Conversatio Divina

Part 3 of 34

The Human Being as a Spiritual Being

Dallas Willard

In 1993 Dallas began teaching an intensive two-week residential course for Fuller Theological Seminary's Doctor of Ministry program. His task was to teach about spiritual life in a systematic way so that its full connection to the work of the minister was clear. These sessions from 2012 are from Dallas's last year of teaching the course before he died. Though a bulk of the course was usually centered on the nature and practice of disciplines, the beginning of the course dealt with more theological themes like the nature of spiritual reality and the end of the course dealt with topics in spirituality like vocational issues. [Editor's Note: We know that the class was taped on other occasions and would be glad to find these recordings.]

KEITH: Let me just talk with you for a few minutes. A few of you have come up to me and we want you to be free of legalism while you are here, okay? The fact that I said, “Hey, try not to talk with family, etc. This is not a rule, okay or anything. Just be free. Feel free to call your family. You’ve got to do your “check ins.” The whole idea would be if you could eliminate your emails during the bulk of the day if that is possible; that is a good thing, isn’t it?  If you are kind of hooked on that, this is a great opportunity to learn to un-hook from the cell phones and the emails and all that. Check in the evening and make your calls and all of that but be free of being legalistic. If you try some things out, that’s a great thing. Don’t make it a law.  OK? That make sense? OK.


Let me just talk a little bit about some terminology that we are starting to get into. One of the things that I have loved over the years is just hearing Dallas give clarification to terminology, giving specifics—the more specific and clear you can be in regard to your theological understanding about your theology, anthropology and soteriology—the clearer you are, the better you will be able to explain that to others. It’s helpful.  One of the things that has been helpful for me in my classes because I teach spiritual formation at my school is I try to start very quickly with just getting some terms out on the table.


I start with spirituality as a generic term. This is not a negative term. Do not be fearful if somebody says, “I’m into spirituality.” You shouldn’t go, “Oh, no, they are drifting off.”  Spirituality is something that because of the innate design of the human frame, we are all interested in spirituality. That’s a part of how God designed us and we need to understand that. The question would be, “Tell me about that spirituality.” If you are engaging people in conversation, where does that spirituality connect? [3:09]


There are a couple things that you want to think about when somebody says spirituality. What is it they really mean?  There are two pieces to spirituality that are important. People adopt this whole framework of “I am spiritual” because it gives them two things.  One is identity and the second thing is power. Now, I want you to think of people that have different spiritualties. We would say we have our spirituality as Christians. We have a Christian spirituality. So when we say give some identity, what do we mean? What do you think? [Student comments that couldn’t be heard] Yes, and everybody would say that about their spirituality, right but uniquely we would say our identity then is a place to stand in the world. People need to have that kind of clarity and whether you practice an Oprah spirituality or a Hindu spirituality—spirituality forms a sense of identity. “I feel secure in the world that I am traversing—an identity of where I stand, who I am, how I relate to the world.” That’s what identity kind of brings but it also has a little more than that. It has an empowerment. How do I traverse that world? How do I engage it? How do I move out in it? So, all spiritualties give us these two things. OK? [5:00] So, that’s not a bad thing.


But, the next question is and we are moving to the next level of terminology is spiritual formation. That’s a term that’s out there. Spiritual formation is just a generic term. It doesn’t have any real grounding unless you say, “Well, what kind of spiritual formation are you practicing?” Now, Dallas said this so this is the one truism about that term is that everybody gets one. Everybody gets a formation, right? So, that’s a reality. [Writing on board] It doesn’t matter where you are on planet earth, you are going to be formed spiritually one way or another because at the core of who you are is Spirit. OK? [5:53]


But we would say if we were to ask the question, “What kind of spiritual formation do you practice?” We practice Christian formation in this room and that is devoted to explicit obedience to Jesus. OK? [Writing on board] So, that would be more accurate as we go down the ladder from generic to specific—we practice Christian formation—a formation that is rooted in explicit obedience to Jesus. Does that make that clear? [6:36]


