The Available Kingdom

Todd

Last night, the book club of which I’m a part began discussing our next book, Dallas Willard’s Divine Conspiracy. I’ve only read the introduction and first chapter so far, but I’m incredibly excited about where this book will take me. A member of the club who’s already read the book described the way he felt upon completion. It was as if he witnessed a house being built, and when he stepped into it, he instantly felt at home. Willard lovingly, skillfully framed a worldview that is “new” and comfortable and right. I can’t wait to arrive there myself.

I’m not going to recreate each chapter or discussion here, but I’d like to post a couple of highlights and encourage those who’ve read the book to share their reflections from it. And, for those who haven’t yet read it, perhaps this will inspire you to pick it up and join in as well.

Flying Upside Down
Willard starts the first chapter with an analogy of a fighter pilot who, thinking she was pulling up, actually flew directly into the ground. She had completely lost her bearing. He contends that we, as humans, and Christians in particular, find ourselves in a similar predicament, unable to even recognize that something is terribly wrong with the way things are going socially, emotionally and spiritually.

Our Kingdoms
Willard explains that each of us has our own kingdom. As we make choices, we exert our “power” over relationships, things or time (to name a few). Thanks to the fact that we have free will, we’re allowed to do with that kingdom as we want. And this is what breeds conflict and hate.

However, Jesus came bringing a message about the kingdom of Heaven. Willard contends here (but much more in coming chapters) that the kingdom of Heaven isn’t simply Heaven, or the place we go after we die. Instead, it’s a kingdom where we can experience the choices that God would make to exert his power over relationships, things or time (to name a few). 

The most amazing part? God is inviting us to be a part of His kingdom. For us to align our small, frankly pathetic kingdoms, to become a part of His larger, better kingdom. If we do this, we get to participate with God in the work He is doing. To be a part of something far bigger than we could ever hope to achieve on our own.

At Hand
The last section of chapter one deals with the phrase “at hand.” Willard helpfully explains what he thinks that phrase means. “At hand” has a dual meaning. On one hand (harhar) we find that the kingdom has already come. There are some facets of it that are realized in the person of Jesus. The ground work for the kingdom has been established. 

But on the other, we find that it isn’t yet complete. That there’s still more work to be done. And, again, we have been given the opportunity to join God in this arrived and yet-to-come kingdom. 

What Do You Think?
So, for those who’ve read Conspiracy, what would you like to add? 
 

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2 Comments

  1. Brad
    April 29, 2009 at 9:44 pm — Reply

    I really found the section on the beatitudes to make so much sense. He talks about how the beatitudes are not spoken by Jesus as some sort of instruction for his followers to strive to be poor in spirit, meek, peacemakers, etc… If I only had a nickel for every time I’ve heard the passage taught that way. Instead he explains how Jesus spoke the beatitudes as an encouragement to those listening who are poor in spirit, meek, peacemakers, etc… by nature or otherwise, and to give those in a disadvantaged situation hope for the future and an awareness of their place in God’s kingdom and of God’s heart for them.

    Much of the book I find to be amazingly challenging. I find myself discouraged at the impact of the teaching. I believe it but my flesh fights it and doesn’t want to accept it. But the chapter on the beatitudes really does give me the encouragement from Jesus’ words in the way Jesus intended. Even as the rest of the sermon on the mount leaves me completely overwhelmed.

  2. Bobby
    April 30, 2009 at 12:51 am — Reply

    I heard a guy one time say that he envied all those that had not read C. S. Lewis because its such a wonderful thing to read him for the first time. I feel that way about Willard. I agree with Brad about the relief I felt reading the chapter on the beatitudes.
    Enjoy!

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The Available Kingdom