Sujet: Dallas Willard's advice to Graduates
De: tothesource
Date: 18 May 2005 09:43:13 -0700


Dear Concerned Citizen,

May 18, 2005

Enter Professor Dallas Willard, a kind and thoughtful Christian philosopher who has been teaching at the University of Southern California for the past forty years. Professor Willard is a breath of fresh air to students passing through USC as he encourages rigorous thinking, and honest reflection about the worldviews that color the bulk of what goes on in the classroom today. tothesource asked Julia Thompson, a student who has taken several of Professor Willard's courses, to interview him the day before this year's graduation on May 13.

tothesource:  Tomorrow is graduation here at USC and I imagine you've been to your share of ceremonies and heard lots of commencement speakers!  You've often said that character and morality are not considered to be valid parts of a university education so it seems curious that, upon graduation, we students hear a lot of speeches and comments urging us to go on to live "good lives" as "good people" and "good citizens" now that we are equipped with college degrees.  What sense can we make of this? 

Dallas Willard: Two things.  Number one the issue of being good people leading good lives is so important that it cannot be ignored.  When it comes time to address students at commencement even those who claim that they do not believe in moral instruction, or passing down values through education, cannot help but address the importance of being good people and leading good lives. 

The second thing is that the leaders in the university do not understand what has happened; they are unaware of the split that has developed between the content that faculty present as knowledge, and notions of morality, character, and values.  While leaders and faculty may operate day-to-day within the university setting, observing the subculture and interacting with students, in many cases their thinking has not explicitly crystallized around the fact that morality has been totally cut out of education.  Derek Bok (former president of Harvard University) commented, upon hearing of Harvard graduates' junk bond frauds, that the church and families don't seem to be doing too well with character education--perhaps the university ought to take a stab at the task?  Within today's university, such a suggestion sounds foreign, novel, and controversial. The university's heritage in classical colleges, teaching about truth, beauty, and goodness see ms to have been forgotten.

tts: Has the university abandoned "capital T truth"?

DW: Yes!  The university has explicitly abandoned the project of the search for Truth--despite remnants that suggest the contrary such as Harvard's seal that sports the Latin word for truth ("Veritas").  In fact in an address to entering freshman at the University of Chicago, John Mearsheimer made it clear what were and what were not the goals of the educational institution.  The goals were: to encourage critical thinking, to broaden intellectual horizons, and to encourage self-awareness.  The NON-AIMS were equally explicit: "Not only is there a powerful imperative at Chicago to stay away from teaching the truth, but the university also makes very little effort to provide you with moral guidance.  Indeed it is a remarkably amoral institution" (149, Mearsheimer).

tts: Does this sentiment permeate secular universities in general?

DW: Yes!

tts: Given that the university rejects the role of working out and teaching morality, how can it defend its steadfast dedication to "diversity, tolerance, and radicalism"?  You have mentioned that these values can have no basis apart from the truth of Judeo-Christian roots. How does the university defend this seemingly self-defeating stance?

DW: This position finds footing in politics.  Instead of coming out explicitly as moral values, "diversity, tolerance, and radicalism" sneak under the radar labeled as "political issues" legitimized by the "will of the people".  In today's culture it is easy to assert that diversity is simply a positive political development in a sophisticated society that is in tune with the desires of the public.  But is that enough of a basis for a pluralistic society that expects all people to be treated with dignity, regardless of differences?  Test it out: Look for a nation without Christian roots that truly supports diversity, undergirded by a sense of essential human dignity.  You won't find one.

tts: From your upcoming book, The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge, is there any advice that you would offer to university graduates as they move into the world of work, and begin to build lives in today's culture?

DW: Try to understand character, human character because that's what it's all about.  We don't have to have every underpinning worked out completely in order to start living good lives.  Observe people!  Observe people who manage to happily do what's right.  As you live and watch, believe what you see.  Don't believe high-blown theories that try to explain away what you learn to be true in real human life. 
If you are intrigued by a particular theory, take the time to see how it plays out in peoples' actual lives.  If you find Nietzsche's assertions appealing, look at Nietzsche's life--a consistent expression of his ideology.  Nietzsche experienced the tremendous burden of trying to make sense of everything through the self alone, and he died alienated, crazy, and broken.

When new information comes about that seems to change the face of everything, keep in mind that nothing has fundamentally changed about the options available to human beings in this life.  The supposed change that blew Nietzsche's mind, a new theory of cosmic evolution, turned out to be a far-fetched, unsubstantiated claim!  In reality, nothing fundamentally has changed. 

tts: What advice would you give to parents and churches as they prepare to send youth off to universities across the country?

