Knowledge of Christ in Today's World

June 26-28, 2003
Eidos Christian Center

This 8-part series, presented by Dallas Willard on June 26-28, 2003, became the foundation for the book Knowing Christ Today. At the time, Dallas had begun writing an academic book called The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge, and he saw this series as a way to help the church community understand the reasons for his concern about the loss of moral knowledge in our culture. He concludes the teaching by pointing out the important role pastors and the Church play in redeeming this situation.

Dallas said he hoped that one outcome of this teaching is that when we see the phrase "knowledge of God," we will understand it as "interactive relationship with God." 

This was recorded at a weekend retreat hosted in the home of generous apprentices of Christ who wanted to produce a video series for the simple purpose of allowing more people to learn from Dallas. We are incredibly grateful for this gift!

#KnowingChrist #MoralKnowledge #Disappearanceofmoralknowledge

Resources

1: How People Perish for Lack of Knowledge

Dallas often observed, “Reality is what you run into when you’re wrong.” Knowledge is the key to living in harmony with reality. Dallas challenges the common misconception that faith and knowledge are opposed. This session underscores the vital role of knowledge in accessing eternal life and overcoming the modern world's restricted understanding of reality. This engaging discourse promises to redefine your perception of faith, knowledge, and their impact on human flourishing.

2: Knowledge of God Today. How It Is Possible.

Would you say there’s more to you than your body? Our education system teaches that reality is based purely on what is physical, and anything spiritual has to have a physical source. But if the physical is all there is, that means that each of us are nothing more than our bodies. What does the Bible say about this? You will also learn: - each person has freedom to choose to know God (or not), - the three stages of theistic evidence, - why God is a hidden God, - that God's address is at the end of your rope.

3: Understanding the Opposition to Knowledge of Christ Today

Dallas delves into the persistent conflict between spiritual and worldly knowledge across different cultures and times. He examines modern society's struggle with evil, secular ideologies, and how Satan influences our beliefs through ideas. This lecture sheds light on the spiritual battles Jesus faced and their relevance today, emphasizing the crucial role of recognizing spiritual influences in our lives and the importance of knowledge in standing in the Kingdom of God. 

4: The Bible as Indispensable Source of Knowledge

Knowing what we must do in order to live a good life and be good people does not come from knowledge of things like math, grammar and chemistry. This kind of knowledge won’t provide us with an adequate basis for how to live our lives. In this session, you will learn why we can rely on the Bible as an indisputable source of truth and the kind of knowledge we need in order to live well.

5: Reason in Human Life and Religion. How Education Fails. The Redemption of Reason.

True knowledge is not merely about acquiring information, but involves an interactive relationship with the material learned. Critiquing the modern educational system's emphasis on recitation rather than real understanding, Dallas delves into the integration of reason and faith, exposing the limitations and misuses of reason when detached from ethical and spiritual truths. He underscores the importance of a well-founded education that embraces the spiritual nature of human beings.

6: Moral Goodness and the Degradation of Morality by Desire

Being accepted as a good person meets the deepest hunger of the human soul. But what is a good person and how do you become one? Join Dallas in exploring moral goodness and the difference between love and desire. He explains how society has lost any substantive body of moral knowledge and what it means to say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. 

7: Life and Spiritual Life -- The Spiritual and the Non-Spiritual Person

Dallas explores the profound contrasts between the life of the flesh and the life of the spirit. Learn how to embrace discipleship as a transformative journey, understanding your true identity as 'the light of the world' in your unique context. Dallas provides practical guidance on how to respond to adversity with grace, teaching us to bless even those who curse us. This session is a call to recognize our spiritual nature and engage more deeply with the life that is contagiously offered through Christ.

8: The Mission of Christ's People on Earth. And Beyond.

Dallas explores the eternal role and responsibilities of Christ's followers. He outlines the implications of living as unceasing spiritual beings, the practicality of the Great Commission, and how to authentically integrate the Kingdom of God into everyday life. This session promises to deepen your understanding of spiritual existence and prepare you for an eternal destiny in God’s great universe.

