Christian author and philosopher, Dallas Willard died yesterday. A sad and glorious passage. I think he was probably one of the most influential authors that I had read in my Christian life. I was recounting to a friend today that with Newbigin and Ladd, Willard informed my ideas about the Kingdom of God the most (if you haven''t read The Divine Conspiracy, you should - it's in my top 10 books). He had a keen mind and a tender heart.
As result of his passing, I've been thinking a great deal about death. I know, morbid, right? There seems to be a coinciding trend within the prevailing culture and the Christian church to both fear death and resisted it all cost. That makes a bit of sense. Naturally we resist death. In fact, we resist pain of any sort. Several years ago when my father passed away I witnessed his body straining toward life at all cost. Literally, his outer extremities shut down so that his vital organs could stay alive. It was a stunning realization that we are built to live. I must admit my own fear of pain and death. I am a bit of a baby when it comes to pain. When I am hurt or ill I want to be pampered and coddled. Pain and dying are not easy friends.
I'm reading Eugene Peterson's memoirs right now. The very last part of the book is entitled, “Good Deaths.” He quotes Annie Dillard; “I think that the dying pray at the last not ‘please,’ but ‘thank you.’” Peterson writes, “I am reminded that there is a long tradition in the churches life that the pastoral vocation consists in preparing people for a good death.” I wonder how the church today is preparing people, not only to live, but also to die?
In reading the many eulogistic thoughts about Dallas Willard in the last couple of days, it was obvious that he had prepared himself for both death and resurrection. I hope to do the same.