DW: Be encouraged, and encouraging about the fact that Jesus is present on the college campuses.  Jesus is the smartest mind in any and every field, and in him are contained all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  Jesus, despite any voices to the contrary, is the "Big Man On Campus"!  A student sitting in a philosophy class listening to the teacher rant on about the absurdity of the Christian faith may be encouraged by an anecdote such as this: Walter Martin tells the story of Sydney Hook lecturing against Jesus in a class at New York University.  With a moment's reflection, answer the question: "How many people have died for the sake of their dedication to Sydney Hook?"

Responses to: What about those Crusades?

I found your commentary on the recent movie and the Crusades in general to be informative and captivating. The concept of the "Kingdom of God/Heaven" from Scripture to its development from Augustine, is a message that is very relevant today. Perhaps a follow up to your editorial would be useful in emphasizing that the Kingdom of God/Heaven, is something for the here and now, not limited to a future reality. We can impact our world with the salvation of the Gospel, proclaiming the truth in love to the Kingdom of Earth that can be delivered from its tyranny, by embracing the Gospel and living in the Kingdom of God/Heaven now. Thank you once again for dealing with present realities to impart kingdom perspectives to a needy people. - M. K.

You're dead wrong on one thing - the question "what about the crusades" doesn't deserve an answer. I have been an evangelist for more than 15 years and have never encountered anyone who asked that question who really wanted an answer. It is no different than blaming all Democrats for Bill Clinton or all Republicans for George Bush, depending on your particular bent. It is simply a dishonest ploy by someone who either wants to start an argument or win the one they are in. I usually answer that question with one of my own - "who do you know in the crusades? If you know someone, we'll go talk to them." - J. K.

Excellent and helpful treatment of the church and the crusades. It is good to see someone making the important distinction between religious and political pluralism. - M. C.

I think the article on the Crusades missed a very important point. Not only did the Crusaders kill innocent Muslims, they massacred thousands of Eastern Orthodox Christians why looting the ancient Christing sites of there Holy Relics. - E. H.

Interesting comments about the movie "Kingdom of Heaven" ad the Crusades mentality. What would be your comments concerning of "The Patriot?" - T. K.

A Christian is simply one who abandons himself and follows Jesus Christ. And Christ chose to be slaughtered rather than harm another. We all have brought dishonor to Christís Holy Name and continue to deny Him daily despite His Love for us. Only His Blood will save us from ourselves.
- G. E.

The Crusades were led by Catholics against Christians who worshipped Jesus Christ, not the Catholic Church and the popes. Christians who wanted to have the Holy Bible to read for themselves were tortured just for having a Bible in their possession. No born again, saved from the fires of hell Christian ever led a crusade against anyone. Again, the Crusades were led by Catholics and the popes that they worshipped. - G. M.

The Catholic church of the crusades killed more Christians than most other groups who have persecuted Christians. Bible prophesy calls the time from 380 A.D. to 1640A.D. a period when Christ's church had to hide in the wilderness. I will not take a guilt trip over what the apostate church that killed 150,000,000 of my fellow Christians for following the Bible, did in the crusades, anymore than I'll take a guilt trip today over what the Guana group that drunk all that poison did. Evil has often been committed by groups that claim to be religious and have religious zeal, but not according to Christ or knowledge. That is not Christ or Christ's church. Go back to our roots. Except for Maryland and Georgia, our colonies were settled by the victims of the crusades, not the crusaders. Get your history correct. We came here because we weren't Catholics or Church of Englanders, but those persecuted b y the church/state alliances. Why do you think England had all those laws that said that Catholic priests could not come to England, or the English royalty could not marry Catholics, or men could not be punished for their lack of support for the state church. Give us credit for who we are. Don't you know who OLIVER CROMWELL was and his role in our history. For the most part, we aren't the decendants of William the Conqueror, or the invading French from Normandy. We are the people who endured their tyrany. - W. S.

I personally intend to boycott the Kingdom of Heaven movie for all the reasons that you cited in your article and because I do not want to collaborate with Hollywood in its attempt to ride the wave of the financial success of the Passion of Christ. The Crusades, in their misguided and warped theology, did more to damage the cause of Christ in the world than most other events -- they are right up there on the list with the Spanish Inquisition, and, to my mind, the current "Culture Wars." - W. M.

