A.W. Tozer: A Passion for God

I few years ago I found myself wandering around a local “Christian” bookstore.  I was a new Christian, I attended a large, Charismatic Church and after much prayer, Bible reading and research I realized everything I thought I knew was wrong. I was now aware of the false doctrine being taught in my Church and I was searching for a way out, a new home Church and the truth about God and experiencing a new hunger to learn His word. While perusing the shelves of the  bookshop I began talking to a woman who had worked there for many years and had also at one point attended my Church and left for the same reasons. I started talking to her and she recommended I start reading A. W. Tozer. I was blown away by his writing, he could articulate the swelling emotion I often had when thinking about God and the enormity of His mercy and grace.

As I read I started to realize that Tozer was a mystic, and even though I found his writing incredibly beautiful, lyrical and inspiring something bugged me about it. I think for years I could never reconcile in my heart how I could hold up other writer’s with intense scrutiny regarding their own mystical yarns and Roman Catholic influences but I overlooked these same issues when it came to Tozer. I have since began to attend  an Independent Baptist Church and believe the Doctrine’s of Grace,  hold to the 5 points of Calvinism and much of what I read is bent in that direction.  Although I no longer read much from Tozer I still find this to be a  pretty interesting article and book review from Tim Challies.  Reading it this morning  brought these same thoughts to the surface regarding Tozer  all these years later. It’s a sad and solemn warning that not living by the entire counsel of God can lead any of us into a serious ditch.

A very sad, but telling quote from Tozer’s wife concerning her husband, Leonard Odam, whom she married after Tozer had passed away: “Aiden Tozer loved Jesus Christ but Leonard Odam loves me.”

From Tim Challies website : http://www.challies.com

A.W. Tozer: A Passion for God by Lyle Dorsett

A Passion for God

A.W. Tozer is a man whose ministry has long fascinated me. A man who held closely to biblical, Protestant theology, he was also a man who loved the old Catholic mystics. He had little formal education, yet had the ability to hold the most educated of men and women at rapt attention. He had a single-minded devotion to Christ and the highest respect for the Scriptures. Reading A Passion for God has only increased my fascination with him, for here we see more strange and seemingly irreconcilable opposites. Biographer Lyle Dorsett has written a study of the man that deals as honestly with his faults as with the areas that are laudable. And in this case the faults are almost shocking.

Tozer was a man who loved Scripture and loved nothing more than preaching its truths to all who would listen. “A.W. Tozer heralded biblical truth. He loved the Bible and unflinchingly preached what he believed people needed to hear, regardless of what they wanted.” Yet he was a man who neglected the mission field in his home. “On and off over the years, Aiden exercised his role as head of the family by encouraging times of family devotions. These never lasted more than a few weeks. As one son explained, the children just did not want it and they were seldom all together for extended periods in any case.”

Tozer was a man who dedicated himself to reading, study and prayer and who delighted to be in the presence of God. “There is no way to measure the hours he spent in a typical day or week reading books and wrestling with ideas, but it was substantial. In a similar vein, we know that he increasingly devoted many hours each week praying, meditating on Scripture, and seeking deeper intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ. During the 1930s Tozer read voraciously, and he also developed a magnificent obsession to be in Christ’s presence—just to worship Him and to be with Him.” Yet he was a man who was emotionally and spiritually distant from his own wife. “By early 1928 the Tozers had a routine. Aiden found his fulfillment in reading, preparing sermons, preaching, and weaving travel into his demanding and exciting schedule, while Ada learned to cope. She dutifully washed, ironed, cooked, and cared for the little ones, and developed the art of shoving her pain deep down inside. Most of the time she pretended there was no hurt, but when it erupted, she usually blamed herself for not being godly enough to conquer her longing for intimacy from an emotionally aloof husband.”

These strange inconsistencies abound. Tozer saw his wife’s gifts for hospitality and encouraged her in them; yet he disliked having visitors in his own home. He preached about the necessity of Christian fellowship within the family of Christ; yet he refused to allow his family or his wife’s family to visit their home. For every laudable area of his life there seemed to exist an equal and opposite error. This study in opposites leaves for a fascinating picture of a man who was used so greatly by God, even while his life had such obvious sin.

