Tozer Teaches God’s Attributes

A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the HolyA. W. Tozer. 2014. Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God. North Fort Myers: Faithful Life Publishers.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Long writing projects, like my recent memoir, yield a new awareness of the subject being studied, but it comes at the sacrifice of other activities and physical exhaustion. An important way that I recharge my batteries after such projects is to focus on self-care in my reading, devotions, and daily work-out. At the recommendation of a close, spiritual friend, I turned this month to A.W. Tozer’s little book, Knowledge of the Holy.

Who is A.W. Tozer?

Aiden Wilson Tozer (1897–1963) was an American Christian pastor, preacher, author, magazine editor, and spiritual mentor who received two honorary doctoral degrees but had no formal seminary training. As pastor, he was associated with the Christian Missionary Alliance,[1] a holiness denomination, and served as editor of their official publication, now known as Alliance Life. As author, he wrote at least a dozen books focused primarily on Christian spirituality.[2] Knowledge of the Holy was published in 1961, just two years prior to his death.

Introduction

Tozer begins his work with a question: “What comes into your mind when you think about God?” (10) He also expresses a concern about a loss of a sense of God’s majesty leading to an observation: “Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit.” (5) Tozer links this lost sense of the transcendence of God to idolatry and libel against his character (11-13).

If God’s nature is incomprehensible and ineffable, what attributes has he revealed about himself? (16-20) Tozer starts by describing the Trinity, but lingers on mystery of how the Trinity could exist even as God is indivisible in his being. He writes: “All of God does all that God does.” (27) Tozer reflects on the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicaean Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, noting how they spell out with great care how God in three persons can be understood (34) He then observes that work of creation is attributed to God the Father (Genesis 1:1), Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:16), and the Holy Spirit (Job 26:13, and Psalms 104:3) (36), which completes the thought that the Trinity is invisible.

Clearly, Tozer prefers to swim in the deep end of the pool.

Organization

Tozer goes on to examine each of God attributes, devoting a chapter to each one for a total of twenty-three chapters. While some might think that God’s attributes are dry and boring, they are terribly important in separating good theology from weak theology.

Self-Existence of God

For example, God’s self-existence not conditioned on anything in the created universe implies that he transcends creation, is not bound by time or space (37-44). The need for Christ arises directly from the problem that as created beings we cannot approach God; he must reveal himself to us. So the question of how many paths are there up the mountain to God is answered: none—God must come to us.[3] It also means that we are totally dependent on him; not the other way around.

God’s Immutability

Tozer’s comments on the immutability of God are interesting. He writes: “To say that God is immutable is to say that He never differs from Himself.” (63) If God were to change, he would have to go from better to worse, worse to better, or change within himself. God’s holiness means that he cannot go from worse to better. Of course, we would not want him to go from better to worse, which might mean that he would perhaps neglect his promises. And God is self-existence, not compose of parts that might need to be harmonized (63-64).

If you think that God’s immutability is boring, think of what it would mean for God to need to learn something or for God to make a mistake—what exactly would a “divine opps” look like? For example, what if the laws of physic changed because God made a mathematical error and the universe imploded?

God is More than Love

Tozer’s comments about love are most helpful. He observes:

“If love is equal to God, then God is only equal to love, and God and love are identical. Then we destroy the concept of personality in God and deny outright all His attributes save one, and that one we substitute for God…

 The words ‘God is love’ mean that love is an essential attribute of God. Love is something true of God but it is not God. It expresses the way God is in His unitary being, as do the words holiness, justice, faithfulness, and truth.” (124)

The personality of a person arises because of their attributes, but also their personal history, which includes many painful experiences. If God’s love defined him in his totality, then how could he justly deal with sin? How loving would God be if he ignored the actions of mass murders and rapists, simply so he could be totally loving to everyone? What kind of love would that be? We really do want God to be just as well as loving.

Assessment

W. Tozer’s book, Knowledge of the Holy, is a Christian classic that deserves to be read and discussed by every Christian.

Footnotes

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_and_Missionary_Alliance.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._W._Tozer.

[3] This is actually one lesson from the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis:  11:1-9.

Tozer Teaches God’s Attributes

Also see:

Tim Keller Makes Sense, Part 1 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

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