I first read an article by Dallas Willard when a college professor handed out copies of Willard's "Discipleship: For Super-Christians Only?" during my final semester of school. After that article, I was hooked and had to find out more about what Dallas taught. He had just released a new book that same year, The Divine Conspiracy. I got it and...didn't make it through on my first attempt. Anyone who's ever tried to read Dallas who hasn't done so before finds it a bit of a challenge at first.
But the challenge is ever worth the effort. I returned later to the book–and then again, and again...and read all of his others reading or listening to everything I could find by him. It is not an overstatement for me to say that his teaching, particularly in The Divine Conspiracy, revolutionized my understanding of what it means to be a Christian and to seek to follow Christ. Since my introduction to Dallas came at the point of my life that it did, his teaching has also shaped everything I've tried to do in ministry since.
So following Dallas' death last year, when I learned that there was another book he had in the works which would still be published, I couldn't wait. When I found out that it was The Divine Conspiracy Continued, I was like a kid who knows that Christmas is coming.
While the title for this book is appropriate, it is not only a continuation of Willard’s work in The Divine Conspiracy, but it is an extension of all of his works. As one who has read and re-read Willard’s previous books for years, I always found myself fascinated with the summary implications he tended to sketch toward the end of his books. Particularly in the final chapter of The Spirit of the Disciplines, titled “The Disciplines and the Power Structures of This World,” Willard intriguingly used broadly descriptive language to portray how disciples of Jesus in all walks of life would affect the entire world for good. Whereas that chapter was the brief, general description of how that would happen, this book is the detail that I and many readers of Willard’s previous work have been longing for.
Some readers who expect another “spiritual formation” book similar to Willard’s previous work may find themselves initially disappointed. Even though it is thoroughly consistent with Dallas’ previous writings, it is also very different. However, the book should be very appropriately be found on the shelves of readers of spiritual formation classics, because it is the most thorough, inspiring, and thought-provoking explanation yet available on how true Christian spiritual formation is always, inevitably for the sake of others. “If there is to be a next stage to the so-called spiritual formation movement, this must be it.” (Kindle loc. 711)
When I first heard that this book was to be released after Dallas' death and had been co-authored with Gary Black, Jr., I was initially skeptical. I’m not alone in saying that The Divine Conspiracy transformed my understanding and practice of Christianity, so to have a follow-up to such a masterful book to be co-authored by someone I didn’t know of and released after Dallas’ death made me expect a letdown. However, Black proves himself to be up to the task of coauthoring a book whose title will invite such high expectations. Having been a close friend of Willard, as well as having focused on Willard’s theology for the subject of his PhD studies and first book, The Theology of Dallas Willard, there is no one better qualified.
As anyone familiar with Willard would hope and expect, this book will make the reader think and requires willingness to do mental work and be challenged. It is well worth the effort, though, for it is a gift for all of us who long and hope for the day when the kingdoms of this world will conform to the kingdom of our God and Christ.