Tozer on the Gentleness of God

tss-pop-can-large.jpgA.W. Tozer writing on Psalm 18:35 (“your gentleness made me great”):

“God is easy to live with. Satan’s first attack upon the human race was his sly effort to destroy Eve’s confidence in the kindness of God. Unfortunately for her and for us he succeeded too well. From that day, men have had a false conception of God, and it is exactly this that has cut out from under them the ground of righteousness and driven them to reckless and destructive living.

Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God. Certain sects, such as the Pharisees, while they held that God was stern and austere, yet managed to maintain a fairly high level of external morality; but their righteousness was only outward.

Instinctively we try to be like our God, and if He is conceived to be stern and exacting, so will we ourselves be. The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure.

The fellowship of God is delightful beyond all telling. He communes with His redeemed ones in an easy, uninhibited fellowship that is restful and healing to the soul.

He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust. He may sometimes chasten us, it is true, but even this He does with a smile, the proud, tender smile of a Father who is bursting with pleasure over an imperfect but promising son who is coming every day to look more and more like the One whose child he is.”

– A.W. Tozer in The Root of the Righteous, pp. 13-16. As quoted in the newest Banner of Truth Magazine (issue 531; Dec. 2007).

Tony’s Book Club pick #4: The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer (0060684127, book review)

Weighing in at just 3.4 ounces, Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy is a tiny book with a heavyweight hook! Of all the great works out there on the attributes of God, this is my favorite.

I was first introduced to Tozer when I led a group of local college students through the book, The Pursuit of God (another excellent, must-read). I was drawn especially to Tozer’s simplicity, biblical depth and straight talk. In articulating the sweet communion the believer enjoys with God, Tozer communicates with a clarity no author (except maybe Martyn Lloyd-Jones) can match. Pound-for-pound, no writer provides the preacher more quotes than Tozer!

The Knowledge of the Holy is a 23-chapter, 120-page study of the attributes of God. It is the perfect size for group studies or to recommend to readers who have trouble with larger books.

Tozer covers the attributes you would expect (immutability, omniscience, transcendence, omnipresence, faithfulness, goodness, justice, mercy, grace, love and sovereignty of God). But he throws in some chapters that often are forgotten in short attribute studies, like the Self-sufficiency and Self-existence of God.

Tozer writes out of a burden that each generation holds tightly to an accurate view of God.

“Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind” (p. 4). And on the page earlier he wrote, “Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.”

Tozer’s presentation of the attributes of God is passionate because a wrong understanding of God is (as he writes) ‘deadly.’ Our generation must look beyond the creedal affirmations we inherited and ask the honest question: Who do I believe God is? And since each Christian comprises the Church, this self-examination is necessary for everyone in the church (see p. 114).

Tozer properly shows that an accurate understanding of God flows first from faith in God and the accuracy of His Word. Without faith in the impossible (the resurrection, for example) there will never be a clear understanding of who God is. In the eternal, revelation must precede reason.

The danger for our generation (and every generation) comes when we fashion God into our own golden-calf-image. God is who He is and remains who He is. And, “were every man on earth to become an atheist, it could not affect God in any way. He is what He is in Himself without regard to any other. To believe in Him adds nothing to His perfections; to doubt Him takes nothing away” (p. 33).

It is the Christian’s duty and joy to pursue this God and Tozer proves himself to be a reliable guide in the journey.

The church’s great danger: Wrong thoughts about God

“Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.

Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. The long career of Israel demonstrates this clearly enough, and the history of the Church confirms it. So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards decline along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

Before the Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is, and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.”

- A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (HarperCollins: San Francisco), 1961, p. 4.