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Becoming Dallas Willard


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Table of Contents


Part I: The First Thirty Years
1. Keep Eternity Before the Eyes of the Children
2. There Are No Unwanted Children
3. Coming of Age in Rural America
4. Running into Jane
5. Running into God
6. Academic Awakening
7. Which Path to Take?

Part II: Three Kingdoms
8. The Philosopher: Early Years at USC
9. The Philosopher: King and Queen of Campus
10. Formation at Home
11. Accidental Birth of a Movement
12. So Long as We Are Doing the Work Ourselves

Part III: Finishing Well
13. Ideas That Matter for Time and Eternity: Part One
14. Ideas That Matter for Time and Eternity: Part Two
15. Thank You!
16. Healing Light: Joining the Fellowship of the Burning Heart

A Letter from the Willard Family
Interviews and Correspondence

About the Author

Gary W. Moon (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is director of the Martin Family Institute and Dallas Willard Center for Christian Spiritual Formation at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He also codirects Fuller's doctor of ministry degree program in spiritual direction, which blends ancient Christian spirituality, Ignatian spirituality, and spiritual formation insights from Dallas Willard. He served as distinguished professor of psychology and Christian spirituality at Richmont Graduate University, editor in chief for the journal Conversations, and director of the Renovare International Institute for Christian Spiritual Formation. His books include Apprenticeship with Jesus and Falling for God. Richard J. Foster (DThP, Fuller Theological Seminary) is founder of Renovare in Denver, Colorado. He is the author of many books, including Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, which has sold over two million copies worldwide, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World, and coauthor (with Gayle Beebe) of Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion. John Ortberg is teaching pastor of Menlo Church and author of many books, including God Is Closer Than You Think.