So, now, what does this Christian spiritual formation look like? The landing place for us, most people in the church might have a different answer. We might say Christian formation means they become a Christian and I would submit to you that what we would say is that Christian formation, the status or formation that that takes is that of a disciple—discipleship. That’s one of the challenges. I would ask you to just think about the question, “Can one be a Christian but not a disciple?” That’s the first question I ask my Christian formation class. “Can you be a Christian but not a disciple?” You might want to think that through. Do you think that’s a possibility? Can you be a Christian but not a disciple of Jesus? I am not trying to play a trick or give you a trick question here. [Comment from student that can’t be heard] Yes, yes, we have a ton of those. In fact, we have made it our business in much of the evangelical church at making Christians but not disciples. OK? We go back to scripture and I think the word “Christian” is used, what, three or four times in the New Testament? [Three times] Three times and the word really is more of an outcome than it is an owned reality. I mean, the word Christian, we get actually, I think in Acts 12, they were called Christians in Antioch. It wasn’t something that the original hearers really owned as their identified reality so that’s more of an outcome, you know? It was a derogatory term initially—“you little Christ—you know, you are like Christ.” What’s disciple—264 times in the New Testament you get the word disciple.  So, we’ve kind of lost that but this is where we land here. Actually, to me, it gives us a real landing place because we can get our arms around what this says. What it means to be a disciple. Disciple is a former status and the term is student, learner, rabbi, or an apprentice to a rabbi, to Jesus or to a teacher. The disciple’s relationship with Jesus was first and foremost to Jesus as their teacher. They called Him “Rabbi.” They called Him “Rabbi” so that was their basic and most understandable relationship that they had with Him. They were in this category and that apprenticeship or that student—the aim was Christ-like character formation. Those disciples knew that the goal of attaching themselves to Jesus, their Rabbi was to not just know what He knew but to be like Him in every way as well. So, this is the generic to specific that we are looking for that we will get into in the overall plan over these next two weeks.


But, I think it’s really helpful, I think to help people understand these terms and what they mean and Dallas will just do a ton of that. I know we are going to get into the idea of knowledge and belief and commitment and all of that. We will get to that later which are your critical terms and we did start on that—knowledge is critical. Knowledge is critical. Any questions about this? Is this helpful? [10:52]


Now, let’s shift back to Spirit for a minute here. Let me just play with you. Can we play a little game here? All right. Let’s just pretend that here we are—Dallas and I are up here and instead of a table being here, there are two gurneys—one right in front of Dallas and one right in front of me. Now, let’s imagine for a moment that there could be a day very soon that a real live brain transplant could happen—a brain transplant. Are you with me on that? OK, maybe that could happen. I don’t even know. I can’t imagine how that would work but let’s say that Dallas and I are on gurneys and that’s a possibility and there is a possibility that Dallas is on this gurney and me on this gurney and Dallas’ brain goes in my head (thank you, Lord; that would be so great) and poor Dallas gets my brain in his head. Let’s say there has been a transplant that has happened. So, now we are just now starting to come out of the anesthesia and now Dallas wakes up first. He’s starting to wake up. I’m still asleep on that gurney and he’s got my brain in his head. Got it? Your imaginative thinking is going now. Don’t respond too quickly and think now. Who wakes up? Does Dallas wake up? How many of you think that my brain in Dallas’ head, Keith wakes up, raise your hand. Commit boldly on this even if you are wrong. {Five, anybody else want to jump in?] How many of you think Dallas wakes up with my brain in his head? [OK; good and then there are actually a few that are saying I don’t even know; I’m not going to commit—Laughter. Student speaking about mind being dislocated in the brain?] That’s a discussion for after up here. That’s very good. You are going ahead here. We didn’t do this in the class we taught with Todd, did we? We might have talked about that. OK.


But, here’s the deal. How many of you are confused by that imagery? It’s disconcerting for you to get. [Comments by students] Wait a second. Hold on. Hold on. Look at this. Now, the tension we feel in this little illustration is that we are so driven by the physical in our world today. I mean, we are materialists through and through in our day and our time. Would you agree? We really are. We think in very strong material forms. Now, I heard Dallas do this twenty years ago and he did this illustration and you would say then Dallas, “My brain in your head, who would wake up?” [He turns to Dallas and asks him and he says, “I would say Dallas would wake up.”] Dallas would wake up because we are not our brains. The core of who you are is Spirit that identifies you as you. Now, granted, the whole package makes you, YOU but what is eternal—what is eternal is your Spirit. When you die, your brain doesn’t go with you, right? Right?  [Comments from students]


Just to complicate it even more, when you read studies of near death experiences and things, and there are a lot of good studies out there about people who have literally died on the gurney, right? Then stories are told over and over again about people on the operating table, they died and been “put out”—it’s done and they then come back thirty or forty minutes later—they get recessitated in some way—everything is shut down but then they can tell the hospital staff exactly what was going on throughout that whole time. They had sight. They had hearing. They had thinking. They had consciousness. They had no body that was working. That is something to reflect on. What does that mean? It’s not that our bodies don’t have any meaning. No, they do—the self of who Keith is the totality of a body, soul, spirit in its total but what is eternal—I mean, I am not going to take this body into eternity. I think the point is for us is that we are trying to understand Spirit as the center of our identity of who Keith is. The core of the center of my being is Spirit—that makes Keith, Keith and makes you, You. [17:25]


If Dallas woke up with your brain in his body, would he experience culture shock? [Laughter]


We haven’t actually seen one of these transplants to know…what do you think, Dallas? You’ve done a lot of thinking about this.


Dallas begins here…….


