I’ve been blogging through The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard for the past year. Ok, it’s taken me a long time to get through it. I have a stack of books that are sitting by my bedside and I’m working my way through them. Some books have taken a greater priority, like Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, since I got engaged this past October and so, as a result, I haven’t been able to finish Willard’s book. I am currently on Chapter 8 and intend to finish within the month.
With that being said, I noticed that Ken Silva has decided to review The Spirit of the Disciplines. When I say review, I mean write a review of a review. Silva shows no evidence that he actually read the book. Instead, he bases his thoughts on a review by Bob DeWaay.
Silva (or is it DeWaay) takes issue with Willard’s view of “yoke”. Ken suggests that Willard says that the yoke is as the practice of spiritual disciplines like solitude, silence, and simple living and that:
First of all this view does not take into account the need for regeneration. It also fails because if it was possible for a mere human to live the perfect life Christ Jesus did as the God-Man then it is conceivable for someone else to have been the Savior.
Willard, in fact, is addressing a Christian audience, one who is already “regenerated”. And Willard never suggests that we can become perfect, like Christ. These disciplines simply are ways of us to prepare to live a life like Christ did.
Silva (or DeeWay) then gets confused with Willard’s statement about “theories of atonement” (p 33), saying that:
rather than concerning ourselves with the blood atonement, averting God’s wrath against sin, salvation by faith through grace, we should be practicing spiritual disciplines with our bodies so that we could then be more like Jesus.
Willard is not dismissing the atonement at all. He is simply saying that just talking about the theology of the atonement does not equal living the Christian life. If we just stop at the theology and don’t actually follow Christ, then we’ve missed the point of what Christ wants us to do, which is to follow Him.
Finally, Silva quotes DeeWay here:
Ironically, Willard admits that the Bible does not command us to practice the spiritual disciplines he prescribes. To hear evangelicals like Dallas Willard and Richard Foster tell us that we need practices that were never spelled out in the Bible to become more like Christ or to get closer to God is astonishing.
Which leaves me confused. Willard constantly refers to Scripture to show how Jesus practiced the spiritual disciplines. And what spiritual disciplines are Silva and DeeWay opposed to? Fasting? Reading Scripture? Praying? Frugality? Chastity? Service? Worship? Fellowship? Confession? Scripture Memorization? These are all practices with Willard suggests will help us live a proper Christian life.
In addition to all of this, Willard repeatedly explains that we have salvation by grace alone through faith and that we aren’t saved by our good works nor do we earn God’s favor by our good works (p 119, 136, 138, 139, 142, 143 are a few examples). He evens spends all of Chapter 8 talking about excessive asceticism in the context of history.
There are three more chapters for me to finish. But I find that Willard has definitely challenged me to consider what practices I should be incorporating into my life in order that I might follow Christ more.
“People have a body for one reason — that we might have at our disposal the resources that would allow us to be persons in fellowship and cooperation with a personal God” – Dallas Willard