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A Review of
The Divine Conspiracy Continued: Fulfilling God’s Kingdom on Earth
Dallas Willard and Gary Black
Hardback: HarperOne, 2014
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Reviewed by Tom Farr.
Few voices have been more profound in the world of Christian thought than that of the late Christian philosopher, scholar, and theologian Dallas Willard. Willard had a rare ability to shed light on the message of Jesus and paint a biblical picture of the Kingdom of God that is exciting and compelling. I first discovered Dallas Willard about five years ago when someone suggested his book The Divine Conspiracy. Once I started reading it, I was hooked. Willard took the message of Jesus distilled in the Sermon on the Mount and showed its revolutionary relevance to those who desire to follow Christ today. I was drawn by the way he described Jesus as someone intelligent who has all the answers for life’s deepest questions and the way he described the Kingdom of God as an accessible reality today. There was so much wisdom from the Bible unpacked in The Divine Conspiracy that I felt drawn to the message of Jesus in way I hadn’t experienced before. I soon read almost every other book that Willard had written, and each of them explored the revolutionary concept of the now-present Kingdom of God that is a reality to those who apprentice themselves to Jesus.
Dallas Willard was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early 2013 and died on May 8, 2013. Fortunately, what Willard began in the groundbreaking book The Divine Conspiracy, he finished with co-author Gary Black in a new book called The Divine Conspiracy Continued. Much of the book was completed before Willard’s death, and what wasn’t complete was finished by Gary Black, author of The Theology of Dallas Willard.
The book begins with an introduction by Black, in which Black shares the story of his journey of discovering Willard’s writings to becoming a trusted friend of Willard himself. You get the feeling of a warm and dear friendship that the two shared and that there could be no one better to finish this book than Black.
If The Divine Conspiracy was about the implications of the Kingdom of God upon the life of the individual, The Divine Conspiracy Continued expands this idea out into the implications the Kingdom of God has upon the broader social sphere. It’s about the apprentices of Jesus, who have been impacted by God’s divine conspiracy of the accessibility of the Kingdom of God, carrying the divine conspiracy out into the world. Willard’s writing throughout the book carries with it an expectation that the Kingdom of God lived out by genuine followers of Jesus changes things in the world. It’s impact is felt, and hope is born when the love of God comes in contact with all that is wrong in the world. Willard proves this point with the example of the group of disciples in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania who chose to forgive the gunman who shot ten of their children, killing five of them before shooting himself. Their response goes against everything that feels natural to human beings in the face of such evil.
Willard and Black elaborate on the oft-quoted and often too familiar Psalm 23 in a way that makes it fresh again. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and a significant part of God divine conspiracy is finding God’s peace or shalom in following the Good Shepherd. Disciples of Jesus are called to this peace and called to bring this peace into whatever domain they go into. This means everything we do is filtered through being a disciple of Jesus. We do well in whatever activity or profession we pursue because God has called us to standard of excellence. Our activities are centered on the benefit and flourishing of those around us. The gospel is limited to its influence within a Christian subculture or its responsibility laid solely on Christian leaders within a local church. To be sure, the gospel’s greatest impact most often gets its spark within the smaller body of Christ, but its touch extends into the various spheres in which Christian disciples extend their influence. The Divine Conspiracy Continued touches upon the ways in which allegiance to Jesus and the Kingdom of God influence things like personal character in our professions, ethical responsibilities, exerting moral influence.