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.

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.

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