Book Review: The Pursuit of God – By A.W. Tozer

Tozer The Pursuit of God.pngLetter IIn his book The Knowledge of the Holy A.W. Tozer outlines what it is we mean when we speak of God, in The Pursuit of God he outlines what our response should be once we have found him. The Christian endeavor doesn’t end with salvation, with discovering God (or as it were, with God discovering us); even after God is acknowledged we are still to strive after him, indeed, because of this acknowledgment we strive after him. As Tozer says: “To have found God and still pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love…”

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And yet the problem for many Christians according to Tozer is that they may have come to a ‘right’ understanding of God and yet aren’t experiencing Him in their lives, “To most people God is an inference, not a reality. He is a deduction from evidence which they consider adequate; but He remains personally unknown to the individual.” Furthermore “Everything is made to center upon the initial act of ‘accepting’ Christ (a term, incidentally, which is never found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls.”

This the problem which Tozer confronts, this loss of pursuit which hits Christians who settle for a simply intellectual knowledge of God or who believe that the work of Christ ceases to affect their lives after salvation. If they do continue their work they do so by turning to programs, methods, organizations, and activities, believing that the pursuit has ended; yet God is speaking and the Christian must strive for experience with him. We must continue to pursue him and experience him, despite obstacles which stand in our way such as the fear of being found out as inadequate, complacency, or perhaps worst of all, the dividing of the Christian life into various spheres and being content to confine our religious life, our pursuit after God, into simply one of these spheres.

As Tozer notes: “One of the greatest hindrances to internal peace which the Christian encounters is the common habit of dividing our lives into two areas, the sacred and secular… Its deadliest effect is the complete cleavage it introduces between religion and life… Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry. It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything.” The outplay of this is often spoken of as the doctrine of vocation.

This the goal after which Tozer is striving, that we make God the Lord of our entire lives. Not just the lord of a certain moment to which we attribute our salvation. Not just to that hour or two a week we spend in church. Not just to a sphere of religion, apart from our work and our family and our hobbies. Rather for Tozer the pursuit of God is to indwell our entire life and we are to continue to strive to not only know of God but to experience him as well.

Overall this is a solid devotional book by Tozer. At just over 100 pages it is a fairly short (and easy) read which will no doubt serve the reader well in their desire to pursue God.

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Memorable Quotes:

-“[Abraham] has everything, but he possessed nothing.”

-“Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified.”

-“Obedience to the word of Christ will bring inward revelation of the Godhead.”

-“Rest is simply release from that burden. It is not something we do, it is what comes to us when we cease to do.”

-“The whole course of life is upset by failure to put God where he belongs. We exalt ourselves instead of God and the curse follows.”

-“In the Scriptures there is practically no effort made to define faith… It assumes the presence of faith and shows what it results in, rather than what it is.”

Specific Criticisms

Despite the overall good review of this book there are a few criticisms which I have of it. One of the most prominent comes from this statement: “God made us for Himself: that is the only explanation that satisfies the heart of the a thinking man, whatever his wild reason may say. Should faulty education and perverse reasoning lead a man to conclude otherwise, there is little that any Christian can do for him. For such a man I have no message.

While it may be perfectly true that there is nothing any Christian can do for them (and even that is a stretch), to say that you have no message for such a man while proclaiming the Christian message is patently absurd. The statement is to say “If you are already seeking God then I have a message for you, otherwise sorry bub, you’re on your own.” The Gospel message is expressly for the person which Tozer notes here, to dismiss them on such brittle ground as “faulty education” is to do a disservice to the message being given. One might argue that this Gospel message isn’t the express concern of this book, but I disagree, for any book concerned with Christianity the Gospel is the only concern it may have – it is simply expressed in different forms and at different stages.

A more minor issue comes in the statement that “Self is the opaque veil that hides the Face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction.” While this may be true Tozer fails to elaborate exactly by what means this experience comes about, how it is removed (that is, by the work of Christ).

A final issue which I take with Tozer in this text is his statement that “Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him; imperfect it may be, but a true work nonetheless, and the secret cause of all desiring and seeking and praying which may follow.” This comes following Tozer’s introduction of prevenient grace (that said, this issue is one general theological theory, Tozer is more Arminian that I). I believe it is a vast disservice to call the enlightening work of God in man “imperfect.” A more correct term may be ‘immature’, in the sense the sanctification has only just begun and will grow to maturity throughout the Christian’s life. I will grant that it may be perfectly possible that Tozer has the same idea in mind with the term ‘imperfect’, that it will be ‘perfected’ over time through sanctification, however this isn’t the impression which is given.

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Eugene Lilley (MDiv, MA) is a member of the Society of Christian Philosophers and the American Chesterton Society.

He may or may not be a Time Lord.

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