Though certainly not an exhaustive biography (weighing in at just 164 pages before the indexes and appendices) A Passion for God is nevertheless a good and valuable one. Those who have enjoyed Tozer’s writings will find here the life of a man who can and should be much admired for his deep spirituality and for his overwhelming love for Scripture. They will find here also the sad reality that Tozer, as have so many men before and after him, was willing to sacrifice his family on the altar of ministry. They will wrestle with the great irony that as Tozer grew closer to his Savior he seemed to grow more and more distant from his wife and family. His life stands as both an inspiration and a solemn warning.



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7 responses to “A.W. Tozer: A Passion for God

  1. dawnmarie4

    Thanks T! I didn’t know this!

  2. I read that article by Tim Challies this morning, and now I’m seeing it again here! This is an interesting one for me. Tozer is one of my favourite Christian authors, and I would say Knowledge of the Holy, and Man: The Dwelling Place of God are in my Top 5 books. For me, he articulates so well the God that I know and love, and yes, as you say, he “could articulate the swelling emotion I often had when thinking about God and the enormity of His mercy and grace”.

    The mysticism is something I am struggling with. A friend of mine is into contemplative prayer and has been reading The Cloud of Unknowing. Online reviews tell me this is a guidebook to contemplative prayer. Yet in Knowledge of the Holy, Tozer speaks favourably of this book and says “This cloud [of unknowing] is between the seeker and God so that he may never see God clearly by the light of understanding nor feel Him in the emotions. But by the mercy of God faith can break through into His presence if the seeker but believe the Word and press on”. Speaking of another book, Spiritual Guide, he says that it teaches truth when it says that “God will take the soul by the hand and lead her through the way of pure faith and causing the understanding to leave behind all considerations and reasonings He draws her forward”.

    So…I’m a bit confused. I’ve heard other people raising concerns about his mysticism, and the fact that if you’re into mysticism that can lead to aloofness from people, and a kind of spiritual pride, which they feel is the reason for the problems with his family.

    But Tozer articulates so well my own feelings, and I benefit enormously from reading what he writes.

    Anyway, thanks for this article! It’s making me think 🙂 and sorry for the long comment, I’m kind of thinking aloud…

  3. dawnmarie4

    That is very sad.

  4. Hi Teresa! I’m glad to see you back and I hope your health is improving.
    This is an interesting post for me today. We’ve had a couple of Tozer’s books on our shelf for over 30 years, but I’ve never read one! I was actually thinking of reading one of them soon – I’ve always had reserve about taking the time because of the mystical leanings. Not that I wouldn’t find value, but because there’s so many other books I’m wanting to read that I won’t have to wade through quetionable things on.

    Thanks for this sister – have a great weekend.

  5. I like a lot of his stuff, especially The Dwelling Place of God. Too bad about his family life. I believe this is a good example why we need to pray for each other and especially our pastors and teachers. Is this not a sad example of the warfare going on? I thank God that He is faithful, and Romans 8:38-39 is becoming more and more dear to me! Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing! Not the biggest thorn, and dear Tozer had a mighty big one! Blessings!

  6. Teresa

    Ladies the thing that really strikes me about this is in learning to follow Christ, and reading his word I feel like I am even better equipped to love people. I have a long long way to go but the “old me” before Jesus was much more impatient, angry and I wanted friends and loved ones to be in a relationship with me often on my terms. How did someone so immersed in God’s word go so far off the rails as Tozer did. I have always loved his writing but I wonder if being caught up in RC mysticism was the first thing that started leading him down the wrong path, and it obviously took over to the point that he had this blindness about relationships with people. Petra you are right, God allows those thorns for a really good reason! I know for a fact that I am thankful for mine when I read things like this. It’s funny, I always think once something goes really right on my terms in life, or I get some level of success something comes along and “bam” humbles me. It’s frustrating but God chastens and disciplines those He loves. When I read all your comments I could not help thinking about Esau.

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