I have read works by Willard and heard of him for years but never heard him speak. My impression was quite different from the reality of what I am experiencing today. Not good or bad, but just different.
He has talked extensively about the disappearance of the teaching of moral knowledge, not only in academia, but also in the church. He stressed that this does not mean that there IS NO moral knowledge in the church, but it is not being taught as knowledge. He has spent a lot more time on the disappearance of the teaching of moral knowledge in society than he has in the church, which has been a bit of a disappointment. The former is old news and well documented. I am hoping that in the afternoon session he will spend more time on the latter.
In the second morning session he delved into the area of Jesus as the person with the highest understanding of moral knowledge. He stressed that our world began setting aside Christ as the authority for moral knowledge in the 1800's and it went "mainstream" (my word) in the 1950-60's.
The ultimate enemy of moral knowledge is desire. Moral knowledge's purpose is (in part) to place boundaries around desire and to control it both personally and societally. We have thrown off Christianity as the source of that moral knowledge, but have not found an adequate replacement for it.
This is particularly poignant this week as the economic world roils with the results of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. (We have an account at Washington Mutual which was taken over by the feds last night and was sold to JP Morgan. I've never had a bank in which I had money fail before.) But the desire of people to live above their means financially and the desire of people with great amounts of money to make even shady loans in order to turn a profit is all a part of this.
He spent a good deal of time talking about the relationship justice and love. Love is bigger than love, but justice is included in love.
We are going to begin again briefly and I want to get this up, and so will say more later. In the afternoon session he is going to deal with what he calls the four "Big Questions" of life:
- What is goodness, rightness & duty?
- Which things and people and actions are good, right, praiseworthy?
- How do we know goodness, etc., and which things are good, etc.?
- How does one become good, do the right thing, the morally honorable thing?