I think it would be disorienting and that it would be a challenge to put your experiences together in a certain way, and the reason I think that is because you watch people who have had strokes, for example and how they recover and it’s a kind of “peace mill sort of a thing” and so I expect that there would be a disorientation of sort that would have to be overcome but the idea that I wouldn’t be able to sort of know who I am and so on—I think you would know who you are because that’s tied to the stream of consciousness that comes to you out of your past and your future. I think for example—and there are of course cases where this isn’t true—I would know my wife and my children and where I live and things of that sort but I might find it rather difficult to negotiate all of that because I am now integrating my body with a new part. I believe that your identity consists of the stream of your consciousness and that during our normal life that involves an awareness of a particular body in a particular position in relationship to my consciousness. I don’t agree that the memories are in the brain. I don’t think any conscious act is in the brain and the reason I do that is because I am sure from what I have worked on that if you examine the brain, any way that you can with any instrumentation or processes, you will never find a memory in your brain. Your memories belong to you and you are not localizable in your body. You are in the vicinity, shall we say, and you are able to act in certain ways and be acted upon, but the brain is simply a very interesting piece of matter that has a specific function, among other things in relationship to acts of consciousness but no one has ever observed an act of consciousness. This is curiously missed by people who do this imaging of the brain. See, they wouldn’t have any idea of what that spot of color meant unless the person who has it told them that they are having a certain kind of an experience. You can’t identify any experiences by the brain. You identify those by your self-consciousness and that I believe is not in the brain. So, I mean, now this is a very complicated sort of thing which one has to be open and say, “Ok, maybe someday, they will be able to look at a part of your brain and say, that is a memory of Yankee, Doodle Dandy, right?” But, currently, no one has any idea why a particular experience is associated with a particular part of the brain. There isn’t anything about the experience that shows that not anything about the brain that shows that. [21:20] So if I wanted to know about I’m remembering a dog I had when I was in the seventh grade, well, I can ask someone to examine my brain with whatever instrumentalities and they will tell me, “Well, when you are doing that, then this is happening.” But, there is absolutely—and this isn’t something that is new, this is out of the 17th century—there is no natural connection between a particular brain state and a particular experience.  That’s why people like John Lock and Lidenids and so many others simply retreat as the only reason for that associate is because God created it that way. Now, you know, that’s not a very satisfactory explanation but if, as both of them did, they believed that God created human beings, it’s at least as good a story as well, evolution said it, right? So, it’s this qualitative difference between consciousness and brain states that is just—I have a book in my office that’s that thick (shows about 7 inches thick)—it is supposedly on the neurology of consciousness. Now, it’s fascinating because the only thing it has to say about consciousness is in about ten pages at the back of the book.  And, the reason for that is, neurology can’t tell you anything about consciousness. And gradually, the learned world is working toward that acceptance of that because the University of Arizona, they have a whole operation, multi-million dollar program of consciousness studies and increasingly the realization that you’ve got to deal with this stuff on its own. You can’t deal with it just by talking about nerves because it doesn’t show up there and yet; consciousness is the single most interesting and important thing about human beings.  That’s why I want to talk about this in this course because we need to push that back into the center of our thinking because actually, that’s where spiritual formation is going to take place. It will involve the social relations. It will involve the body—very important and we will be talking about that but as I often tell people lecturing, you have never dealt with another person in terms of their neural states. You deal with them in terms of their consciousness; things like, do you see me? Do you hear me? What are you thinking? What are your intentions? [24:26] You can’t find those anywhere except by approaching a person personally.  That’s what we value. That’s what we value in our dogs is their consciousness. I mean, there are some people that show dogs off but even then, it’s their consciousness of the dog that wins the day if it’s to be done.  And, what we need to understand is now; this is reality. This is where we live.  This is the Kingdom of God. This is the Kingdom of Satan. This is my Kingdom, God help us! Right? So, we have to work through all of that Kingdom stuff but it will be done in terms of consciousness. Then, knowledge is what organizes the world. I mean, imagine getting out on the freeway and driving except in terms of the consciousness you know is present in other people. You wouldn’t get out there if you didn’t know that. You know? [25:20]


Intimate relations, sexuality—we will talk about this later but what we desire is the desire of the other person. That’s where intimacy is created is in the inner mingling of persons and persons who can’t do that, then they keep thumping away on the body trying to get some intimacy out of it and you can’t do that. It’s not there. It’s at the conscious level.


So, I really think it’s important to think about these things. We will certainly—probably what we will (and it may have been attempted already) is head transplants because that’s going to prove to be much simpler than transplanting a brain in some other skull. I mean, just make a clean cut and figure out how to keep the thing alive and transplant it and you can be sure that human beings will do this. This is a part of the hugurous of humanity of the kind of demonic drive to master everything. Of course, our movies are full of it, aren’t they? [Yes they are] So, it’s really useful, I think, in trying to help us understand spirit and spirituality to talk about this because our most immediate experience of the spiritual is in ourselves. And then of course as we grow as a little child, then it’s in other people. We know that, for example, if there is not a bonding of a baby and caretakers, the baby will die. It becomes physical very fast but it isn’t physical in itself, it’s spiritual. There are all kinds of empirical studies on this now because it’s such an obvious fact.


