The Divine Conspiracy

What is the good life? What does it mean to be blessed? How do we live an authentic Christian life? Dallas Willard explores these fundamental questions and offers answers rich in biblical wisdom, with a focus on the Sermon on the Mount and its application to modern discipleship.


01. Jesus & Culture

In his opening lecture, Dallas Willard considers the nature of knowledge and reality.  True knowledge brings us into conformity with reality, and reality is what God is up to in the universe.  The Divine Conspiracy is about understanding God’s hidden work in history to overcome evil with good, also known as the kingdom of God. The crucifixion is the center point of God’s work and must shape all our actions.  What God is most concerned about is what kind of people we are becoming, therefore God does not override our will because true character only develops out of freedom.  

Tags: Theo-drama, metanarrative, epistemology, the doctrine of redemption, kingdom theology


02. Human Nature

Contrasting culture with revelation, Dallas Willard explores what it means to be human.  Our culture understands human nature in relation to our desires. What we desire is not always good, though, so we need revelation.  Humanity was created to trust God and look to him for knowledge.  We were made to be responsible for creation, to create and share with others and to cooperate with God.  God wants us to be possessed by his love and live free from fear. Jesus Christ ultimately defines human nature, and so our nature is to become like his nature.

Tags: Anthropology, the doctrine of humanity, revelation, epistemology


03. Q&A: Knowledge & Will

In this interactive session, Dallas Willard takes questions from the participants concerning his lectures.  He clarifies further what knowledge of God means, the difference between belief and knowledge, and how knowledge affects moral growth.  He also discusses the goodness and wickedness of the human will, the relationship between the kingdom and the church, how we can discern between God’s will and our own, God’s thoughts on anger and violence, the proper role of feelings in human judgment, the nature of God’s control.

Tags: epistemology, anthropology, the doctrine of God, ecclesiology


04. God & His Kingdom

Dallas Willard teaches on theology proper, explaining the significance of the nature of God.  He considers what it means that God is spirit, self-sufficient and self-directed.  God by his very nature as Trinity is love in relationship, and his plan is to have a kingdom of people who share his nature of unity and love.  The establishment of that kingdom is the motif around which the entire Bible is formed and in which the church finds its identity and purpose.  Life in the kingdom brings meaning and purpose in which there is hope for the outcast.

Tags: Doctrine of God, ecclesiology, kingdom theology


05. Kingdom Gospel

Dallas Willard further explains what the kingdom of God means, which is God’s ruling and governance of the universe. Jesus came to give entry to that kingdom.  Living in God’s kingdom entails bringing everything into conformity with God’s rule. Jesus is the master of the moral life who empowers his followers to conquer evil, live pure lives of repentance, and overcome death itself.  Jesus gives us the answers to life’s greatest questions: what is reality?,  who is well off?, who is good?, and how do you become good?  He concludes by taking questions from the participants.

Tags: kingdom theology, the doctrine of Jesus, the meaning of life


06. Salvation Confusion

In this lecture, Dallas Willard outlines many popular misunderstandings of salvation and he expounds on the relationship between salvation and discipleship.  Salvation consists of recognizing the lordship of Jesus Christ, and yet churches often teach that salvation amounts to consumption and passivity. Dr. Willard asserts that the heart of salvation consists of discipleship unto Jesus, which means becoming Jesus’ student and learning to do everything he says.  To be Jesus’ disciple is to live a life of heart level obedience, and Dr. Willard contrasts that with other popular understandings of the gospel.

Tags: discipleship, the work of Christ, reconciliation, sanctification


07. Kingdom Salvation

Dallas Willard further explores of what salvation in the kingdom of God consists.  Salvation is not merely something that happens at death but involves participating in the life of Christ here and now.  Dr. Willard reintroduces life’s great questions and begins to show how life in the kingdom answers the question, who is well off?  He explores the relationship between spirituality and ontology as a means of avoiding legalism.  While exploring the Beatitudes, he explains how in the kingdom human qualifications are worthless.  The kingdom of God inverts the values of this world by redefining who is truly blessed.  

Tags: kingdom theology, New Testament Biblical theology, salvation, justification, sanctification


08. Q&A: Discipleship

Dallas Willard begins this interactive session by further explicating the purpose of the Beatitudes as subverting the values of this world toward kingdom values.  He takes questions from the participants on discipleship, music, and suffering in the kingdom.  He also talks about churches that preach and foster discipleship, spiritual disciplines, the church’s relationship to the kingdom, and how to communicate the gospel.

