Guest post: Robbie Pruitt on A.W. Tozer
Magnificent Monograph Monday this week features a guest blogger, Robbie Pruitt. I have guest posted on his blog (My Two Mites) before, and today he posts here. It’s a review of Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. Robbie is a gifted youth minister, teacher, poet, reader, writer, and friend.
Nothing is more important than a right understanding of God, or “thinking rightly about God.” In Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer states, “The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men.” Tozer is addressing idol worship that many fall into by thinking wrongly about God.
It is into this reality that Tozer speaks in Knowledge of the Holy, which is an excellent study of the attributes of God. (See pdf of book here.) Tozer describes in detail the importance of thinking rightly about God, going so far as asserting, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” When it comes to our thinking about God, everything is at stake. We must think deeply and accurately about God if we are to know Him and worship Him rightly and truthfully.
According to Tozer, when we think about God, we are using the language and the concepts that our finite minds can grapple with. Our understanding of God is limited, as God is infinite and we are finite. We are also unaware of the fullness of God as there are attributes we have not had revealed to us yet, and which we do not currently have the capacity to comprehend. Tozer says, “We learn by using what we already know as a bridge, over which we pass to the unknown. It is not possible for the mind to crash suddenly past the familiar into the totally unfamiliar.”
While Tozer is acutely aware of the magnitude of his subject, God, he is not deterred from writing a most excellent reflection on the attributes of God that we can understand and contemplate. An attribute, simply stated by Tozer, is “whatever may be correctly ascribed to God.” While there is ample evidence to conclude that what we do not know about God is vast, there is so much about God’s character and nature that we can accurately know. To begin with, we can know His attributes, and we can ascribe these attributes to Him with confidence.
In thinking about the enormity of God, Tozer is quick to warn against idolatry and thinking wrongly about God. He says, “To think of creature and Creator as alike in essential being is to rob God of most of His attributes and reduce Him to the status of a creature.” We must not think of God in “human” terms, though we are using human brains and creation and are reasoning, to contemplate the essence of God. In thinking of God we must proceed cautiously, reverently and prayerfully, in faith and in love, as we rest in God’s divine revelation to us.
If we are not cautious, the dangers are clear. We can think of something less than God and find ourselves in idolatry, worshipping something less than God. Tozer says, “If we insist upon trying to imagine Him, we end with an idol, made not with hands but with thoughts; and an idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.” The other danger in thinking about God is attempting to manipulate, control, or manage God, which essentially places us above God as “god.” Tozer describes this phenomenon this way: “Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him.”
We must look to God with great anticipation and appreciation of God’s revelation to us. It is adequate. God has revealed Himself to us and God is knowable. God, in His great love and mercy, has revealed Himself to us in His son Jesus and we can know Him in faith and in love. Tozer asserts, “In Christ and by Christ, God effects complete self-disclosure, although He shows Himself not to reason but to faith and love. Faith is an organ of knowledge, and love an organ of experience.” We can know God and we can experience God. This revelation of God is a great mercy to us and is a gift to us in Jesus Christ, through His Holy Spirit, which leads us into all truth.
As Tozer says so eloquently, “For while the name of God is secret and His essential nature incomprehensible, He in condescending love has by revelation declared certain things to be true of Himself.” These truths of God are, indeed, His attributes, and we can know them and study them. Knowledge of the Holy is a great tool for this study as we seek to come to know the eternal, magnificent, and indescribable God that we seek to worship rightly.
An attribute study is a great way to come to know God more deeply and is a great way to explore the richness of the Scriptures in a more non-linear approach. Knowledge of the Holy covers some essential thoughts and attributes of God, as well as doctrines, that every Christian should think about. As Tozer rightly points out, “The study of the attributes of God, far from being dull and heavy, may for the enlightened Christian be a sweet and absorbing spiritual exercise. To the soul that is athirst for God, nothing could be more delightful.” As we seek God and seek to have our thirsts for Him quenched, this book, in addition to Scripture, prayer, and community, is a great place to start.
A thorough reading of Knowledge of the Holy highlights so many truths about God. We are plunged into the depths of God’s character and nature and are left in a state of awe and worship in the presence of an awesome God. While we will spend a lifetime and an eternity seeking to know God completely and to worship Him rightly, we can know God and worship Him now. To quote Tozer one last time, “To our questions God has provided answers; not all the answers, certainly, but enough to satisfy our intellects and ravish our hearts. These answers He has provided in nature, in the Scriptures, and in the person of His Son.” How marvelous it is to wonder at His greatness and to think rightly about our God!