The Allure of Gentleness

Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus

Dallas Willard

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.

San Francisco: HarperOne Publishers, 2015) 208 pp, ISBN: 0062114085
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  1. 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.

You may enjoy listening to the 4-part teaching series that became the foundation of this book, “Apologetics 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.

Jan Johnson, author of Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice and Abundant Simplicity

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.

Eugene Peterson, translator of The Message

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.

Stan Mattson, founder and director of the C. S. Lewis Foundation

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.

JP Moreland, author of The God Question

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.

Chris Hall, President Emeritus, Renovare

A true master. Who else combined such profundity with such clarity and simplicity? Willard is sadly missed, but speaks on prophetically in this book.

Os Guinness, author of Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion

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.

Bill Tammeus, former Faith columnist for The Kansas City Star, Bill's 'Faith Matters' Blog

Reviewed by Ron Citlau for the Gospel Coalition.

Reviewed by Elane O’Rourke for Englewood Review of Books

Reviewed by Michael Maudlin in HarperOne’s News and Pews blog.

Reviewed by Lee Harmon for The Dubious Disciple


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Dallas Willard


Preface by Rebecca Willard Heatley


1. Beginning to Think for Christ

  • Hiding from God
  • What Is Knowledge?
  • Reason Is a Gift from God
  • The Spirit of Apologetics
  • At the Mercy of Our Ideas
  • What Is Truth
  • Correcting Our Ideas Through Discipleship
  • The Meaning and Method of Life in the Spirit

2. The New Testament Charter on Apologetics

  • A Model for Dealing with Doubt
  • The Nature of Faith
  • The Context of Apologetics
  • Apologetics is for Everyone
  • In Gentleness, Fear, and Good Conscience
  • The Result of a Truly Happy Life

3. Biblical Apologetics

  • The Role of Reason
  • What Apologetics Is Not
  • Confident, Humble, Generous, Open Servants

4. Faith and Reason

  • Human Reason Under Grace
  • Why Is God Not More Obvious?
  • God’s Omniscience
  • Why Is There a Hell?
  • “They Are Without Excuse”
  • Why the Physical World Cannot Be All There Is
  • The Physical Causes for Any Event Cannot Be Infinite
  • Commonplace Myths of the “Big Bang” and of “Cosmic Evolution”
  • Order Comes from Minds
  • Reading E = mc2 from Left to Right
  • God’s Involvement in Science and Technology
  • Faith to Build Your Life On

 5. Communication Between God and Humanity

  • The Process of Creation
  • Building on What’s Already Been Established
  • God’s Good Purposes in Human History
  • The Friend of God
  • The Uniqueness of Jewish Culture
  • Animal Sacrifice
  • God Works Within the Culture
  • Is Scripture Perfect?

6. The Problem of Pain and Evil

  • A Formally Valid Argument
  • Benevolent and Powerful
  • Separating Pain from Evil
  • The Value of Pain
  • Rejection of the Argument
  • Is God Responsible for All Evil?
  • If God Is Good
  • “In a Perfect World”
  • Why Won’t God Do It My Way?
  • There Is No “Good” Without “Evil”
  • Character Development
  • The Importance of Order
  • Dilemma Dissolved
  • The Christian Response
  • Human Responsibility
  • The Other Problem of Evil
  • Jesus as Our Model
  • The Hound of Heaven

7. Living and Acting with God

  • Does God Speak to Us?
  • Hearing God Speak
  • Learning the Master’s Voice
  • A Personal Example
  • Objections to Hearing from God
  • Testing What We Hear
  • The Three Lights
  • The Reality of a Personal Relationship with God
  • Our Interaction with God
  • Living in the Twenty-Third Psalm
  • Praying and Saying
  • The Fate of the Fig Tree
  • When to Pray and When to Say
  • Power in the Name
  • The Ultimate Apologetic



Resources for Further Study

Scripture Index

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