Dallas Willard on the Steps
For some time I’ve thought of putting together some quotes from Dallas Willard relating to using the steps and workout groups in the way we are (as a communal path toward Christlikeness), and then Jim put me over the edge with his comment to the previous post. Because of his depth of work in the areas of (trans)formation, spiritual disciplines, what being a disciple of Jesus means and requires, the gospel of God’s government, and how all these interrelate (not to mention his experience in living these things out), few people have been as influential on me through their writings as Dallas Willard. So, here are just a few excerpts from Dallas’ works (there are many, many more), which I think help explain how the steps can help people with receiving and entering the Government of God; the strength of the first quote–especially given Dallas’ depth with the disciplines–really surprised me the first time I read it, and has stuck with me ever since:
“Any successful plan for spiritual formation, whether for the individual or group, will in fact be significantly similar to the Alcoholics Anonymous program.” Page 85, Renovation of the Heart [hereinafter, Renovation].
The following adaptation of the 12 steps is found in the Renovation of the Heart Leaders’ Guide, page 5A:
- I admit that I am powerless over sin and that my life has become unmanageable.
- I believe that God—through His action and those of His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit—can restore me to sanity.
- I will turn my will and my entire life over to the care of God.
- I will make a searching and fearless inventory of my life to discover all the ways I have engaged in self-worship (by being in control instead of living surrendered to the will of God).
- I admit to God, to myself, and to another human being the exact nature of my
- I am entirely ready to have God remove all the defects in my character and replace them—through His presence—with the thoughts, emotions, will, behavior and relationship patterns of Christ.
- I humbly ask God to help me become willing to deny myself—and the desire to live life on my terms—and to remove my shortcomings.
- I will make a list of all the people I have harmed and become willing to make amends.
- I will make direct amends to all I have injured.
- I will continue to take personal inventory, and when I wrong someone, I will promptly admit it.
- I will, through prayer, meditation, and the practice of other Christian disciplines, attempt to improve my conscious contact with God.
- Having experienced some measure of authentic transformation as a result of surrendering all aspects of myself to the power and presence of Christ, I will carry this message to others and continue to practice these principles in all my affairs.
“The familiar means of the traditional AA program—the famous “twelve steps” and
the personal and social arrangements in which they are concretely embodied, including a conscious involvement of God in the individual’s life—are highly effective in bringing about personal transformation.” From Living A Transformed Life Adequate To Our Calling, http://www.dwillard.org/.
“So the problem of spiritual transformation (the normal lack thereof) among those who identify themselves as Christians today is not that it is impossible or that effectual means to it are not available. The problem is that it is not intended. People do not see it and its value and decide to carry through with it.” Renovation, p. 91
“Now I must say something you can be mad at me about. A fundamental mistake of the conservative side of the American church today, and much of the Western church, is that it takes as its basic goal to get as many people as possible ready to die and go to heaven. It aims to get people into heaven rather than to get heaven into people. This of course requires that these people, who are going to be “in,” must be right on what is basic. You can’t really quarrel with that. But it turns out that to be right on “what is basic” is to be right in terms of the particular church vessel or tradition in question, not in terms of Christlikeness . . . . As a result they actually fall far short of getting as many people as possible ready to die, because the lives of the “converted” testify against the reality of [Christ’s power and character]. The way to get as many people into heaven as you can is to get heaven into as many people as you can – that is, to follow the path of genuine spiritual transformation or full-throttle discipleship to Jesus Christ. When we are counting up results we also need to keep in mind the multitudes of people (surrounded by churches) who will not be in heaven because they have never, to their knowledge, seen the reality of Christ in a living human being.” Renovation, p. 239, 239