and he was met personally by Christ and because he had a foundation for that, he was able to ask the question, “Who art thou Lord?”—and a conversation began. Certainly, Christ was involved well before that but now he is in a position to test the reality of the risen Christ and that is what he devotes his life to. Anything real is something that you can interact with, you can determine what its properties are, what it does and that is the mark of reality of course is the interactive relationship that we live in. As I say, it will be a communal relationship for us. It’s not just the individual off on their own with Christ and the presence of Christ in the community in the lives of people is a mark of the existence of what we are talking about when we talk about the spiritual world. From the strictly human point of view, if you try to live by what you can perceive through your senses, you will lose everything worth living for and you will not be able to carry on a life. Perhaps within some limits but any culture that turns to what is sense perceptible and the guide for individual and communal life, will quickly degenerate. [1:16:08]

We mentioned earlier the first of the two commandments. They are foundational in that respect because they resolutely pull you out of the sense perceptible world and they say, “you have to have your direction from Me, a personal God with a personal plan for individuals and plans for history and all of that and once you have that, then you have something that can guide you in the sense perceptible world. Until you have that, you will not have values that can guide you in your life in the visible world.

It is interesting also how that point has in a kind of perverse way been exemplified in the wisdom of the world that merely everyone of you now have heard, I am sure repeatedly, this idea that there is a gap between fact and value. If you mean by that, there is a gap between the visible and the invisible world, well, there is! But, you can find the connection if you hear the word of God that comes into the world and you become aware that God is there and seek Him, then the fact/value contrast closes and I know what to do because I am aware of the values of God. [1:17:51]

His world value comes from him and his choices about how the world is made. Of course, it’s transferred into ordinary living things and so on because you have a tree out here. Well, there are things that are good for the tree and there are things that are bad for the tree. Certain bugs are bad for the tree. Drought is bad for the tree and so on. You see, there is a combination of value in all creation that God has made and with reference to human beings, conversation, revelation, tradition as well as individual experience opens that up and when Jesus comes, He gives the answer to the basic questions of life. What is real? God and His Kingdom is real. Who is well off? Anyone alive in the Kingdom of God is well off. Who is a good person?—people who are permeated with agape love. This goes right down the line.  Would you like to be a person permeated with agape love? Yes! OK; follow Jesus! Simple answers! [1:19:13]

It starts with God and with His presence to us in an invisible world and that comes all the way down now to the steady values—the values of all kinds. Art goes mad when it loses touch with God and it loses touch with God when it starts saying things like, “Well, you know, if you like it, it’s good.” “Did you like the Rock Hill painting?” Well, you know, if you don’t like it, it’s not good or bad; it’s just there. See now, that’s a standard teaching in our world today.

I mentioned Lewis’ Abolition of Man and if you want to get a good grip on the consequences of departing from the knowledge of God—if you haven’t read that, I really urge you to read it. There isn’t anything that can more clearly and simply present our situation to you—the situation that comes down to the so called intellectual world where they have knowledge and we have faith and so forth than that little book. You can read it in a couple of hours; though I hope you will spend more time on it.  The Abolition of Man—what is that kind of funny title—the abolition of man? His point is simply that man is abolished when man becomes God. He brings out the point that when man becomes God, man will rule man and when man rules man, man will be destroyed because man will be ruled by nature. [1:21:18]

The conditioners, as he calls them, are the ones who are supposed to decide what to do with human beings. That is the stabbing problem in the intellectual world—what do you do with human beings? Isn’t that right? And they don’t know. The thing that comes out of the Great philosophers like Kant and the rest of them about this uniqueness of the human being and the individual and how we ought to respect individuals and not use them as instruments and so on, all that is just fancy talk. The reality is man WILL USE man and all you have to do is look and you see that that is the course of human history.  God said to Adam after he jumped, “by the sweat of your brow, you will eat bread;” and Adam said, “I’d rather eat my bread by the sweat of someone else’s brow, thank you.” That’s the human project is how to eat bread by the sweat of someone else’s brow. The abolition of man comes with the abolition of God and the order of the world under God. [1:22:50]

So, on the middle of page 30, since we live in a world of persons and we are inviting them to a Kingdom—the Kingdom of God—this works by communication and presence and so that’s what we learn by practice and the government or Kingdom works by words and relationships as expressions of persons. So, hearing God becomes fundamental to life and our part is to turn our minds to God. If you will want to live in the presence of God, you turn your mind to God. If you want to not live in the presence of God, you do exactly what Romans 1 said, “You don’t retain God in your knowledge.” And then your mind doesn’t work.

See, it’s a truism of logic that if your premises are observed or self-contradictory, everything goes. If 2 + 2 = 5, I’m a monkey’s uncle or a millionaire if you wish. It won’t do me any good because the logic is pulled out of reality. You have to have the reality before the logic works. If you don’t have the reality, the logic won’t work.

