Renovare The Renovaré Book Club is Underway! Learn more >

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.

2018

Recommendations

“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

About the Author