Seeking God: An Interview with Dallas Willard

by Jonathan Bailey

This is an excerpt from a conversation with Dallas Willard. In this portion they are speaking about God allowing us to seek Him, and the ways God allows us to find. Or better yet how He manifests Himself to us. Generally He does it gently, and in subtle forms, at the beginning, and as we become trasformed into His image we can stand to be more and more in His prescence. Read and enjoy this insightful excerpt.

Willard: This goes to a very deep issue that we really do need an answer to, or our faith will not make much sense. That is the question: “Why isn’t God obvious?” We would think he could be. (I put on the front page of The Divine Conspiracy, a quotation from C. S. Lewis that I think helps with the problem. It’s actually a remark from Screwtape to Wormwood, and it deals with this issue.)

You see, God doesn’t wish to overwhelm us. He’s put us in a position where our will can go in either direction. We are responsible for our decision. It’s what we choose to see that matters. In order for us to have that choice, God leaves things so that we have to seek them.

Isaiah cries out, “Truly, you are a God who hides yourself.” Deus absconditus. That’s a part of this whole picture. We have to seek, so that the promise of Jeremiah 29 can be fulfilled: “You will find me, when you seek for me with all your heart.”

Shaw: Here’s that Screwtape quote: “Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.” That’s such a marvelous insight from Lewis.

Willard: Isn’t that the point? That God puts us here, and in effect says, “What do you want?” If there is a person who says, “I deeply, desperately, want God,” then as that soul can stand it, it will find God.

Shaw: It would almost be like being confronted with a nuclear explosion, wouldn’t it? My understanding is that God chooses to reveal himself gradually, in metaphor, in vision, in the imagination, because otherwise we’d be annihilated by his presence.

Willard: The standard teaching is “If you’ve seen God, you’re ready to die.” Because it will blow you away—kill you. just the effect on your mind will kill you. People often die of shock, or bad news—they fall dead.

Basically the situation is that God mediates himself to us in forms, first of all, that will work, so we can find him that way, but also in ways we can tolerate. This is the background of prophetic writings such as “He is like a refiner’s fire, like fuller’s soap, and who can stand when he appears?”