The Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard Dallas Albert Willard is known as an expert in the fields of epistemology and philosophy. He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy at Baylor University and the University of Wisconsin, and is currently serving as a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California. Willard has written extensively in the areas of Philosophy, Logic, and Mathematics, but is also a sought after lecturer on the subject of religion. His interest in religion has produced several books including The Divine Conspiracy, which was Christianity Today’s “Book of the Year” in 1999. The main thesis of this book is that Christian spiritual formation, a journey of inner transformation toward Christ-likeness, happens as one allows God to be the agent of change in all aspects of his or her person. This “renovation of the heart” should be, according to Willard, the goal of every true disciple of Jesus Christ.
Willard’s book speaks volumes to the role that God plays in the redemption and transformation of humankind. He points out brilliantly that the external representation of Jesus in this world is something that can only take place as one is internally transformed. He calls attention to the fact that emphasizing the externals can lead to “deadening legalisms and pointless parochialism” (:23). This is such an important truth to understand, particularly as I disciple others and help them discover God’s dream for their lives. By focusing on inner transformation, one can truly begin to embrace God’s best, becoming fully integrated followers of Jesus.
I have a difficult time with Willard’s notion that outreach should not be “a primary goal of the local congregation” (:244). While I do agree that discipleship should be the main goal, I would argue that outreach and discipleship are so closely tied that they cannot be seen as separate goals. Perhaps instead of viewing Willard’s book is broken down into two main sections. The first outreach and discipleship as two mutually exclusive goals, we section begins by introducing the concept of spiritual formation, should attempt to measure success not by “conversions” but by pointing out that our greatest need is a renovation of our heart. “disciples.” This would perhaps allow for a sufficient focus on “The revolution of Jesus,” Willard notes, “is a revolution of char- discipleship without neglecting outreach. acter, which proceeds by changing people from the inside through ongoing personal relationship to God in Christ and to Willard’s overall thesis is one that, I believe, is important in unone another” (:15). He then identifies the condition of the huderstanding what it means to be a true follower of Christ. It is man heart, elaborating on the evil that ruins and the restoration important to remember that transformation is primarily God’s that is only available by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. In work, not the work of humankind. “Well-informed human effort the second section, Willard unpacks each of the aforementioned is certainly indispensable…But Christ-likeness of the inner being aspects of the person—mind, will, character, body, social dimen- is not a human attainment. It is, finally, a gift of grace” (:23). As I sion, and soul—and highlights practical ways that each of these seek to be a better disciple and make disciples as commanded areas are renovated by God. According to Willard, “The mature by Christ, I must remember that it is His work, His grace, and His children of light are like their Master…because every essential power, that allow the renovation of hearts to occur. dimension of their being has been transformed to serve God…” (:228).