Tags: New Testament biblical theology, discipleship, ecclesiology, evangelism


09. The Beatitudes

Beginning with the question of who is well off, Dallas Willard continues to probe the Beatitudes as the God’s vision to bless the unblessable.  The person who is well off is the person who lives in the kingdom.  Looking at the question, who is a good person, Dr. Willard finds the answer in Matthew 5:20.  Those who have been transformed by God’s agape love are good people.  God’s righteousness permeates all of our being, not merely outward actions.  He follows this theme through the Sermon on the Mount, showing that kingdom goodness involves internal transformation of the heart.

Tags: New Testament biblical theology, discipleship, sanctification


10. Transformation

In this session, Dallas Willard asks the how of personal transformation, exploring the relationship between grace and effort.  Grace is God’s acting on our behalf to bring about what we cannot do on our own.  Grace is not opposed to effort but to earning, and grace is the foundation for good works and the fuel for living.  Spiritual disciplines put us in a position where we can learn to be like Jesus and are not means of earning favor with God.  He distinguishes between disciplines of abstinence and engagement.  They are not aimed at behavior modification but internal transformation. 

Tags: spiritual disciplines, sanctification, discipleship


11. Church Communities

Drawing on Ephesians 4, Dallas Willard considers what the life of the church is supposed to be—a center of love where people are transformed into disciples.  Churches do many things that have little to do with making disciples.  Is our goal the Great Commission or merely survival?  Many people in our churches have come to believe in a version of Christianity that has nothing to do with discipleship. Changing our churches from a consumer model to a discipleship model is a painful but necessary challenge, and Dr. Willard closes by offering a vision of how this can take place.

Tags: New Testament Biblical Theology, ecclesiology, mission, discipleship, sanctification


12. Q&A: Formation

In this interactive session, Dallas Willard takes questions from the participants concerning the difference between head and heart knowledge, helping people who need prayer, and how to submerge oneself in the life of the Trinity.  He also discusses the point of salvation, cultivating humility in the church, the dangers of legalism and controlling one’s feelings.

Tags: discipleship, sanctification, regeneration


13. Kingdom Living

Continuing with his survey of church life, Dallas Willard asserts that the vision of most churches is survival rather than inward transformation.  Our time together as churches should be used to further our obedience to Christ, and he uses the Sermon on the Mount as the model for kingdom living. The Sermon expresses clearly the heart that Jesus gives to his disciples.  Dr. Willard fleshes out what it might look like for a local church to direct the majority of their resources and efforts to actually living out the Sermon on the Mount.

Tags: New Testament biblical theology, ecclesiology, discipleship, sanctification


14. Living Without Anger

Furthering his exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, Dallas Willard addresses why anger is the first thing that must be dealt with in the formation of a kingdom community.  He explores the nature of anger, why it is so destructive and how to be free from it.  He also considers the nature of contempt and lust and how we can be free of them.  Dr. Willard proposes a plan for individual inner change that will lead to the kind of perfection to which Jesus’ calls us, by engaging in the disciplines.

Tags: New Testament biblical theology, discipleship, sanctification, spiritual disciplines


15. Prayer

Concluding his lectures on the Sermon on the Mount, Dallas Willard summarizes that it is not a list of laws, but expressions kingdom living.  We too often seek to follow laws to impress others, as individuals and churches, but the disciplines are about wisdom, not law.  They are about internal transformation, not external righteousness.  He discusses the disciplines of fasting and secrecy, giving, trust, and celebration.  He distinguishes between judgment and discernment, and how to offer people genuine help as opposed to manipulation. He concludes by spending extended time addressing the discipline of prayer. 

Tags: New Testament biblical theology, discipleship, sanctification, spiritual disciplines


16. Q&A: Prayer

Dallas Willard concludes his course with an extended dialogue with participants on a variety of questions.  He discusses giving people what they need, discipleship for children, the openness of God, and the context of the Beatitudes.  He also considers Jesus’ use of satire, his teaching on worship and anger, Presuppositional apologetics, understanding our blessedness, second Temple Judaism, and whether or not violence can be justified.  Dr. Willard finally addresses the difference between bitterness and anger, freedom from anger and lust, his own spiritual journey and the application of the kingdom of God to business and government.

Tags: New Testament biblical theology, discipleship, sanctification, spiritual disciplines, epistemology, hermeneutics