Dallas Willard (1935-2013): Life-long Learner and Lover of Christ Jesus and His Kingdom

May 08, 2013
Posted by Joe Gorra

Dallas Willard (1935-2013), a life-long learner and lover of Christ Jesus and His Kingdom, and a faithful “co-conspirator” for Jesus’ cause in the world, early this morning entered into Act 2 of the “eternal kind of life now.” His dear daughter, Becky, wrote to friends:

Dallas entered into the joy of his Master this morning at 5:55. His passing was quiet and gentle. We know that he was willing to stay and continue his work, but he was longing  to be home with Jesus and we find joy in knowing he is there now. In the day before his passing, he shared that he was experiencing moments when the veil was parting and revealing the glorious reality of the great cloud of witnesses.

It’s impossible to put into words the multi-level, generational influence Dallas has had on Christian philosophers, pastors, theologians, psychologists, educators and spiritual formation directors; and that’s the short-list of different types of influencers!

No doubt, a “Willardian” perspective will continue to influence, even though Dallas personally eschewed the mere reproduction of “Willard-ites” as a substitute for people themselves personally experiencing the Kingdom of God.

Dallas didn’t set out to make a movement or foster a trend. He did intend to cast a big vision for a “big God” in a big world. Ordained as a pastor, he never lost sight of the value of shepherding and caring for people, whether as a philosophy professor at the University of Southern California (1965-2012), or as a celebrated author, conference speaker and dear friend.

To those that knew him, these words easily come to mind: a man of gentleness, wisdom and understanding who was in awe of God, full of patience, ease, tenderness, magnanimity, good humor, and classy.

No one will have the ultimate word on Dallas and his influence, except His Master and Friend, Jesus. The next best authority on Dallas would be his lovely and faithful wife, Jane, who has (as Dallas often admitted) the “real scoop” on him.

In the days and weeks to come, we seek to feature various remembrances and celebrations of Dallas by those who studied under him at USC and who see his philosophical influences at work in their own life and in the life of others.

Dallas was more than an accomplished and seasoned “professional philosopher,” notable for his work on Edmund Husserl, and various others areas of epistemology, ontology, and ethics (including articles published with Philosophia Christi, the journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society). Philosophy was a servant and not a master of him, enabling him to reflect deeply and richly on the God-bathed world.

He was not satisfied with “doing philosophy,” even as a disciple of Jesus, for the sake of merely furthering scholarly discussions as some kind of academic sport. His philosophical insights were put in the service of helping people better understand how to flourish well in a God-bathed world.

He loved people and cared for their dignity, and many people love him, and will continue to be nurtured by both memories and his wise sayings.