Q:  What is discovered by meditation?


Right—yoga and all the other kinds of meditation that have been discovered—see, those are empirical discoveries. Now, the philosophy back of it isn’t but they have found that if you do certain things, it makes a huge difference in your states of consciousness. Right? Then the attempt to rationalize that in some way is what leads to elaborate sorts of philosophies and of course, that then becomes risk for the hungry, spiritual meal of western culture—so then you have the Rajneesh and all kinds of other people who victimize all sorts of hungry people who are just looking for something that is so important that they are prepared to swallow absolutely crazy stuff in order to get something that looks like that.


What I am most concerned to just sort of insist upon is that we understand the spiritual primarily beginning from ourselves but then we have to develop a larger understanding to cover society because our society is basically a spiritual reality, not a physical reality. You cannot ever understand society if you stick to the physical. Obviously, the physical has something important to do with it. [28:58]


Q:  When it comes to body and soul, how do we navigate around a dualistic kind of thinking?


Well, you know, when you try to discuss this sort of thing, the learned theological world will come at you and say, “Oh, dualism,” right? And, then of course if they know enough about Gnosticism and something of that sort, then basically the idea that matter is bad. We are not saying that matter is bad. Matter is good and as a Christian, you would say, “Well, that’s why God created it and is creating so much of it; it’s good.” Now, we have in our literature, Jesus saying, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled, you believe in God, believe in me too.” In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you.” That would be an important piece of information, wouldn’t it? “I go to prepare a place for you.” What’s Jesus doing now? Carpenter, right? “If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again to receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” Right? See, He’s just rolling this off here getting ready to leave and He’s got a bunch of upset church members around Him and He is trying to help them because I mean, you know, you say, “Don’t let your heart be troubled” when you know that people’s hearts are troubled, don’t you? So, He’s trying to give them a larger picture and then the deep teachings of John 14-17 really push beyond anything that He could have taught them up to that point and I think, you know, John’s the only one who gets this. There is reason to think that he had a closer connection and then he records that. Of course, John is sort of like the last move in the New Testament pushing the understanding of Jesus. So you get the thrilling events of the revelation where you see Jesus in a form where the only response is to faint. [31:26] Well, again, see, that has to come slowly but that’s a part of spiritual reality and what I am really concerned to take out of this discussion is not so complicated but just to say, “Listen, spiritual reality is here. It’s for us to know and to live in” and that’s why I spoke about the two landscapes in 2 Corinthians 4. “You live in two landscapes—a visible landscape and an invisible landscape.” First of all, the scales are loaded to start with because you are stuck in a world that doesn’t really deal with the spiritual and you have to fight your way toward it and Jesus comes and says, “OK, I will help you and I will help you know about your true nature and your future” and so that’s a major part of what He talks about. Now, the battle today is fought on two fronts. One is the nature of human consciousness and the other is the origin of the physical universe and that’s why there is such a battle over this. You probably hear more about the origin of the physical universe but those are the two big issues and if you aren’t careful and you want to be a secularist, you will have an unfortunate experience when you try to think these things through. But, on the other hand, the secular world pushes relentlessly and even says things that are just crazy to save their position. [33:11]


Q: Could Paul imagine a spiritual existence without some sort of bodily existence?


You have this interesting phrase where he is saying, “I knew a man.” Whether in the body or out of the body, I don’t know, right?  An interesting phrase and then you have his discussion in 2 Corinthians 5 about the tabernacle and a better dwelling place and so on. I don’t think Paul had any serious problem with that because he believed so firmly in God and the world of God, which he knew was not a physical world. So, then, in his writings, he presents with stark reality the idea that well, there is the mind of the flesh and the mind of the spirit and the mind of the flesh is death and the mind of the spirit is life and peace. He develops that at great length. Now, you see, he is just as resolute about the resurrection. So, I think that’s his way of saying, “you know the body is really important.” Now, it’s not made up of the same stuff and that is a relief in 1 Corinthians 15 but he certainly wants to insist upon for the human being the importance of the body and my way of putting that is that as long as you continue to exist in eternity, you will still be the son or daughter of whomever you are the son or daughter of. That’s a part of your identity and that’s a bodily reality. You carry that with you in terms of the experiences that made up a part of you forever.


Q: Would you add marriage to that?


Absolutely. Now you are not going to stay married…. apparently. [Laughter] But, you will always have been married to the person you have been married to and that will be a part of you forever. [35:08] Now, perhaps they won’t snore, you know [Laughter] or have other bodily traits but that will be part of who you are.


Now, we want to go on and work on this some more because Jesus has these absolutely stunning statements about, “You’ll never die. You’ll never experience death.” We want to look at some scriptures on this in a moment.


