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Becoming Dallas Willard

The Formation of a Philosopher, Teacher, and Christ Follower

by Gary Moon

Dal­las Willard was a per­son­al men­tor and inspi­ra­tion to hun­dreds of pas­tors, philoso­phers, and aver­age church­go­ers. His pres­ence and ideas rip­pled through the lives of many promi­nent lead­ers and authors, such as John Ort­berg, Richard Fos­ter, James Bryan Smith, Paula Hus­ton, and J. P. More­land. As a result of these rela­tion­ships and the books he wrote, he fun­da­men­tal­ly altered the way tens of thou­sands of Chris­tians have under­stood and expe­ri­enced the spir­i­tu­al life.

Whether great or small, every­one who met Dal­las was impressed by his per­son­al atten­tion, his calm con­fi­dence, his wis­dom, and his pro­found sense of the spir­i­tu­al. But he was not always the man who lived on a dif­fer­ent plane of real­i­ty than so many of the rest of us. He was some­one who had to learn to be a hus­band, a par­ent, a teacher, a Christ follower.

The jour­ney was not an easy one. He absorbed some of the harsh­est and most unfair blows life can land. His moth­er died when he was two, and after his father remar­ried he was exiled from his stepmother’s home. Grow­ing up in Depres­sion-era, rur­al Mis­souri and edu­cat­ed in a one-room school­house, he knew pover­ty, depri­va­tion, anx­i­ety, self-doubt, and depres­sion. Though the pews he sat in dur­ing his ear­ly years were not offer­ing much by way of love and mer­cy, Dal­las, instead of turn­ing away, kept look­ing for the com­pa­ny of a liv­ing, present, and per­son­al God.

In Gary W. Moon’s can­did and inspir­ing biog­ra­phy, we read how Willard became the per­son who men­tored and part­nered with his young pas­tor, Richard Fos­ter, to inspire some of the most influ­en­tial books on spir­i­tu­al­i­ty of the last gen­er­a­tion. We see how his love of learn­ing took him on to Bay­lor, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, where he became a beloved pro­fes­sor and one of the most ver­sa­tile mem­bers of the phi­los­o­phy department.

The life of Dal­las Willard deserves atten­tion because he became a per­son who him­self expe­ri­enced authen­tic trans­for­ma­tion of life and char­ac­ter. Dal­las Willard not only taught about spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­plines, he became a dif­fer­ent per­son because of them. He became a ground­ed per­son, a spir­i­tu­al­ly alive per­son as he put them into prac­tice, find­ing God, as he often said, at the end of his rope.” Here is a life that gives us all hope.



"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, Renovaré Institute for Spiritual Formation
"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

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