Kingdom of Heaven opens in late 12th century France to gravediggers burying a beautiful young women who killed herself to end her grief over the death of her child. Before she is placed in the ground one priest steals the silver crucifix off of her neck while another shouts to the gravedigger, "She was a suicide. Cut off her head." Obviously Scott is not going to let the church off easy in this film. In truth, Balian's wife and children were very much alive. But that doesn't lend itself to priest bashing. Who's Balian? You did not introduce Balian, so the point about his wife and children being alive was unclear. This unrelated lady, the suicide, seems to have only had one child. Are we to take it that Balian was a historical character? And you are comparing values between the fictional and historical Balian? I guess I'll have to see the film before I know whether your term, 'priest bashing' , is a fair one. From the extensive reading I've done about the church in the middle ages, I certainly am not impressed with the Church in general or its policies and theology. Aside from the Cathars, you might want to look into what happened to the many women weavers in Marseilles when they tried to start their own guild, and the men that stood up for them. - S. G.

Thank you for this article on the crusades. It is quite informative. However, I think one angle is left out... Perhaps Catholicism is not Christian, and that is why the crusades took place? In memory of the persecuted anabaptists of the middle ages, - D. H.

I liked the article on Kingdom of Heaven as far as it went. And I appreciated the links to other resources. However (and this is not your fault, really) we all know SO LITTLE about the crusades that more info would have been better. For instance, the timeline glosses over events in the Muslim takeover of the Holy Land and the other eastern areas. Hopefully, in your next issue you can have an addendum of links that would be helpful for this important topic. I know it's not your obligation to educate us - and I am trying to learn on my own - but somehow I have the idea that your references would be solid ones! - C. S.

Hi thanks for your excellent aritcle. If you believe in spiritual bondages it is easier to understand the crusades when you realise that most of the Lords who led the crusading armies were Normans, (previously Vikings who had migrated to France), and they took their bloodbathing Viking heritage with them. Yes, they were converted to Christinatiy, but like the rest of us, God hadn't finished with them yet, and part of what God had to get out of them was the beastly Viking cruelty and love of killing......... - S.

While the author may have a good point, he missed one foundational premise. Christian ďdoctrineĒ has to do with the guidelines and admonishments of the written scripture. When a Pope declares absolution, it is simply a pontification, not biblical doctrine. Further, worse even still, the period in which the directive from Urban II was Pontiff, there were no other Christian sects or denominations. The protestant days of enlightenment had not yet happened. I say this to crush the foundational aspect which the author uses to allow us to assume this fact as correct TODAY! While I generally agree with his conclusion, his foundational research should not have gone with Urban IIís faulty pontification. - M. H.

Your article, What About Those Crusades, is very modern but Biblically flawed. I wonder how many sermons were preached about the justice of a righteous war during WWII? My first name is Fritz and I am German. It seems just to me that the country that led charge against God through its philosophy would in turn sow crimes against humanity so veil that the American Humanist took it personally and blushed when writing Manifesto II. No one in the church, including myself, has suggested that we take the tack that we should attack Islam as a response to the Islamic fundamentalist. I asked a member of Whycliff Bible translators if he had identified a cause to dust the dirt off his sandals. He led me to believe that he was tempted when considering Islamic towns that would not receive them. To my knowledge the idea of leaving the stubbornly resistant to their own devices is the only Biblical mandate w e have in opposition to our witness but that speaks nothing about our politics and political necessities. As your article rightfully points out, it was in response to the warring insurgency of Islam into Europe that sparked the crusades. The crusades may not have been a Ronald Ragan victory over Communism but it did succeed and the sting remains for the defeated but not as a total lose of face. The crusades only set the stage for the Moslemís understanding about the defiance and aggression of the west. The second round of confrontation came later in the imperial domination of Moslem lands by Europe and the third round of spiritual confrontation by Hollywood is upon us at this very moment. Even as Hollywood attacks Christian beliefs and defends itself against private censure of films which are intended to make them palatable for the Christian conscience, Hollywood is selling itself, uncut, in Baghdad and the fundamentalists claim that that is a modern western crusade sanctione d by the Christian Church. As far as I am concerned, Satan is clever but the church is somewhere out in left field not to able to understand these things. - F. S.

Very poor job of either explaining the Crusades or defending the Christian faith. It's what you would expect from people who know no church history. Too much moralizing by the author and not enough fact. He does exactly what he criticizes the film for doing, importing modern mentality to a previous age. Urban did not make jihad. Granting an indulgence to one who died in defending Christendom against infidels is not the same as a positive doctrine of spreading the faith by the sword. It is in fact totally defensive. Understanding the mentality of the times requires one to know enough about those times to climb into the thinking of the people alive then. Using a Reformation-Enlightenment influenced base to substitute for lack of knowledge just won't do. Your author's comment about the jihad watch comment shows this. Jihad watch was basically right for the wrong reason. Neither of you know what you're talking about. - A.