Well, let’s go back to our notes, page 8 and 9 for a bit and perhaps if you can just remember the twofold battle is on the origin of the physical universe and whether or not consciousness is distinct from the body and I believe that we need to understand that in both cases the affirmation is that the physical universe originates from a non-physical source. Now, then we can worry about how that works but I think that is the conclusion of careful argument about it. It is certainly the position that the New Testament takes on this. The visible world arises out of the invisible—Hebrews 11—“the things that are seen,” they come from things that are not seen and it sights the word of God; the word of God of course would be something spiritual so the nature of matter in its ultimate character is thrilling and an interesting thing to look at and to think about and that’s one of the things that is good about science is that it does make wonderful discoveries and there are certain kinds of questions it alone can answer if there is an answer. Then, the issue of consciousness.

So we will just very quickly at the bottom of page 8 and over on 9—there are some comments here. I won’t spend a lot of time on them—just that the physical universe requires in itself another kind of reality. And I have tried to just give a very simple presentation of some of the argument on that in the book Knowing Christ Today, Chapter Four, I think it is. [38:04]


So, the physical is simply not something that can exist on its own. It always arises out of something else. That’s the difference between God, who is on His own, and creation, which is not on it’s own. Now, you know that there are volumes about that and what I would just encourage you is to try to think through the simple point about physical reality and see that it must come from something else than the physical. Then we can worry about what that is. This idea of cold dark matter is one of the things that most fascinates me about contemporary discussion—top of page 9—“A current scientific conjecture is that as much as 99% of matter in the universe is undetectable. But it is needed to account for actual galaxy distribution and other properties that arise around that.” Now, that something is undetectable would not necessarily mean that it is cold and dark. The cold, dark stuff comes from a reference to the kinds of instruments that you have to detect matter and if something is not detected by those instruments, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is cold, which would mean it does not give off energy or that it is matter. It could be something else. For example, your thoughts that brought you into this room and into this session would also count as cold, dark matter if it has to be matter because you cannot detect your thoughts and intentions by the devices of physical science. You can’t do it. So, that’s something one wants to think about when one is trying to think about all the stuff that you have to think about if you think about these things today. [Laughter] [40:08]


I have stuck in here under the heading, There is No Empty Space, a little passage from one of Lewis’ imaginative books, Out of the Silent Planet, and its, of course mere artistic creation but artistic creation—one of the reasons why Lewis is so helpful to people is not that he proves stuff, though he gets into that occasionally, but he gives you ways of thinking about things and you know if you don’t have ways of thinking about things, you can’t actually have a belief one way or the other. One of his great gifts is to give you a way of thinking about things. The Great Divorce is a marvelous piece of work for him because he gives you a way of thinking about the difference between Heaven and hell and earth and all of that sort of thing. Most of the presentations of these alternatives today are totally unconvincing. You occasionally will find someone who wants to get in an argument with you about whether there is sulfur in hell or some other points about the furniture but for most people, it isn’t even an interesting topic—if you mean, really? You know? So, if you have to think about it in those words, then the idea that there is a kind of an alternative here that every person faces, it just doesn’t make much sense.  And that relates to a lot of other things—the theory of the atonements and so on—maybe we will get into that later but the role of the imagination in helping us think about things, not necessarily to prove or disprove, because that’s not the only issue. It’s plausibility and implausibility often mean more with reference to issues than proof and so this is just a little description of what happens to this guy Ransom as he travels out in space and begins to feel the liveliness of what he’d thought was empty space and so, I give you that quotation as a way of help. [42:23]


Then, there are a bunch of scriptures here on page 9 in the middle. “The whole earth is full of His glory.” Now that’s different from the claim that there is knowledge of His glory. The Habakkuk passage there 2:14 is a statement that “the knowledge of the glory of God will cover the earth like the waters cover the sea.” That’s a prediction but it’s given with the understanding that it is not true yet. Knowledge of the glory of God does not cover the earth like the waters cover the sea. So, I have written down there the theology of E = mc² and that’s important to think about also because that is often taken as a proven scientific fact that all energy comes from matter and that again, is something you need to think about. But that statement isn’t a statement about all energy that comes from matter, it’s actually simply a statement about the amount of energy that a given quantity of matter holds. That’s what it was invented for. That’s the context of its discovery. Einstein wasn’t at all troubled or even interested for most of his life about how much energy there was. He wanted to know how much energy there was in a quantum of matter and he discovered an amazing thing, you know. Things like, there is enough energy in a raisin to blow this building completely to pieces and that makes you wonder if you should bite one, doesn’t it? [Laughter] [44:23]


