Dinner with Dallas | Can the Poor and Powerless Have Knowledge?


Was kindly invited by my publishers to have dinner with Dallas Willard last night with a few others. Dallas has a new book out called Personal Religion, Public Reality?: Towards a Knowledge of Faith which he talked a little about, leading to a very interesting roundtable discussion about what exactly knowledge was or could be.

The book’s blurb goes something like this:

At a time when many people think that it is irrational to believe in God, renowned philosopher Dallas Willard challenges the idea that spiritual wisdom is somehow distinct from the realm of knowledge.

I’ve not read the book, so don’t want to preempt any of its claims, but one of the issues we touched on in discussion was the link that knowledge has to power, and power has to financial muscle. This took us into the realm of politics: all parties now know that they need financial clout and the support of a powerful media in order to convince the public of their claims to knowledge.

The book blurb goes on:

PERSONAL RELIGION, PUBLIC REALITY? seeks to redress the balance, making a powerful case for the contribution that Christian knowledge can make in the global marketplace of ideas.

What I think is interesting about this is how Christian thought ought to act in this ‘global marketplace of ideas.’ The early church had little financial muscle, and no power at all, and yet made great claims to knowledge. One of my concerns is that when a rich and powerful church moves to disseminate knowledge, it often does so in a way that comes across as neither spiritually wise nor particularly knowledgeable:  ‘Be quiet, Jesus said this, and that’s the end of it.’

What I’d be interested in seeing is a church rooted in poverty and powerlessness – one that had a radical critique of the capitalist mantra of Tesco Ergo Sum – and exploring what ‘public square’ knowledge would look like in that context.