The correct answser to the question (What about the crusades?) is not flawed, but incorrect. To state that 'Christians' slaughtered Muslims is a lie straight from Rome. It was Catholics who marched into Jerusalem murdering Christians, Jews and Muslims. The Catholic (false) church is just falsifying history as it has since 325AD at its founding. - B. J. S.

Greek Orthodox Christians have always remembered the 4th crusade which sacked Constantinople in 1204 and in which over 100,000 Greek Orthodox Christians were slaughtered by the crusaders. The Great Church of the Holy Wisdom (Agia Sophia) was looted, as were many of the churches of the city. 15 boatloads of loot from the church of Agia Sophia were taken to Western Europe. Remnants of that theft are found in Western European museums in England, France and Germany. Northern Africa used to be solidly Christian until the Moslem invasions. Asia Minor (present day Turkey) was also nearly all Christian until the Ottoman Turks invaded and killed thousands of Christians defending their homeland. - N. P.

You make the sad mistake of mixing up popish Romanism with Biblical Christianity. You mention the crusades but fail to mention the slaughter of millions of Bible believing Christians who would not bow to false gospel and false religiousity of Roman Catholicism. - K. C.

Thanks for this article...since the movie has been advertised I have been thinking about the Crusades in light of our Christian faith, can you recommend a fair treatment from Conservative Christian writer on the Crusades? - D. T.

Who said they were Christians? Most of those poor folk believed in salvation by works. A Christian is one who is saved by the grace of God. The Crusades never give me a problem when witnessing. They can't be my spiritual ancestors. - P. M.

Whatever gave you the idea that the Roman Catholic Church is Christ's Church on this earth? Never has this world seen a more ungodly set of rules and beliefs as the Catholic has. Never has there been a more vicious and murdering group calling themselves christians than the leaders of that church. Just read history and you will see that. Christanity has never been part of the Catholc Church. - J. H.

Responses to previous articles:

Why do some readers insist on saying that the Supreme Court put Bush in power when the final recount said otherwise? Even after he has been elected to a second term by a substantial margin some people are still insisting that he is in office by judicial edict, and not by the will of the people. Get on with life. Heck, those among us who are conservatives survived 8 years of Clinton and are fully recovered from his disgrace of the office, even though we still have to hear liberal media parrots squawking about what a wise and wonderful president he was, not to mention such a devoted husband and father. Given recent decisions about marriage and government sanctioned murder maybe we need an additional conservative justice or two. - D. J.

First, the avida program: The avida program just provides another environment where evolution may be observed. Evolution has been going on for a long time, and it still is going on. I don't see how it contradicts the bible so long as you think of our world as another avida, and God as the programmer. I also don't understand how people can take the bible completely at face value. It may be the word of God, but it's in a human language, and it has been translated several times. In fact, something is always lost in translation. God does not "hate" according to the hebrew verson of the bible. All it says is that god "Loves" some things or people "less." I like this version because it encourages the idea of a loving God. Yet again, I don't see how evolution contradicts religion in any strong way. As far as the Schiavo case I agree that if someone has to kill Terry Schiavo, it should be something quick. Starving her to death is not the way to do it. Besides, no person should be killed based on the testimony of one person. As Wesley J. Smith pointed out, she had less of a chance than most murderers. No person could possibly be convicted of murder based on one person's testimony. Terry Schiavo's death did achieve one good thing. I know that I will write a living will now. To To the Source: I am not a religious person. I belong to no particular faith, and I don't really believe in Jesus as a savior. However, I do hold most of the professed Christian views in high regard, and have a great deal of respect for anybody who lives by these, regardless of the faith-based strings that are attatched. I admit they don't appeal or make sense to me. I have read only a little of To the Source, and I have to say I like it. I don't like anything that pushes a particular brand of religion too hard, it seems to elitist and against those Christian values I mentioned. To the Source is focu sed on morality, however, and I must say our world could use a lot more of that, regardless of where it comes from. Keep up the good work. - W. R. L.

I laugh every time I hear the court "selected" President Bush. For the intellectually lazy, please look up what really happened. The Supreme Court stopped the unconstitutional actions of a liberally driven Florida court. - C. W.

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