Book Review: The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer

It’s been a couple of years now since I read The Pursuit of God, having mixed thoughts on what is probably his most famous work. When you read Tozer, you ought to be aware of what you are getting; mostly sound, orthodox teaching, told with great fervour. Tozer was a man with a passion for God, though he wasn’t a theologian. I don’t always agree with him or how he chooses to phrase certain things, but he is nonetheless a thought-provoking writer and is more often closer to the mark than far from it.

The aim of this book is to list, and give some flesh to, some of the attributes of God. Tozer’s motivation for writing this book was a complaint that christians have forgotten the great writers of the past (he points at Augustine and Anselm in particular) and that we no longer think particularly highly of God. Crucial to Tozer’s idea is that we worship God as It truly is, lest we come up with ideas about God which are either misguided or incomplete which would lead to a kind of idolatry; this is an idea I wholeheartedly agree with and is the motivation behind why I constantly try to understand God, christianity and scripture.

What I found most interesting was his idea that our descriptions of God are all describing One. i.e. God does not really have “aspects” to Its character, but we have to distinguish such aspects for our own linguistic interpretation and understanding. Though interesting, I thought it went a bit too far to describe God as “simple”. If people are made in God’s image, and people can be very complicated beings, I don’t think it helps anyone to suppose that God’s character could ever be described as “simple”.

Tozer manages to straddle two very contrary realms of being at once very conservative and also of being a big fan of the mystics. Neither of these are areas I am comfortable in; I’m much more of a liberal rationalist. In fact, Tozer’s anti-rationalist and anti-scientific stance really did quite annoy me as I think it does some otherwise good writing a great disservice. The other book that came to mind as I was reading this was J.I. Packer’s Knowing God which is equally conservative but not as mystic.

There are some other aspects which are a little uncomfortable. Tozer often phrases things in terms of ‘God’ and ‘Jesus’ with a tone strongly implying the supremacy of the former over the latter. As for the Holy Spirit, that is completely absent. The overall impression is a kind Arian binitarianism. Yet at the same time, there is a contrary high Christology, with the humanity of Jesus often overlooked.

So without endorsing everything that Tozer says, or how he says it, this is still a thought-provoking book with enough in it to make it worth recommending.

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One response to “Book Review: The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer

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