Book Review: “The Divine Conspiracy”

It took me eight or nine months, I can’t quite remember, but I finally finished Dallas Willard’s masterpiece of holistic Christian discipleship.  There are some books that I fly through, putting them down only long enough to eat, sleep, and work.  Then there are others, like The Divine Conspiracy, that I MUST take my time with.  Not because I get bored with them, but because the lessons they have to teach me have to sit in my mind long enough to make their way to my heart.  Such was the case with Willard’s text.  Often, I would read a page, then reread it, and then close the book and contemplate how the words there within affected my worldview and way of living.  Sometimes, I would not open it again for weeks.  This is how I had to read The Divine Conspiracy to truly appreciate its truths.

Richard Foster, the well known theologian and writer of the Celebration of Discipline calls it the book “I have been searching for all my life.”  This is a high recommendation, and I can see why.

The Divine Conspiracy provides what most books on Christian spirituality don’t even try to set out to do.  It gives the Christian disciple a worldview in which to understand, believe, and walk as a disciple of Christ.  It’s just as much a book of theory as it is a book of pragmatics.  What Willard understands as a writer and teacher, is that a disciple needs not just clear teaching, but clear, practical ways to live out that teaching.

The modern Church has too often unfortunately become a place of consumerism with people consuming “Christian products” and professing a faith in Christ for the consumption of fire insurance. Statistics tell us that the current generation of young people are leaving the church in droves.  [For a good article, click here.] But I wonder if they are actually leaving churches to find the Church.

Willard argues that what is lost in the Church are people who profess faith in Christ, AND live their lives in thought, word, and deed as His students.  People who actually believe and DO what Christ taught us.

The Divine Conspiracy is basically arranged in two parts.  The first part examines what a true disciple of Christ is, and the second part describes how that looks lived out, with practical guidance for following and leading people as disciples of the Master.

I spent four years in university trying to learn what it meant to be a disciple of Christ.  I learned a great deal, and grew significantly.  It wasn’t until my junior year when I joined a group of men who were dead set on following Christ into the darkest areas of their lives and souls, that I first saw the true path.  It was here that I found the Church, and if I hadn’t, I likely would have been numbered among the young people who are leaving. I also read many books on Christian spirituality, and continue to do so.  But apart from the Bible itself, the Divine Conspiracy has laid out most clearly to me a thorough understanding and pragmatic guide of the life of discipleship.  If you haven’t made it past a confession of faith, then I recommend, first, finding a Body of believers who have set their eyes on following Christ, and then along with daily meditation on Scripture, picking up this book.

Christ didn’t come to give us a shallow fire insurance.  He came to give us deep, eternal life now, life to the fullest, and that life is found under His discipleship.

Here is a small excerpt that helps give one a sense of how Willard connects the discipline of prayer to a greater understanding of our metaphysical reality, or worldview:

“…we live in a Trinitarian universe, one where infinite energy of a personal nature is the ultimate reality.  When we pray we enter the real world, the substance of the kingdom, and our bodies and souls begin to function for the first time as they were created to function.  Indeed, the “transfiguration” of Jesus must be regarded as the highest revelation of the nature of matter recorded in human history.” -p. 254

Richard Foster states further:

“A masterpiece and a wonder…the book I have been searching for all my life…I would place The Divine Conspiracy in rare company indeed: alongside the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and John Wesley, John Calvin and Martin Luther, Teresa of Avila and Hildegard of Bingen, and perhaps even Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo. If the parousia tarries, this is a book for the next millennium.” – Richard J. Foster

I hope that many will read this book.

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