So, we learn that communication thing and then we have a place to put the Bible. We have a place to put tradition. We have a place to put nature. We have a place to put values.  We have a place to put other people. It comes into order because now you have a Kingdom with a King who is love and in that world you don’t need to have fear. Perfect love casts out fear. [1:24:59]

So, now, you have a basis for living and the last thing there on page 30—prayer is a power sharing arrangement for a world of recovering sinners. What is prayer? Well, that’s a part of the conversation. Why do you have an arrangement like that? It’s so God can let you begin to share in His power in a safe way because God limits how prayer works—not because it’s weak but because it’s too powerful. [1:25:40]

Disciplines then work for progressive recovery in the form of the fruit of the spirit. Character prepares for power. If you have character, then it’s safe for you to have power. There is a saying of Lord Acton’s that is often quoted that “power makes corruption apparent.” “If you get power, if you are corrupt, the power corrupts.” I’m sorry. That’s his saying. My saying is, “power makes corruption apparent,” and “absolute power makes it absolutely apparent.” So, what we are looking for is the transformation of character and one tricky way of putting that is to say what’s going on now with us is “we are training for reigning.” Our future as is laid out in Revelation 22:5 and elsewhere is “reigning in the universe with God.” That’s what He has planned. That’s what He is looking towards. What comes out of human history now is a community of people who can bare the power of God to the uttermost. [1:27:05]

Question: Would you say that again?

Dallas: See, what comes out of history is a community of people who can bare the power of God to His universe, and do put Revelation 20:5 with that now because you need something to hang that on. That will give you a really great thing to help you raise your children and deal with other people and yourself. What’s this all about? Where’s it going? One of the reasons why God will keep you in existence is because He is invested in you, He has plans for you and He likes you. Think of the agony that people go through in what we call “putting down their dog.” Why is that? Well, you like that dog. You would like to keep him. You can get into this silliness of cloning as if a cloned dog were the same dog as the dog cloned? He isn’t! [1:28:25]

So, I want to conclude with where I started. This is with the Great Commission, page 31 of your notes. This is the end of the circle and we are back where we started. The same reality and truth and knowledge is available to us to day to understand, put to the test and live by and from. We must bring it as such to ourselves and to our world. It is exactly this that the Great commission of Matthew 28:18-20 calls us to.

Pastors and teachers of the nations—now, when you get around to reading Knowing Christ Today, you will see that that is the title of the last chapter. Let me leave you with this—by pastors, I don’t just mean the people who have the title and a particular office but it’s those people who are Christ. See, the Great Commission said, “Go to all kinds of people and make disciples.—not converts, much less Baptists and Methodists or Catholics and Protestants—disciples! Now you can’t go past that. You have to go there. Everything is conditioned upon that and the fact that we now have a form of religion, which endorses being a Christian without being a disciple. That is one perception that leads you deeply into our situation if you will draw on it—how do we get there? [1:30:20]

That gets us into this issue of—how do you bring people into the church? And the answer is, “Well, all kinds of ways.” Commit yourself to Christ and He will solve your problems. Don’t you need Christ? Don’t you need help? OK, well commit yourself to Christ! That’s a very inadequate basis for bringing people into the fellowship of Christians. Profess faith in Christ.

Well, you know all of it may work but mostly it doesn’t work and so, you make disciples and then you bring them into the reality of the fellowship of disciples. Right? Then you are in a position to teach them to do everything He said. Now, if we did that and it was something that was widespread, do you think it would make a big difference in human life? You just think about what He said and now you think you’ve got people who, ahhhhh are not preferred, not perfectly. You know, if you’ve just got 65 or 70% of them.

Now the pastors have to do this and by pastors, I mean people who are spokespersons for Christ because they alone have the knowledge content. They have the social position. See, they talk about the public square and all of that. The public square shows up every day in church. Who are those people who come to church? That’s the public square.  They are teachers and bankers and engineers and they are sitting right here. The pastor has the social position to do that and he has power from God to do it. He’s not restricted to just human techniques. Now, there isn’t anyone else who has that. The President of the Untied States does not have this. No one else has it and if they don’t do the job, it will not be done and things will continue to go from bad to worse. So, the Great Commission is what Pastors are called to do and empowered to do and if they do not do it, we will have a perpetual lost cause. “Go to all kinds of people and as you go, make disciples.” [1:33:41]

Now, Lord help us to get what we need from all of this talk and all of this study and be with each one here who is going through this process and make it so truthful and joyous for them and help them to feel they are just stepping more and more into the light as they go along day by day and as they communicate with one another and respond to the assignments. You are the one that can do this! And we lay it down at your feet. In the name and honor of Jesus, so let it be done! Amen! [Amen!]

Listen to all parts in this Renovaré Institute: Atlanta Cohort series