9: Dallas Willard - Knowledge of Christ - Q&A #1

Dallas addresses audience questions in this Q&A session. This session unpacks the challenging yet transformative journey of discipleship, highlighting the necessity of rigorous practice and the internal transformation it demands. A wide variety of other issues are also raised.

10: Dallas Willard - Knowledge of Christ - Q&A #2

In this intriguing part 2 of a Q&A session, Dallas delves deeper into the implications and questions surrounding prayer and its role in our daily lives and spiritual growth. He addresses common queries and theological challenges, illuminating the nuances of prayer as a dynamic conversation with God rather than a mere formality. Other topics covered include sharing the gospel, the Trinity, and knowledge and reason.

How People Perish for Lack of Knowledge

Key Scriptures: Hosea 4:6; Daniel 12:4; John 17:3; 2 Peter 3:18 

Highlights:

  • Consequences of Lack of Knowledge: Dallas emphasizes the dire consequences of lacking knowledge, referencing Hosea 4:6 to illustrate how the absence of true knowledge leads to destruction. 
  • Belief Influences Behavior: Dallas points out that beliefs directly influence actions. False beliefs, therefore, can lead to harmful behaviors and outcomes. Understanding the truth is critical to forming beneficial beliefs and making decisions that align with reality.
  • Knowledge and Truth Defined: Knowledge is capacity to represent things as they are, and on an appropriate basis of thought and experience. Truth: A thought or statement is true provided that what it is about is as it is represented in the thought or statement.
  • Danger of Double-mindedness: Dallas cites James 1:8 to discuss the instability caused by holding contradictory beliefs, such as believing in both the absolute reality of God and the secular concept of the cosmos as the sole reality.
  • Four Great Questions of Life: He introduces four pivotal philosophical questions that everyone must answer: What is reality? Who is well-off? Who is a good person? How does one become a good person? These questions fundamentally shape one's orientation in life.
  • Worldview Formation as Biological Necessity: Dallas discusses the inevitable formation of a worldview, describing it as a biological necessity that dictates one's approach to life and decision-making processes.
  • Critique of Modern Education: He critiques the dominant worldview in modern education, particularly naturalism, which he argues leads to irrationalism and a devaluation of logical reasoning.
  • True Nature of Blessing: In his discussion on who is truly well-off or blessed, Dallas revisits the beatitudes, explaining that being blessed does not stem from adverse conditions like poverty or mourning. Instead, blessings arise from one’s inclusion in the kingdom of God. This state of being blessed grants individuals a secure future regardless of their current circumstances.
  • Becoming a Good Person Through Apprenticeship to Jesus Christ: Dallas articulates the pathway to becoming a genuinely good person, which involves embracing agape love—a selfless, willful devotion towards the well-being of others, modeled by Jesus. He advocates for a practical approach to spiritual growth through apprenticing oneself to Jesus Christ, learning to live as He did in the kingdom of God. 
     

Knowledge of God Today. How It Is Possible.

Would you say there’s more to you than your body? Our education system teaches that reality is based purely on what is physical, and anything spiritual has to have a physical source. But if the physical is all there is, that means that each of us are nothing more than our bodies. What does the Bible say about this? 

Other topics covered by Dallas include: 

  • each person has freedom to choose to know God (or not) 
  • the three stages of theistic evidence
  • why God is a hidden God 
  • that God's address is at the end of your rope.

Understanding the Opposition to Knowledge of Christ Today

Key Scripture: 1 Corinthians 2:6-8

Highlights:

  • Universal Battle: Dallas explores the concept that spiritual warfare is recognized universally, across all religions and cultures. He points out that every society, no matter how advanced or primitive, acknowledges the ongoing battle between good and evil.
  • Inner and Outer Conflicts: Dallas discusses how conflict manifests not only externally in society but also internally within the individual human psyche. He emphasizes the universal need for redemption and the various ways cultures attempt to reconcile internal forces.
  • Modern Challenges with Evil: Dallas examines contemporary discomfort with the notion of evil.. He highlights the skepticism and unease that academia and modern secular societies feel towards acknowledging and addressing evil.
  • Role of Ideas in Spiritual Warfare: Dallas claims that Satan primarily manipulates human ideas to subvert the will, underscoring the critical role of knowledge in spiritual battles. He asserts that as long as our will resists evil, it cannot be overwhelmed, highlighting the power of knowledge and choice in spiritual resilience.
  • Dismissal of the Spiritual: Dallas addresses the modern tendency to dismiss the spiritual realm, arguing that such dismissal limits our understanding of the world and ourselves. He stresses the importance of acknowledging a spiritual dimension to fully comprehend reality and human existence.
  • Authority and Knowledge: Dallas questions who gets to define what counts as knowledge, pointing out that authority in defining knowledge has shifted from religious institutions to secular ones like universities and popular media. He discusses how this shift influences societal norms and values.
  • Power of the Gospel in Confronting Evil: Dallas illustrates how Jesus confronted evil powers with the Kingdom of God, emphasizing that the true battle is against forces that seek to undermine God's will. He reassures that the Kingdom of God is active, present, and fully capable of overcoming evil with good.

The Bible as Indispensable Source of Knowledge

Key Scriptures: 1 John 2:16; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Joshua 1:8; John 5:39-47; 2 Peter 3:16

Highlights:

  • Challenge of Secular Knowledge: Dallas emphasizes the dominance of secular education over spiritual training in theological schools. He notes that the focus in such institutions is often more on managing church activities rather than on nurturing a deep, personal spiritual life. Dallas points out that historical figures and movements in Christianity often thrived without formal religious training, leveraging a deep trust in divine guidance instead.
  • Realism of Revelation: Dallas argues against the modern dismissal of supernatural aspects of Christianity, criticizing the naturalistic approach that downplays the reality of God’s kingdom. He underscores the importance of recognizing the Bible as a source of true knowledge about living in the reality of God's kingdom, beyond merely adhering to secular or scientific perspectives.
  • Essentials of Spiritual Life: In discussing the essence of the spiritual life, Dallas emphasizes the importance of personal relationship with God over formal religious qualifications. He critiques the lack of spiritual training in theological education, advocating for a return to biblical principles as the foundation for spiritual life and ministry.
  • Scripture as a Comprehensive Tool for Righteousness: Dallas reflects on the comprehensive nature of scripture, which he sees as foundational for teaching, correcting, and training in righteousness. He insists that the Bible equips believers for every good work, challenging them to integrate scriptural wisdom thoroughly into their lives.
  • Power of the Word: Highlighting the transformative power of the Bible, Dallas mentions the historical impact of engaging deeply with scripture. He uses the example of Joshua 1:8 to illustrate how continuous meditation on God's word brings human flourishing, contrasting it with the superficial engagement often found in academic settings.
  • Engaging Scripture with Honesty: Dallas stresses the importance of approaching the Bible with honesty, seeking to understand God's intentions rather than using it to confirm pre-existing beliefs. He points out the dangers of using scripture superficially, encouraging a more profound, personal engagement to truly understand and apply its teachings.
  • Universal Relevance of the Bible: Dallas concludes with the universal appeal and relevance of the Bible, describing it as a unique document that addresses the human condition across all cultures and times. He challenges the notion that other religious texts are comparable in their depth and impact, advocating for the Bible as the supreme source of spiritual truth and knowledge.

Reason in Human Life and Religion. How Education Fails. The Redemption of Reason.

Key Scriptures: 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Romans 12:1-2; John 17:17; Genesis 11:6

Highlights:

  • Nature of Knowledge: Dallas opens by emphasizing that true knowledge is an interactive relationship, not merely an accumulation of facts. This is foundational across all fields, whether spiritual or secular. The practical application of knowledge, especially through interaction with the material, is what transforms information into genuine understanding.
  • Role of Reason and Faith: He stresses that there is no inherent conflict between faith and reason. Both are essential and harmonious when used correctly. Reason allows us to establish connections and draw conclusions, while faith opens up the higher premises from which reason can operate effectively.
  • Misconceptions about Knowledge: Dallas points out the common misconceptions in society about knowledge, particularly in religious contexts. He critiques the educational system’s focus on recitation over understanding, which affects both secular and religious education by promoting superficiality over deep comprehension.
  • Limitations of Belief: Dallas delves into the instability of mere belief without the foundation of reason. He references biblical teachings to highlight the importance of clear, stable vision brought about by reasoned understanding, which in turn enhances our spiritual and practical lives.
  • Battle for Truth: He elaborates on the constant battle between truth and falsity in human understanding. The warfare is not only external but deeply internal, governed by the ideas and beliefs we hold.
  • Misuse of Reason in Society: Dallas critiques modern reliance on reason divorced from ethical and spiritual truths, leading to societal ills like unchecked technological advancement and moral relativism. He challenges the audience to consider the consequences of reason that starts from flawed premises.
  • Education's Failure and Redemption: Concluding his talk, Dallas argues that education fails when it lacks a spiritual and moral foundation. He advocates for an education that recognizes the spiritual nature of human beings and integrates this understanding with our knowledge systems, thus fostering true wisdom and fulfillment.

Moral Goodness and the Degradation of Morality by Desire

Key Scriptures: Romans 13:8; Romans 8:4; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 John 2:16; Proverbs 1:7; Luke 14:26; Matthew 6:33, 1 Corinthians 13:1-7.

Highlights:

  • Understanding Morality in Modern Times: Dallas explains that while morality appears frequently in news due to its nature as a tool for criticism or justification, this actually points to a deeper need within humans for acceptance and recognition as good.
  • Lost Art of Reasoning in Morality: He expresses concern that modern culture has replaced reasoned moral discussion with technological efficiency and instrumental reasoning. This shift undermines genuine moral understanding, which requires a deeper appreciation of human purposes and values beyond mere functionality.
  • Redefining Love in Moral Terms: Dallas argues that the concept of love has been diluted to mean mere desire or liking, which detracts from its essential role in morality. True love, he insists, involves actively promoting the well-being of others, a principle once widely recognized and now in need of restoration.
  • Role of Desire in Morality: He discusses the tendency of modern educational and cultural systems to prioritize individual desires, which often leads to impulsive behaviors that conflict with true moral action. This emphasis on desire diminishes the capacity for self-control and the pursuit of higher moral standards.
  • Sacrifice of Personal Desires for Greater Goods: Dallas emphasizes that morality often requires going against one's immediate desires in favor of greater ethical standards, a concept supported by various philosophical and religious traditions that advocate for proactive goodness towards others.
  • Moral Education and its Decline: He critiques the modern approach to morality on college campuses and broader society, where subjective feelings and personal freedom are often placed above well-established moral principles, leading to a fragmented moral landscape.
  • Restoring Holistic Moral Understanding: Dallas calls for a comprehensive understanding of morality that integrates love, reason, and a deep respect for established moral knowledge. He stresses the need for a return to teaching fundamental moral principles as truths that can guide and improve individual and communal life.

Life and Spiritual Life -- The Spiritual and the Non-Spiritual Person

Key Scriptures: John 5:25-26; John 1:4; 1 Timothy 6:13, 19; Philippians 3:3-7; 1 Corinthians 3:1-4; Galatians 5:16-21; Romans 8:6, 28; John 8:51-53; 2 Timothy 1:10; 1 Corinthians 13; 2 Peter 1:1-11; Matthew 5-7; Matthew 11:28-30; Luke 6:28

Highlights:

  • Knowledge and Spiritual Relevance: Dallas discusses the contemporary misunderstanding of knowledge, emphasizing how modern perspectives often dismiss the teachings of Jesus as non-legitimate knowledge. He argues that true knowledge involves an interactive relationship with God, facilitated by the teachings of the Bible and personal experience with God’s presence.
  • Spiritual Relationship Dynamics: Dallas highlights the interactive nature of spiritual relationships, comparing it to marriage where both parties contribute actively and supportively. He defines spiritual life as one where human actions intertwine with divine intervention, describing it as a partnership rather than a mere passive or active engagement.
  • Spiritual Versus Non-spiritual Person: The spiritual person is a person who is leading a life that is largely intermingled with and dependent upon the action of God and his kingdom.  The non-spiritual person is one who is leading a life independent of God's action with them.
  • Moral Ease Through Spiritual Life: Dallas introduces the idea that engaging in spiritual life through Christ simplifies moral decisions. He uses C.S. Lewis’s views to explain that Christian morality, initially about rules and duties, ultimately transcends into a higher state of living focused not on self-regulated goodness but on the natural goodness emanating from a deeper relationship with God.
  • Discipleship as Learning and Opportunity: He discusses discipleship under Jesus as a learning process, akin to attending a master class in life taught by Christ. Dallas suggests that viewing discipleship as the most valuable life opportunity can significantly alter one’s approach to life’s challenges and moral decisions.
  • Contrast of Life and Death: Dallas examines the concept of life as self-initiating, self-sustaining, and self-directing activity. He contrasts this with death, which is the cessation of such activities, and expands on the Christian perspective that true life, given by God, transcends physical existence and continues eternally.
  • Spiritual Identity and Empowerment: Dallas delves into how spirituality in the modern context often revolves around personal identity and empowerment. However, he clarifies that Christian spirituality is about more than human capabilities; it’s about a life infused with divine presence and power, transforming one’s nature to align more closely with God’s character.
  • Transformation Through Spiritual Discipline: He concludes with the notion that spiritual growth involves more than willpower; it requires training and discipline to align one’s actions with the spiritual life imparted by God. This transformation impacts every aspect of life, enabling individuals to naturally act out of goodness rather than obligation or effort.

The Mission of Christ's People on Earth. And Beyond.

Our churches seem to be primarily filled with Christians who are not disciples. Many people attend church just as consumers of religious goods and services. If there were a discipleship scale that ranged from “Consumer Christianity” as #1 to “Doing Everything Jesus Said” as #10, what number would you give yourself? 

Dallas Willard asks some important questions about what we’re willing to do in order to live in the power of the kingdom of God and in the character of Jesus Christ: - Would you be willing to spend 2½ years in intensive training like the disciples did? - Is there anything more important in your life than to learn how to live in the kingdom of God? - How do the various aspects of your life fit with Jesus’ teaching that you are the light of the world? - How are you and your church responding to the “Great Commission”? 

Key Scriptures: Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 2:21-22 and 3:10; Revelation 22:5; Matthew 13:44-46; Habakkuk 2:14

Dallas Willard - Knowledge of Christ - Q&A #1

Questions: 

  1. How do we make disciples? 
  2. What is real authority and where does it come from? 
  3. In light of your teaching about evil in session 3, help us come to a better understanding of what it means when the Bible says Satan comes as an angel of light.
  4. From session 4 about the Bible, please expand on the statement that it is natural that we would not have original copies of the biblical manuscripts. Would those originals have been inerrant? Why did God choose the written form for his message?
  5. Is the offer of true discipleship only seriously pursued by people who are desperate enough to seek it? How do we present discipleship to young people? 
  6. How do we deal with the uncertainty in the Bible? With some of the things that are puzzling? 
  7. Some great Christians of the past have been wrong about things – how could that happen? where did they go wrong? 

Key Scriptures: Luke 14:26; Ephesians 4; Colossians 3; Matthew 7:15-20

Dallas Willard - Knowledge of Christ - Q&A #2

Questions:

  1. Could you please expand a little about prayer? 
  2. What practical steps are there for bringing our burdens to the Lord and leaving them in His hands? 
  3. How do you go about sharing the real gospel with one who is seeking and open? 
  4. Throughout history there have been times when the world seemed very lost and then there was a great movement of God. How much, in your opinion, through the years, is God just good and He inserts Himself and selects some people to bring change, versus it just being people deciding to really get serious and pray about change?
  5. How do you explain the Triune God to people who are monotheistic?
  6. On the topic of reason and knowledge, what is the role of the church in helping disciples find the starting point and the proper connections to God and Christ and the Holy Spirit in their life? 
  7. How can we get the masses of people to understand the importance of learning about the moral law and having knowledge of the truth in order for real change to occur throughout the world? 

 

Key Scriptures: Luke 11:1-13; Matthew 6:5-24; Luke 18:1-8; Romans 8; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Romans 2:6; Acts 17:23