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Dallas Willard Speaks at APU

by Nina Karim '10

On Tuesday, September 28, Azusa Pacific University’s School of Theology welcomed award-winning author and philosopher, Dallas Willard, Ph.D., to speak on campus.

Willard gave two lectures in APU’s Upper Turner Campus Center as part of the annual Malcolm R. Robertson Lectureship on Holy Living. More than 400 attended the afternoon lecture, and prior to the lecture, a luncheon with 75 alumni and faculty took place. Willard discussed "Postmodern Holiness: What does it look like?" He urged the audience to ask questions such as, “Is holiness good for you?”

According to Willard, many people look at modern holiness and believe that it is about dressing in a certain way or associating with certain people. Willard urged the audience to remember that being holy means being from another realm; “being in the world but not of it.”

“We have to move to the inner sources of behavior to understand holiness in terms of external practices.” As an example, Willard spoke about St. Francis of Assisi and St. Ignatius, sharing that above all else, what characterized them was a hunger for God. “Everyone makes mistakes, but where the heart is headed makes the identity of the person.”

“In the lecture, Willard focused on the internal, and the ways in which God is shaping us on the inside. That is a key to the Christian life," said Sheree Black '02. "It has nothing to do with putting forth effort into being good, but it is becoming who we are made to be through God’s effort. It is a fundamental part of the gospel, and it was encouraging to hear the truth in Willard’s words.”

Willard reminded the audience that God made everyone unique. “There are no carbon copies for saints; yet sinners are essentially all the same.” Restoring the individual comes through devotion, but many people are unsure of where to invest that devotion. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

“By choice and by grace you must find out who you are in God in order to be restored. This is the pathway to healing—all dimensions of yourself must work together and be healed,” said Willard. He defines grace as “God acting in your life to accomplish what you cannot accomplish on your own.”

Willard encouraged the audience, saying the step towards integrity is a step towards God. That is why postmodern holiness is an easy, routine obedience, because it comes from one’s own identity, and that identity controls action. It builds up and structures a person’s character formation.

Willard also spoke at an evening lecture about "Holiness, Divine Presence, and Divine Power—Reflections" on John 14, in which nearly 300 guests attended. A dinner and book signing followed. The recorded events can be found in iTunesU.

A resident of Chatsworth, California, Willard specializes in the areas of epistemology—the philosophy of mind and logic—and on the philosophy of Edmund Husserl, one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century. Willard has been a professor in the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California since 1965. Willard also publishes and lectures in religion. His most recent book, Knowing Christ Today, was released in May 2009.