Dallas Willard, an American philosopher, professor and author specializing his studies in Christian spiritual formation, died early Wednesday morning at age 77 after enduring a battle with stage four cancer.
Willard, a philosophy professor at the University of Southern California and prolific writer, passed peacefully, uttering his last words, "thank you," from his hospital bed.
"Early on the morning of May 8, 2013, Dallas Albert Willard awakened to a full experience of the reality of the Kingdom of the Heavens he described so beautifully. Fittingly, his last two words were, 'Thank you,'" Gary Moon, executive director of the Dallas Willard Center at Westmont College, wrote on the Dallas Willard Center for Spiritual Reformation's website.
"'Thank you' is the feeling I am sure so many have for the contributions he has made to their lives. I believe Dallas Willard has been one of the great reformers of Christian thought of the past century and that his most powerful lessons were taught by how he lived an unhurried life, in love with God," Moon added.
The Dallas Willard Center at Westmont College in California is just one of the many ventures made on behalf of the religious philosopher to "establish the field of Christian spiritual formation as a discipline of public knowledge," according to the center's website.
Willard's passing took many by surprise, as he only recently revealed he was suffering from stage four cancer on his Twitter page, writing on May 6: "The Dr.'s have informed Dallas that he has stage 4 cancer. Please join us in our prayers for strength and healing."
Willard is considered by many to be a major provocative authority in spiritual formation, and has authored such well-known books as The Spirit of the Disciplines, The Divine Conspiracy, Renovation of the Heart, and Hearing God.
Many have taken to blogs and forums to express how greatly Willard will be missed.
"I only found out this morning that Willard was sick. Have had a heavy heart all day thinking about what a tremendous human being he is, and what a profound impact he's had upon my life," Tim Suttle, senior pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kansas, wrote on his Patheos-hosted blog Paperback Theology on Wednesday.
"Willard taught me that a disciple is a student who sits at the feet of Jesus day in and day out. A disciple is someone who is with Jesus, learning to be like him, so that when we encounter the world around us, we do exactly what Jesus would do if he were in our shoes," Suttle wrote.
Suttle added that although Willard taught him far more, "that one fully formed concept would have been enough to be thankful to him forever."
Andrew Le Peau, associate publisher for editorial at InterVarsity Press, which published several of Willard's books, most notably Hearing God, described Willard as "someone who was soaked in the presence of Christ" in a recent blog post.
"Dallas Willard went to be with his Lord this morning. Many people will miss his strong, gentle wisdom, remembering him as someone who was soaked in the presence of Christ. He was a beloved friend and writer to many," Le Peau wrote.
Along with his work as a professor and author, Willard also served on the boards of the C.S. Lewis Foundation and Biola University, according to his official biography.
Additionally, Willard dedicated his time to speaking at several forums and events relating to spiritual formation and philosophy.
Wiillard, who was born in Buffalo, Mo., on Sept. 4, 1935, is survived by his wife, Jane Lakes, their two children, John and Becky, son-in-law Bill Heatley, and his granddaughter, Larissa.
The Willard family resides in Southern California.