Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge, by Dallas Willard
This is a book of Christian philosophy that is taken quite intentionally in the style of C.S. Lewis and other related thinkers who did not think it either right or wise to concede the common belief that matters of religion are not matters of knowledge at all. The author engages in the difficult and tricky philosophical business of dealing with the unwarranted assumptions that lie at the basis of so much thinking about science and knowledge and also comments on the sad state of logic in the contemporary world and how that has made our thinking dangerously sloppy when it comes to matters of great intellectual and moral importance. As a work of logic and reason this book certainly ranks highly, but as a book of rhetoric in terms of seeking to appeal to its audience, this is a book that will be far more successful at converting the faithful than it will be at bringing the disobedient to repentance. Whether or not this failure is to be credit to the author or not is not a matter that I feel qualified to judge, despite the fact that this book is definitely within my own personal wheelhouse as a writer.
This book is a bit more than 200 pages long and is divided into eight chapters. The book begins with an introduction. After that the author discusses whether faith can ever be knowledge (1) and comes to the conclusion that they are ultimately different things. This leads to a discussion of how we can perish for a lack of knowledge (2), and how it is that moral knowledge disappeared within Western society over the past couple hundred years (3), not least because of the failures of Christian leaders to uphold that knowledge and apply it to the conditions of their world. After that comes a discussion on how we can know that God exists (4), as well as know the miraculous and Christ’s presence in our world (5). AFter this comes a discussion of the knowledge of Christ in the Spiritual life (6), as well as what Christian pluralism means (7) and how it offers an escape from the follies of so much thinking about God and about pluralism that exist in general. Finally the author talks about pastors in their role as teachers of the nations (8), before ending the book with notes, acknowledgements, a subject index, and a scripture index.
What does it mean to make a claim that God’s word is a matter of knowledge? It means that it has truth and relevance and that it is something to be taken seriously. It means that there is something there there when we read the Bible rather than simply being human thinking that does not have to be taken seriously. The author, as is entirely appropriate to do, makes truth claims for scripture even when he does not always understand this correctly. And the author is quick to note in this book, and also correct in so noting, that there are a lot of ways that many ministers have failed in their job as teachers of the nations, with the responsibility of explaining the responsibility that people and authorities have in this world according to the laws and Word of God. This is a high responsibility, and the fact that so many Christian leaders have sought to dodge that responsibility because it is not politically popular speaks poorly for the moral sense of many who which to be seen as scriptural authorities. And yet the failure of people to live up to the biblical demands of giving a prophetic warning to the world as to where the world falls short of obedience does not make the Bible itself of no importance; it merely speaks to the failure of those who claim to follow God.