Gary Moon’s biography of Dallas Willard’s life is captured in Moon’s book, Becoming Dallas Willard: The Formation of a Philosopher, Teacher, and Christ Follower. Moon, from the outset, seeks to present a biography of Willard that enables readers of Willard’s books to connect with the profound character of Christian spiritual formation in the life that Willard lived.
Becoming Dallas Willard is amply sprinkled with quotes and testimony given by those who met and interacted with Willard in his lifetime. Moon craftily segments Willard’s life into 16 chapters which, while mostly chronological, are designed to communicate how that chapter of life served as a steppingstone toward the person, a servant of Christ, that Willard became. Moon concludes each chapter with a summary, Becoming Dallas Willard, applicable to that chapter of his life and how that chapter of Willard’s life led to becoming the person he was.
Dallas Willard was born September 4, 1935, in depression-era Missouri. He attended William Jewell College, Tennessee Temple College, Baylor University, and University of Wisconsin–Madison. Dallas was an American philosopher who was probably best known for his teaching and books on Christian spiritual formation. Willard’s doctoral dissertation focuses (as would his career in Philosophy) on phenomenology, particularly the work of Edmund Husserl. Willard translated much of Husserl’s works into English. Dallas was a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles from 1965 until his death on May 8, 2013.
Moon fills the important task of connecting Dallas’s readers with Dallas the person so that the reader not only has better context of Dallas’s teaching but the testimony of so many relatives, friends, colleagues, students, and readers whose lives were changed by watching Dallas genuinely live out the faith message that he taught. The backdrop of Willard’s life brings texture to Willard’s books: Hearing God, The Spirit of the Disciplines, The Divine Conspiracy, and Knowing Christ Today (and there are many more) ––– which I encourage every English reading follower of Christ to read, carefully and slowly.
Moon weaves Willard’s biography from humble depression poverty through ever major point of Dallas’s life. Moon humanizes that mythical legend into a real person and leaves his reader with the perspective that if Dallas could pull that off, so can I; “If he can find the entrance to the kingdom, then so can I” (Moon, BDW, p. 245).
Moon is a theologian, professor, teacher of spiritual formation, and an author of those subjects. It would be unfair to compare him to authors whose life-work focused on biographies. Such a comparison would assess Moon’s biography as less than polished; and in fact, that would be fair. However, Moon did something more than a biography, he gave us a glimpse of a man who truly followed Christ in a way that is significantly beyond what we find in church life today.
I heartfully recommend Moon’s book, Becoming Dallas Willard. To everyone, after first reading (at least) Hearing God, The Spirit of the Disciplines. It would be my hope that every English speaking/reading follower of Christ would engage life as an apprentice of Jesus, as Willard portrays in his many books. I also recommend reading Moon’s Eternal Living: Reflections on Dallas Willard’s Teaching on Faith and Formation. I read Eternal Living semisimulatenously with Becoming Dallas Willard and found the 20 testimonies contributed to Eternal Living added a lot of character and color to Moon’s Becoming Dallas Willard.
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Becoming Dallas Willard: The Formation of a Philosopher, Teacher, and Christ Follower, by Gary W. Moon, InterVarsity Press. 2018. $28.94.
Tim Morris is the Director of Ecclesiolae Ministries Foundation, cofounded with Julie Morris. Ecclesiolae seeks to support Christians in their Spiritual Formation, Strengthening Ministry Marriages, and expanding the growth of MicroChurches within MegaChurches. Tim earned a BS in Business Management and completes an MA in Theology, from Wesley Biblical Seminary in the Spring of 2024.
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