Editor's note:

Today we share just a little taste of how Dallas Willard can weave together so many ideas on spiritual transformation so effortlessly. In this short excerpt of a long and free-wheeling interview with Mike Yaconelli, he looks at how our misunderstanding of being ‘saved by grace’ can lead to spiritual paralysis, why inspiration and information alone cannot transform us into being more like Jesus, and gives a cheeky take on why so many American Christians struggle with the disciplines of silence and solitude.

Please do read the full interview at Dallas’s website. 

—Renovaré Team

The hunger for spiritual growth

We are not only saved by grace, we are paralyzed by it. We have lost any coherent view of how spiritual growth occurs. Our churches are dominated by a consumer religion that has nothing to do with spiritual growth. But within those churches, there’s a huge number of people who are hungry for spiritual growth.

Transformation through spiritual discipline and activity

We have been taught that grace means “you can do nothing to be saved.” Such thinking has been extended to “you can do nothing to have spiritual growth.” So spiritual transformation occurs, according to this thinking, in one of two ways – inspiration or information. Inspiration means that in one golden moment, one great experience, you will be transformed. I don’t want to criticize experience. I have had many wonderful experiences with God, but they don’t transform you. The other view, information, is the means whereby you pour truth into your head and suddenly you are transformed. Inspiration isn’t going to do it and information isn’t going to do it. The only way human character is transformed with grace is by discipline and activity.

Which means practicing silence and solitude

There is nothing that requires more energy for the typical American Christian than the discipline of doing nothing. The hardest thing you can get anyone to do is to do nothing. We are addicted to our world, addicted to talk. Talk is the primary way we have of managing our image for ourselves and for others. You may have a perfectly intelligent person who is alone and, when they do something stupid, they will talk to themselves and explain to themselves why they did that. Believe it or not, controlling our tongue is very important. James said that “anyone who can control their tongue is perfect.” How do you control it? You get it to stop. You discover that you can breathe without talking. You discover that life goes on. The issue is the same with solitude. The problem with solitude is not being alone, it is convincing ourselves that we are unnecessary, that the world will not collapse if we go away. Solitude is the discipline of letting go of our self-importance, letting go of our belief that we are necessary for the world to continue.

Now Underway: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? First, choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

Learn more >

Excerpted from Dallas Willard’s interview with Mike Yaconelli (The Door, May/June 1993),”Spirituality Made Hard.” Read the entire interview at dwillard.org, to whom we gratefully acknowledge permission to print this piece.