You see, there is a great mystery about matter and energy and one of the mistakes of Dakart was to think that matter was exhausted by space extension and the Ligness(sp?) had enough sense to say, “No, that’s not true because there is this thing called force or energy or power” and that’s something we need to understand but now so, the “E” of a given unit of matter is equal to the mass multiplied by the square of the speed of light. That’s the energy in a quantum; it doesn’t say anything about whether or not there is energy that is not contained in matter. It isn’t even addressing that issue and spirit does have power. It accomplishes things. We have very little of it. Willpower is one of the weakest forces in the universe but on the other hand, it can tie up with other sources and make a very big racket, you know? It’s designed to fit in with other forces and so, you have a guy or a bunch of men with shovels and pics and they are going to do something about that hillside there, well, that’s quite an operation and then around the corner there comes some big lumbering machine and you see this person sitting out there pushing a button and using the handle and this hillside caves in. That’s how spirit in human beings is designed to interact with real power and that power is mainly physical power. That’s the domain that we are able to work in and Frank Laubach wrote a book called, Prayer: The Greatest Force on Earth. Wow! That’s because prayer is designed to interact with God and so, prayer is the greatest force on earth from the human point of view. Now, we have to talk about that next week when we start talking about prayer. [46:26]


Well, this is something important to think about. Also, important to think about why we would be so limited in our access to this sort of thing and unless you have some pretty good neighbors, you are probably glad and you might even raise the question, “Is it a good thing that we know about the stuff enough to blow up another city?” It has often been lamented in recent writers that our moral progress has not kept up with our technological process. We live in a world where there are lots of people who would be very happy to kill you. [47:17]


Just a little more here though on the bottom of nine about you and me and how we are spirit in our basic nature. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have any power.  It means we have a particular kind of existence and a particular kind of power and that includes the ability to learn and to grow in social relationships to others, in relationship to God. I think the primary function of the will is to depend upon God and then once that is settled, then this issue of power on earth becomes a real issue but God doesn’t just hand you the keys to power. Power without character is one of the most dangerous things for human beings and Jesus, I am sure, could have given Peter and John the equations for relativity, physics and all of that but He didn’t and I think that’s because He had something much more important to do which is prepare for people who could stand to have power. That is the standing human problem. That’s the problem with human government—how do you control the people who have power? That’s the oldest issue in human affairs and people have struggled with it. One reason why we have assigned divine right to kings is because we thought that might control them. Unfortunately, it didn’t and so now we have a way of working on that in our culture today and it is a part of those of us who are concerned about human life and God’s purposes to think about politics and why we can’t think about that very profitably now.  Why has politics become a domain of contempt in our world?—which it has.  Imagine Senators who love their neighbor as themselves; well, you might conclude that they didn’t love themselves very much but then that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. [49:37]

So, here on the bottom of nine, you are spirit and your basic nature—I quote a scary man for many people—Tyler Deschaden—he said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience but spiritual beings having a human experience.” Wesley gives us a beautiful statement here, “We considered that the body is not the man, that man is not only a house of clay but an immortal spirit—a spirit made in the image of God; a spirit that is infinitely more valued than the sun, moon and stars put together,” and Lewis comes back to use that line, “Yea then the whole material of creation consider that the spirit of man is not only of a higher order of a more excellent nature than any part of the physical world but also more durable, not liable either to disillusion or to decay.” [50:41]


If you flip on over to thirteen, I have included here a few paragraphs from Lewis’ wonderful piece on the Weight of Glory—a sermon that he devised to teach and preach there in Oxford. On your page thirteen, he begins by talking about this insatiable desire to get “in”—for human beings to get “in.” It is so touching to watch this—not just in children; it’s more obvious in children. Do you ever think that the first part of the word party is part? Party—a party is where people are a part of something. They are received; they are welcomed and Lewis talks about this at some length here and then on page—this right side of—unfortunately, we have two page thirteen’s here overlapping—but he says, “We can’t seem to make it in but some day, God willing, we shall get in. When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory or rather that greater glory of which nature is only the first sketch. For you must not think I am putting some heathen idea out here,” he says, “we are not going to be absorbed in nature. Nature is mortal. We shall outlive her,” and then he picks up with the Wesleyan like, “when all the sons of Nebula have passed away, each one of you will still be alive.” [52:40]


And then on the next page, he plays this out some and talks about the glory of our neighbor at the bottom of that little page fourteen there. “The load or weight or burden of my neighbor’s glory shall be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it and the backs of the proud will be broken.” Now, you see, he is talking about how we treat other people given the knowledge of their true glory. He says, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible Gods and Goddesses to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet after all only in a nightmare.”


So, just a little below the middle of that page, “there are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat is to ours but it is mortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” Lewis was a high churchman and so he finishes that page next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, “your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy in almost the same way for in him also Christ is truly present—the Glorifier and the Glorified—Glory himself is truly hidden.” Ok, so now, this idea that we are talking about here really has tremendous implications for how we think about ourselves, and how we think about others.


