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The Problem With Vampire Christianity

Editors’ Note: Today we’re a featuring a special article from the archives by the late Dallas Willard. His inspiring voice encouraged all to abide in Christ and pursue obedience. Willard was and is a true gift to the church.  

If we are Christians simply by believing Jesus died for our sins and that all we need is to have our sins forgiven in order to go to heaven when we die, then why do some people keep insisting that something more than this is desirable? Lordship, discipleship, spiritual formation and the like?

What more could one want than to be sure of their eternal destiny and enjoy life among others who profess the same faith as they do? Of course, everyone wants to be a good person. But that does not require that you actually do what Jesus himself said and did. Haven’t you heard? “Christians are not perfect. Just forgiven.”

Now those who honestly find themselves concerned about such matters might find it helpful to consider four simple points.

Vampire Christianity

First, there is absolutely nothing in what Jesus himself or his early followers taught that suggests you can decide just to enjoy forgiveness at Jesus’ expense and have nothing more to do with him.

Some years ago, A.W. Tozer expressed his “feeling that a notable heresy has come into being throughout evangelical circles — the widely accepted concept that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need him as Savior and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to him as Lord as long as we want to!”

This “heresy” has created the impression that it is quite reasonable to be a “vampire Christian.” One, in effect, says to Jesus: “I’d like a little of your blood, please. But I don’t care to be your student or have your character. In fact, won’t you just excuse me while I get on with my life, and I’ll see you in heaven.” But is this really acceptable to Jesus?

And when you stop to think of it, how could one actually trust him for forgiveness of sins while not trusting him for much more than that? You can’t trust him without believing that he was right about everything and that he alone has the key to every aspect of our lives here on earth.

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DALLAS WILLARD was a Professor in the School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He taught at USC, where he was Director of the School of Philosophy from 1982-1985. He also taught at the University of Wisconsin (Madison, 1960-1965), and held visiting appointments at UCLA (1969) and the University of Colorado (1984). Dallas Willard passed away on May 8, 2013, at the age of 77.