Allure of Gentleness
When Christians share their faith, they often appeal to reason, logic, and the truth of doctrine. But these tactics often are not effective. A better approach to spread Christ’s word, Dallas Willard suggests, is to use the example of our own lives. To demonstrate Jesus’s message, we must be transformed people living out a life reflective of Jesus himself, a life of love, humility, and gentleness.
This beautiful model of life—this allure of gentleness—Willard argues, is the foundation for making the most compelling argument for Christianity, one that will convince others that there is something special about Christianity and the Jesus we follow.
From the Introduction
Finding real truth is the point of reference we share with all human beings. No one can live without truth. Though we may disagree about which particular things are true or false, allegiance to truth—whatever the truth may be—permits us to stand alongside every person as honest fellow inquirers. Our attitude is therefore not one of “us and them,” but of “we.” And we are forever here to learn together, not only to teach.
So, if at all possible—sometimes it is not, due to others—we “give our account” in an atmosphere of mutual inquiry animated by generous love. However firm we may be in our convictions, we do not become overbearing, contemptuous, hostile, or defensive. We know that Jesus himself would not do so, because we cannot help people in that way. He had no need of it, nor do we. And in apologetics, as everywhere, he is our model and our master. Our confidence is totally in him. That is the “special place” we give him in our hearts—how we “in [our] hearts sanctify Christ as Lord” (1 Pet. 3:15) —in the crucial service of apologetics.
And that is why our apologetic needs to be characterized by gentleness. Like Jesus, we are reaching out in love in a humble spirit with no coercion. The only way to accomplish that is to present our defense gently, as help offered in love in the manner of Jesus.
“Trust Dallas to give us apologetics for everyone in the manner of Jesus: desiring to serve not convince; discarding defensiveness and intellectual one-upping; respecting others as honest inquirers; answering questions we’ve secretly wondered about.”
“I grew up in a Christian culture in which ‘defending the faith’ was carried out by using the Bible as a weapon. Anyone who challenged my faith was treated as an enemy. As an adult I discovered Dallas Willard. Unfailingly gentle and respectful, he transformed the apologetics of my generation as many of us ‘laid down our swords and shields.’”
“Dallas Willard’s understanding of apologetics is revolutionary. It is at once more intellectually rigorous and yet more attainable and more humble and more tied to character than anything I have seen on the subject. What he describes is what Jesus actually did.”
“Following in the tradition of C.S. Lewis, Willard advocates for truth, born on the wings of grace, and does so in the manner of a fellow pilgrim, keen to listen and to share.”
“I have never seen a book remotely like this. It was Willard’s habit to take an issue and cast it in a light that no one had thought of before; time after time, he does this here with key apologetical issues. And because he places apologetics against the backdrop of pastoral care, it makes it a practice everyone who loves people should master. This is essential reading.”
“Classic Willard: the gifted Christian philosopher answering hard questions--the questions so many people have about God, hell, the problem of evil, the nature of freedom, and the wonder of Jesus -- in an accessible style and with a gentle spirit.”
“A true master. Who else combined such profundity with such clarity and simplicity? Willard is sadly missed, but speaks on prophetically in this book.”
“Unlike many Christian authors and preachers, Willard encourages doubt as a way to building a firm foundation for faith. And he encourages civil discourse and respectful conversations with others about faith. What a concept. Readers of this book will find lots of ways to engage in such conversations.”
(San Francisco: HarperOne Publishers, 2015) 208 pp, ISBN: 0062114085