Lyle Burris

Conspiring Goodness, Conspirators, and Character – Dallas Willard

Ironic language subverts our givens. Divine and conspiracy seem as likely to be title companions as chaos and order. When Jimmy gave me a copy of The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God, I recall feeling a bit of vertigo. That was 1998.

If you have read Willard’s masterpiece, as Richard Foster describes it, then you recall the imagery of flying upside down thinking you are right side up found in the Introduction.

Recently a pilot was practicing high-speed maneuvers in a jet fighter. She turned the controls for what she thought was a steep ascent – and flew straight into the ground. She was unaware that she had been flying upside down.

This parable of human existence in our times – not exactly that everyone is crashing, though there is enough of that – but most of us as individuals, and world society as a whole, live at high-speed, and often with no clue to whether we are flying upside down or right-side up. Indeed, we are haunted by a strong suspicion that there may be no difference – or at least that it is unknown or irrelevant. (TDC, 1-2)

The depiction is an apt description for juxtaposing divine and conspiracy. Most of us find it difficult to nuance conspiracy in a positive way, that is, we children of the Nixon era.

Once beyond the infamous first chapter, a matter that Willard once suggested readers come back to rather than give up on the book, we find it easier to nuance conspiracy. The new vision might be termed conspiring goodness. Or, in Jesus, God conspires goodness for all humanity. Rachel Held Evans posted a quote that bears offering here,

“We must understand that God does not ‘love’ us without liking us – through gritted teeth – as ‘Christian’ love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core – which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word ‘love’.”

I was challenged by Willard’s description of the gospel of sin management, as he called it. I bought a copy for a couple of new staff members more than ten years ago. We found Willard’s critique healthy and his treatment of the Sermon on the Mount excellent.

My mentor, after taking a denominational job in Texas, called and said, “If you could invite one person to come speak at a conference who would you invite? I mean, who would you drive to Texas to hear?” One name came to mind, Dallas Willard.

Rick hosted a meeting. He invited Dallas. During the course of that meeting he arranged a dinner for a half dozen people with Willard. I remember Dallas looking across the table and asking about my life, my family, and my ministry. I could not help but think to myself, “Mr. Willard, we are hear to listen to you!” That one instance solidified in my way of thinking that Willard’s pattern of living Jesus’ way always pointed him to the other. Life was not about him.

Several friends accompanied me on the trip to see Dallas in Dallas – Eddie, Shawn, Nathan, Jason, Paul, and Lyle. It was after that conference that Lyle began to blog. What was his chosen blog title? Divine Conspirator. I make no certain claims about how life after life after death works itself out. Here I am thinking of certainty as something that may be said with absolutely no equivocation. That is not to say I don’t have my ideas. But, I am sated in my sadness at the loss of Dallas Willard by thinking of Dallas and Lyle sharing a conversation as they enjoy the goodness that is God’s conspiracy for humanity.

April Fool – Valleys and Hope . . . Thanks Lyle

I missed a few days. Every time I applied the sense of a “legalist” to my hope of posting something from Lyle’s blog every day, I went back and read one of his about busyness. For now, this is my last post in the series remembering Lyle, for now. I intentionally wanted to make it to April. The post I reference will make that clear.

About ten years ago I heard an African-American pastor preach a message where he emphasized the “to” in a phrase from Scriptures. I admit, he got more out of that “to” than I have ever heard anyone before. The phrase he referenced was, “from strength to strength.”

Taken from a passage encouraging people to see the “valley” as a place we move from “strength to strength.” In a couple of weeks I will be speaking to a group of social workers about teenage depression and suicide. As I have been planning for that talk I could not help but think of this post. No, Lyle was not depressed. But, events could well be seen as depressing.

If you follow all the way to the comments, Read More

Over Scripture or Under Scripture – Lyle Says Under

For those of us who follow Jesus, we look to the Scriptures. We Baptist Christians often refer to ourselves as “people of the Book.” That might be true if our lives looked more like Jesus. But, since we often race to the Scripture in order to be “over” someone else we too take a position “over” the Scripture.

Lyle contends in a blog post titled, “How do we know what we know?,” that we should find ourselves under Scripture. Thinking about how we learn, he hoped that some with whom he had an affinity would help understanding any gaps in what he knows should he find something out of step with Jesus. He wrote,

So I am trying to look at things I believe and make sure they are consistent with Scripture, the world and my own life, if not then maybe some of my ideological soul mates will have some correct doctrine that I can believe.

Here is Lyle’s post. Read More

Decisions Under Duress – Lyle is Repulsed

Sometimes we set the consequences up as the cause for our trouble. We have all likely done so. The matter is taken up in the difference between these two questions, “Are you sorry you got caught with your hand in the cookie jar? or Are you sorry you put your hand in the cookie jar.”

One question raises the issue of consequence. The other puts our attention on the cause. Scot McKnight contends the matter of the extent and efficacy of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus has been bubbling below the service of “Evangelical” discussion. He asserts the matter (universalism) will be the issue for Evangelicals going forward.

This is not new. It is just that we face old issues as they intersect new circumstances. The shrinking of the world due to travel and the Internet bring us closer to the suffering experienced around the world. Chiefly children dying from diseases they did not do anything to get except be born into a culture where the disease is epidemic. Read More

Lyle Thought He Had It Rough . . . Until Bonhoeffer

Earlier today I listened to my friend Chris Seay’s sermon from this past Sunday. I admit, I do not listen to many. Maybe I should. Seay quoted Miroslav Volf who questioned how well someone in the West, think Western Europe and America, “gets” suffering and its cause radical evil. Our thoughts of justice somehow seem a bit pale when considering life in Croatia according to Seay’s telling of Volf’s story.

Some want to dismiss perspective for fear it marginalizes real fear and human struggles. However, we cannot keep from recognizing there are degrees of human suffering. My hunger between meals could hardly compare to hunger in the hovels of South Africa I visited years ago.

Lyle’s wrote, I Thought I had it rough after reading an excerpt from Bonhoeffer‘s Discipleship and the Cross. Read More