Really just one more main point here on page ten of your notes—I contrast Jean Paul Sarts’ statement with Wesley’s. Sarts says, “Man is a useless passion” or then also, we can think of a man as a few pounds of meat between your ears. Now, Christ’s statement here is that death is abolished for those who keep His word. Hang on to that idea—keeping His word. We will have to work on that as we go along—keeping His word.  Often, the Bible talks about as law but now in John 8, Jesus is engaged in a dog fight with some people who are tremendously upset about what He has been saying and He says to them because they are raising questions about His existence. He had said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” [55:60]

That language that is used especially in John, but it was understood to refer to the affirmation of one of divinity, and so they were in a real tizzy over this and He says to them, ”Well you know anyone who keeps My word will not see death.” So the alignment of the person with His word now is really important for us to think about and keep that in mind as we go along. Eternal life is described by Jesus in John—again in the 8th chapter—His commandment is eternal life and then in John 17:3, “eternal life is to know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” So, now you see what happens here is you want to go back to the idea of the two landscapes—the person has identified himself or herself with the invisible landscape—the landscape of the spirit and so the idea is you now are invited to lead an eternal kind of life. So, eternal life isn’t something that begins after you are dead if you are blessed. Eternal life is a way of relating to God NOW and this is a kind of life that simply escapes from the viewpoint of the person, death—never die. Of course, you know the passages in John 11 where He talks about “He that liveth and believeth on me shall never die—even if he’s dead, yet will he live.”  What? What? What? What? You see, that’s where you have to have an understanding of who you are and how you cannot, as the next verse from His critics, “you will not experience death.” That is the conscience life that is you will continue without interruption.


So, now, then, of course, you go on to the other passages that I list here, especially 1 Timothy 1:10, “Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light to the Gospel.” Now, that’s important. He brought “life to light” and immortality follows. It depends upon what life is, whether or not it is undying, which is what immortality means and the effect of that is to liberate people from the fear of death so they don’t live in fear of death anymore and that really liberates them from so very much else. But, Hebrews 2 is another declaration.  I have it in your notes there but all of this follows now from what we have said about the spiritual nature of the person. [59:50]


[On Screen] But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the Grace of God, might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)


Hebrews 2, verse 9 has this important statement that He might taste death for everyone and verse 14, “Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same that through death, He might render powerless Him who had the power of death that is the devil and might deliver those who, through fear of death, were subject to slavery all of their lives.”


[On Screen] and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:15)


See, now, we are talking about “stepping out” of fear and death on the basis of our understanding of God and His Kingdom and of who we are in that because of our experiences with Him. Now, your body may still be recoiling at that. See, that’s the human, social reality but one of the most depressing things to me is to watch how people who are dealing with death are not able to deal with it as Christ Himself presented it.  Sometimes they do. Sometimes, memorial services are real celebrations and that’s a wonderful thing to see but that’s the way it’s meant to be for us—not just at the funeral. So, we don’t just quote John 11 at funerals. These are statements about who we are—statements about who we are if we are not dying, you know? And the fact that those who keep His word, as He says here in John 8, are lined up with something that is unceasing, that is perfectly safe and that is one of the things that Jesus teaches us, “never to be worried about death or actually about life.” Now, we have to work into that as we go along through our days here together but I have underlined here on page 10 that the experience of that person will carry on without interruption to the period of the body’s cessation to function. So, the person who is passing through death is very like a person who is standing in a doorway talking to people in two rooms and you will often see that if you have a person who is dying but is not so sedated that they can’t make any sense. [1:02:22]


OK; now, that’s where this diagram that I showed to you, early 11 comes in—this is, I call it, “A Brief Introduction to You” and this is from Renovation of the Heart and the analysis here is the person and the person has both physical and non-physical aspects, primarily non-physical.  The spirit is your capacity to make decisions, to initiate reality—your mind is your capacity to think and to feel and your spirit and your mind are very closely related. You cannot will without thought and what you are thinking of will very likely be an expression of what you want to think of. That’s a way that God has set us up so that if we don’t want to think of God, we don’t have to. When I am engaged in a discussion with someone about the existence of God, it’s a serious and sensible discussion. One of the first things I want to know, is, “Would you like for God to exist?” Now, if you would like for God to exist, then we might be able to make some progress but if you wouldn’t like for Him to exist, then you will deflect everything that begins to point in His direction and if there is a perfectly good argument, you won’t follow that argument through. You will turn back before you get to the conclusion and you see, that over and over and over. You see people that accept just the craziest—I am trying to not use too bad of vocabulary here—craziest ideas—the most popular on which is now—you have people like Hawkings and others trying to push this that the physical universe arose out of nothing and when you read their books, you find it wasn’t nothing after all. Maybe it was a vacuum—well, a vacuum is something. It has properties. Where did that come from? See, you can’t actually, in good faith, think of anything physical coming from nothing. It just doesn’t work. If the physical universe could come from nothing, a cup of tea could come from nothing—may be even easier, so that’s all stuff that one has to work through in the mind and the will really work in tandem.


Q:  What if someone turned your question on you and asked, “What if God did not exist?”

