Dallas Willard’s The Great Omission

Dallas Willard’s The Great Omission is vintage Willard.  By that I mean that he here explores the same topics he explores in his other books:  discipleship, the disappearance of the idea and possibility of discipleship from modern Christian practice (thus, the title of this book), the disciplines, and Lordship salvation.  It is safe to say that Willard essentially writes the same book every times he writes a book.  Now, that sounds like a real criticism and possibly a slight, so let me clarify:  I am absolutely thrilled that Willard keeps writing the same book!  Indeed, I hope he does 20 more.

Why?  Because nobody is saying what Willard is saying in the convincing and powerful way in which he is saying it.  Furthermore, Willard has his hand on the great tragedy of modern Evangelicalism:  the disappearance of discipleship.  Thirdly, while he writes the same book in terms of focus and thesis, the wonder is in the nuances and shades he brings.  So his books really do form a kind of prism of discipleship which shimmer, shine, reflect, and refract as you turn them this way and that, and, as such, they form a wonderful whole.

I was first introduced to Dallas Willard sixteen years ago when the pastor of the church I was serving as a Minister of Youth gave me The Spirit of the Disciplines.  It absolutely rocked my world.  The Divine Conspiracydid the same, though I found parts of it troubling.  And now The Great Omission has threatened to top them all.  But not really, because these books need one another and I need all of them.

This book is actually a collection of various articles, lectures, and reviews on discipleship and the disciplines that Willard has written or delivered over the years.  They are occasional pieces, but they flow very well together in this book.

Willard repeats the following a half-dozen times in this book:  Grace is opposed to earning, not to effort.

That’s a profound and simple way of putting a truth that we desperately need to get straight today.  Grace does not mean that we do not construct a deliberate, intentional, and solid plan for becoming more like Christ.  At the heart of this plan lie the disciplines that Willard summarize here but has spoken of in greater length elsewhere.

The absence of such concrete plans for conformity to Christ, as well as the absence of any apparent need to construct such a plan leads Willard to a shocking conclusion:  grace as we currently have defined it actually works against us being conformed into the image of Christ.

I agree.  It does.  This is evident and beyond dispute.

Willard is essentially seeking to strike a blow at the odd and gnosticized form of Christianity that fuels much of revivalistic Evangelicalism.  He is seeking to undermine that weird notion that one may have Christ as Savior but not Lord.  It is a blow that needs to be delivered, and Willard does so here with aplomb, clarity, and charity.

Trust me:  this is a book you will be glad you read.

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