"'Dallas was a wonderfully disruptive presence in the world, ' may be the best description of the man whose theology has helped all of us understand and experience God and his kingdom in clear, hopeful, and magnificent ways. But Dallas's humanity was, to me, as strong a draw to him as his mind. Gary has managed to capture both the brilliance and the brokenness of Dallas, and I think the weaving of those two threads together is what God used to shape this most unique and winsome of men. This story is ministering to some of the most broken and wounded parts of my soul."--Nancy Ortberg, CEO of Transforming the Bay with Christ
"An exceptional thinker and person whose work and example had a profound influence on so many, Dallas Willard was one of the truly wise men I have known. Gary Moon has written an engaging biography of this philosopher, university professor, and religious thinker who, though an ordinary man of the people, had an extraordinary impact. Moon weaves together the intriguing details of Willard's life, career, ideas, and writings to present an engaging portrait of a philosopher who made a real difference in our understanding of our times, in the lives of his students, for his many readers, and especially for those of us who were fortunate enough to know and work with him."--Brendan Sweetman, department of philosophy, Rockhurst University
"Dallas Willard has had an immense influence on many Christians in our time. His writings would also benefit the lives of many who are not yet familiar with his thought. Gary Moon's winsome telling of Willard's life and thought will deepen the appreciation of those who already know his work and will provide an insightful introduction to those who do not. In this well-written book, Dallas Willard's academic and spiritual legacy lives on."--Tremper Longman III, distinguished scholar of biblical studies, Westmont College
"Dallas Willard was one of the greatest philosophical and theological minds of our time. His teaching and work has had a profound impact on my life and many others. I am grateful for the insights contained in this biography. It allows us to learn not just from the writings and teachings of Dallas Willard, but also from his own life journey."--John Kasich, Governor of Ohio
"Gary Moon has provided a detailed and intimate depiction of the life of Dallas Willard from his inauspicious beginnings in rural Missouri to his full stature as a philosophical and spiritual thinker of extraordinary intelligence, wisdom, and clarity. In addition to sharing numerous and often heart-rending stories of Dallas's accomplishments, setbacks, and defining experiences, Moon describes the development of Willard's philosophical and religious thought and how it informed, and was informed by, his experiences and actions. What emerges is a well-rounded description of a man whose humility, immense knowledge, commitment to truth, and dedication to the well-being of others left those whose lives he touched forever improved. This is the story of a good man, and we are indebted to Gary Moon for telling it."--Walter Hopp, associate professor of philosophy, Boston University
"Gary Moon has put his heart and soul into this project-researching, writing, and carefully crafting what has become a quite remarkable book. . . . The result is a fascinating perspective on a big man who will continue to cast a long shadow over the church and its people for many years to come."--James Catford, chair of Renovar? Britain and Ireland, and former publisher at HarperCollins
"I am straining for the words to convey my deep gratitude for both a life so well lived and a story so well told. I cannot recommend this paradigm-shifting, page-turning, potentially life-altering biography highly enough. Take, read, and be changed."--Carolyn Arends, recording artist, author, and Renovar? Director of Education
"I only heard Dallas Willard speak once, many years ago. I was in the audience at the invitation of my friend Gary Moon as Dallas gave twelve precisely timed ten-minute talks. As I listened, I was overwhelmed with two things: the insightful truth that Dallas spoke about spiritual formation, and the simple and disarming way in which he spoke it. When I met Dallas after the sessions, I was overwhelmed with two other things: the humility that Dallas exhibited, and the joy that oozed out of him. In this marvelous book, Gary has helped me understand more fully what made Dallas tick. Gary, a master storyteller, provides many deep insights into Dallas's thinking and life for people who 'sit at the grown-up table.' But for those of us who 'sit at the kid's table, ' Gary puts the food where we can reach it. This book leads me closer to Jesus, the one who transformed Dallas and reminded him again and again over the years: 'I'm here. I see you. I've got you.'"--Curt Cloninger, storyteller
"I think many people will surprised, encouraged and, yes, pained by Dallas's journey. Still, this is a story that will prolong his important legacy."--Keith Matthews, Azusa Pacific University
"I will treasure this book for the rest of my life because Dallas is truly present in it."--Aaron Preston, associate professor of philosophy, Valparaiso University
"If you are reading this book to learn more about Dallas Willard, you will be richly rewarded with an intimate portrait of a brilliant, complex, wounded, and generous man. Even better, through Dallas you will learn more about Jesus of Nazareth and how to have a life of loving interaction with him here and now. Through faithful research and sensitive interviews, Gary Moon fittingly honors Dallas while supremely exalting Jesus. Dallas would want it no other way."--Sandra D. Wilson, spiritual director, retired family therapist and seminary professor, author of Released from Shame and Into Abba's Arms
"One of the most astonishing things about Dallas Willard was how his speaking, teaching, and writing seemed so effortless. But, as this official biography so beautifully chronicles, 'Dallas Willard had to become Dallas Willard, ' the beloved man whose words and ways have uniquely touched a whole generation. Here, through hard and often heartbreaking times, one can see God structuring Dallas's character and life. This book presents the powerful message that there is hope for each of us, because God's kingdom is here for the taking-if we want it."--Greg Jesson, writer and speaker
"Thank you for this beautiful look at one of my heroes. I remember many events where Dallas was speaking and I always left feeling that I had been in the presence of a true spiritual wise man. I will read this book again and again."--Ken Medema, concert and performing artist
"The main reason I took with absolute seriousness the disruptive ideas that Dallas taught about God and God's kingdom was that he obviously lived in these realities himself. The good news he shared was credible because of his own overwhelmingly radiant life. Dallas lived in the house of his own proclamation. Now, in this labor of love, Gary Moon has given us a believable glimpse into how Dallas became the person he was. By describing Dallas's slow and gradual journey of inner transformation within the crucible of his own challenging and sometimes painful life circumstances, this biography communicates the wonderful good news that real change is possible for each one of us. I believe that this book will light up a deep and intense longing in many hearts to live more faithfully as apprentices of Christ in the kingdom of God."--Trevor Hudson, Methodist minister in South Africa, senior fellow, Dallas Willard Center and Martin Institute, lecturer, Renovar? Institute for Spiritual Formation
"The web of Dallas Willard's life is a highly complex, wondrous, and redemptive story woven from the strands of God's providence: family, friends, colleagues, events, institutions, ministry, teaching, writing, choices, pain, grief, healing, deep faith, and love. How difficult and maybe all but impossible task it is for a biographer to untangle and explain the story of any image-bearer's life, much less a giant in the land such as Dallas Willard. But Gary Moon does this in a kind, discerning, and wise manner. We can now know Dallas Willard much better-and be enriched and encouraged in the knowing-because his close friend Gary Moon has researched and written so clearly."--Christopher Hall, president, Renovar?
"The Willard wit and charm appear on nearly every page of this edifying book. Those who knew Dallas well will learn more besides, much of it truly captivating. Gary Moon manages to weave what is anecdotally interesting with what is spiritually compelling, and the whole thing is layered with philosophical richness without which there would be no Dallas Willard. "--R. Douglas Geivett, professor of philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University
"This is the best book I've read in a while-no exaggeration! I heartily recommend it, but with a warning wrapped in a prayer: get ready to weep, both in empathy for your friend's suffering and in gratitude for the beautiful life God fashioned through it. The eyes are the window of the soul. Jesus' ancient followers remind us that tears are a gift that cleans the window and allows light to flood the inner self. I'm a little brighter inside for having read this book. My prayer is that our Father may grant you the same gift through these pages."--Daniel Napier, associate professor of theology, Austin Graduate School of Theology
"What a gift it's been to read the biography of Dallas! It feels like getting to know him better and receiving more of God's gifting through him. The depth of thought, reflection, and mastery of not only Dallas's life but also the explanation of concepts from theology, psychology, philosophy are amazing. It's clear, powerful, compelling, and moving both for folks who knew Dallas and many who will meet him through this book."--John Ortberg, pastor, Menlo Church, author, Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You
"Years ago, it was suggested to me that a great way to learn key teachings from St. Augustine would be to read a biography, where the sweeping yet nuanced ideas he wrote about could be understood in the context of the story-his life-from which they emerged. It helped! I find the same experience reading Gary Moon's comprehensive, instructive, and intimate biography of Dallas Willard. World-changing ideas and refreshing, freeing insights are set in the context of the tragically beautiful story-Dallas's life-from which they emerged. Whether you are familiar with Dallas's teaching or just beginning a journey of discovery, you will come to understand and appreciate more deeply the arc of his reason, passion, humility, and service."--Mindy Caliguire, author, speaker, founder of Soul Care

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