The reason I ask that question first is I want to know if there is a possibility of doing something with argument and I would be perfectly willing to say, “Yes, I would like it if God existed; now, let’s look at the arguments,” because my desire or my liking if He exists has really nothing to do with His existence, just like their desire or not liking has nothing to do with His existence. The question is, “How shall we approach the arguments?” And the arguments are what we have to look at. So, I am perfectly open to that and would be glad to answer it and go on from there. [1:05:34]


Now, wanting Him to exist and not being open to the possibility, those are two different things and that’s what I would say, “Well, I am open; let’s see what you’ve got to say and if you find me being irrational or not following the argument, please point it out to me; I’ll be in your debt” and that’s how I would respond to that. [1:05:58]


Often, it’s quite revealing to the person who finds themselves saying, “No, I don’t want God to exist” because very often, they have never said that or thought that thought.


Then your body—your body is your little power pack. Now, we are going to have to come back and talk about all of these, okay? You have a body so that you can act on your own and nearly everything that works in your mind and your spirit gets farmed out to your body and that’s a good thing. The only trouble is sin also gets farmed out to your body but for example, you watch a person practicing a difficult Mozart Concerto. What are they doing? They are investing that in their body because that’s the only way you can ever play one of those. If you don’t have it in your body, forget it. It has to be in your body and driving an automobile or speaking a language, all of that is bodily stuff. It has to be in your body. We are given bodies so that we would have power to stand on our own to some extent and to build a life.


Q:  Is that the power of habit?  (spelled habbit on the overhead)

See, habit again, that’s an arrangement that God has put into reality in a special way in the human being that allows us to have some rule in determining what kind of person we turn out to be. Unfortunately, it can also be seized by others around us and we pick up so many of our habits, including our beliefs. Beliefs are basically habits. We pick those up from our parents and then when we get smarter than our parents from our peers…and so, on that goes. But, it’s bodily and thank God it is. We couldn’t live without our body knowing what to do without our dealing with it, ya’ know? That’s absolutely crucial—everything—and our body is full of meanings of all kinds. A wonderful French philosopher, Merlot Ponte, has some of the finest things that have ever been written on this. Our body is alive with meanings. It is ready to go in directions. Now, if those are bad habits, you see what terrible, destructiveness that creates in areas of sexuality and other things like, power and so on because it gets ahead of your intentions. See, when Peter denied Christ, he didn’t say, “Well now, shall I deny Christ?” No, it was in his tongue—it just went “blup” and there it was. That’s what Jesus knew about Peter that Peter didn’t know about Peter. [Laughter] And, Jesus, of course, understood all of that. “No, no, you’re going to deny me.”  “Oh, no, I won’t deny you!” Peter wasn’t paying any attention to his body and actually, you know, he made a little effort, he cut somebody’s ear off.  That was his idea of what he would do and it was in his body because people are always ready to cut something but then this little girl walks up and says, “You are one of them.” “NO, I’M NOT!”  “Well, yes, you are one of them.” Then he swears, “God dammit, I am not.” Right? That finally gets his attention I think. [1:09:41]


So, that’s really important stuff to think about now and of course the social dimension of the self—absolutely essential—and it’s mainly written into the body. That’s why the culture of a person is expressed bodily—like the distance at which you stand when you are talking to someone. There are all kinds of other bodily phenomenons—those are social. [1:10:17]


And then your soul should—the point of the soul is to make one life out of all of this stuff and if it’s a soul in good order, it will do that and if it’s not, it won’t and the evidence of that will be these parts that don’t all fit together. Right? So Romans 7 and other parts of the scripture help us with that.


Q:  How do you tell the soul from the spirit?


Well, the soul is integrative; the spirit is not. The soul is like a computer that’s running the whole operation. You don’t want to hear from it. You just want it to work. If its not working, someone will have to do something about it and that will be—the spirit is like the CEO of an organization. The CEO doesn’t run the organization but it has to step in at certain points and make decisions and so on. Very often, any CEO finds out that big thing down there doesn’t respond to its orders, right? That’s the soul. I mean, the soul is running—that’s why in poetry inscription, we speak to the soul in the second person.  “Why art thou disquieted, oh my soul? What’s wrong with you? It matters not how straight the gate how charged the punishment the scroll, I am the master of my faith. I am the captain of my soul.” No, you are not. You are not. You and your soul have a problem with the relationship because your soul is in touch with a lot of stuff that says, “Hmmm, you are going to do this” and you say, “No, no, you are not going to do that.” Well, you did it anyway. So, the soul is integrative and the spirit or will is executive. It’s the executive part of the person. [1:12:35]


So, how are we doing? Let’s take a little break now. I’ve been running on here and I’ve gone over our limit. Try to come back in ten minutes or so.



Part 18 of 34


Dallas Willard
June 11, 2012
Part 22 of 34


Dallas Willard
June 12, 2012
Part 28 of 34


Dallas Willard
June 13, 2012