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The flesh and desire

More from Dallas Willard’s article about the warfare between the flesh and the human spirit in the Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care Spring 2008, Vol 1, No 1.  Focusing today on Willard’s comments about the flesh.  First a definition of the flesh.  He says that the flesh is “natural human abilities, considered in themselves, and on their own, unaided by Divine assistance and direction.” It is

  • Not necessarily bad
  • Not fallen or sinful human nature
  • Not essentially sinful fallen or bad
  • Is a good creation of God
  • Must remember “its proper function in life before God”

Reliance only on the flesh (our natural human abilities) leads us to death Rom 8:6 and corruption Gal 6:8.  Willard says, “The only outcome of natural human abilities on their own, dominated by desires is internal disintegration.” 81

Willard explains that the key to understanding the flesh is desire.

Flesh naturally works by desire. Obsessive desire (epithumia) is the kind of desire that can rule your whole life—translated as lust. . . . Desire is the impulse toward possession or experience of its object. Desire “locks on.” It cares for nothing else but its own satisfaction. . . . caught in the grip of lust . . . They will sacrifice what is good, for themselves and others, to get what they want. This overriding drive for gratification is the genuine root of “weakness of will.” 82

He then provides a further explanation of these desires. Desires taken by themselves are

  • Inherently chaotic James 4:1-3
  • Deceitful Eph 4:22
  • Promise a fulfillment they cannot deliver
  • Drive us ever onward in the blindness of sensual futility Eph 4:17-19

Reactions?  Next post on how he sees the human spirit

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