According to Dallas Willard, part of our nature as human beings is to want to live lives that have deep significance, which is a reflection of our God-given creative impulse. Modern society contains several hindrances to experiencing this type of significance: skepticism about the possibility of moral knowledge, scorn for the profound, and the belief that the only two elements of reality are particles and progress. That is, reality is ultimately physical, and all that matters socially is that we make progress, whatever that may be. Absurdity and cuteness are admired in society. For Willard, they are fine to laugh and even think about, but absurdity and cuteness fail to lead us into lives of satisfaction and significance. Jesus, however, possesses enduring relevance because he relates to human beings in ways that produce wholeness.
The Church also erects barriers to human flourishing, especially in its espousal of what Willard calls the gospels of sin management. Christians of a conservative theological persuasion hold that Christianity is about only forgiveness of sins and eternal life after death. This is problematic, because it seems impossible to trust Jesus to provide eternal life in the hereafter but not trust him for new life, an eternal kind of life, in the here and now. For the more theologically liberal, the Gospel is not about securing life after death in heaven with God, but rather the focus is on social ethics. In recent times, the idea is that the good news is that Jesus died to promote liberation, equality, and community and that this was his message.
In Willard’s view, the true good news communicated through the Scriptures and displayed in the life of Jesus is that we can have our lives and characters transformed now, as we seek to live under God’s rule. Both privatized forgiveness of sins as well as the social Gospel have failed to produce deep and lasting transformation of either individual human lives or of our lives together. The Gospel is about...
(The entire section is 816 words.)