Whenever I want to get deep into the theology of scripture and truly immerse myself within the glory that is the depth of God’s word, AW Tozer is not the writer I look to to satisfy my desire; he is however one of the writers I look to when I want some good light reading or am in the mood for a devotional study as opposed to a intellectual treatise. This is not to say that Tozer is not as intelligent or as gifted as other Christian writers, only that he approaches writing in a different manner, one meant to talk with you and challenge you rather than strictly educate you.
Echoes From Eden is a short book by Tozer which begins with the premise that man is lost but not abandoned and that the voice of God still echoes from the garden, reverberating throughout the generations the call of “Adam, where art thou?”
This premise made, Tozer goes on to discuss the particulars of his thesis: why God is calling out to us, how God is calling out to us, and what the Christian’s responsibility is in all of it as well as what they should be keeping in mind in the course of their Christian duty.
It is difficult to offer a concise synopsis of the book due to the often conversational style that Tozer employs. He does not move methodically from one point to the next as he expounds his thesis, rather he sets his premise and then addresses what comes along with that premise. Each chapter addresses the premise, but each chapter does not flow from the preceding one or lead into the next, which is why I find summary difficult as each chapter is a mini-devotional in itself. It may be that I simply lack the capability to summarize the book, it would be much easier to do a chapter by chapter analysis, though I don’t care for the monotony of that.
Overall there are various insights which Tozer presents with the book ending on the challenge that the Christian should be mindful of their accountability to God. Tozer’s goal here is to point out that in churches one doctrine may often come to overshadow all of the rest, in this case that of justification by faith. Tozer points out that while it “delivers us from the fruitless struggle to be good” it also results in a Christian life in which the individual ends their Christian venture with the turning to Christ rather than continuing to endeavor with Christ.
He goes on to point out that the Christian should ever be aware that though they will not face the judgment seat which leads to hell that they will still stand accountable before God for what they did with their gift of grace – that is his challenge.
Other topics discussed include the [hypothetically] amoral individual, the reality of the soul, the Christian being the true realist and the fact of the conscience. Each discussion has its own insights however since the book is only 120 pages long (and is a small book in size as well) I won’t bother discussing these, it’d be much more profitable to simply read the book.
–“Spiritual victory comes only by the knowledge that we died.”
–“As a result, justification as it is now understood and preached and emphasized and hammered on up and down the country, is causing believers to throw all responsibility over on God, and we conceive ourselves to be happy, satisfied Christians without a responsibility in the world except to give out a tract once in a while.”
-“But I do not wish myself in any other period of the world’s history. These times are God Almighty’s gift to me as a Christian and I consider myself on probation, sensing that God is really interested in what one of the least of His servants is going to do about the time in which he lives.”
When I said I liked Tozer for a good light read, the term ‘light’ is used in reference to his theology. He’s not one to get bogged down picking through scripture to prove his point or to dwell on any various doctrine which might often come up for debate. It is by conscious effort that he does not take up the more intellectual pursuit in his writing, while this does allow for very enjoyable devotional writing it also results in tipping the scale too far to one side which can then result in bad theology.
In the third chapter of Tozer’s book he makes the statement that,
“God is able to do His mighty work in His own way and the Holy Spirit has come into this world to take polemics away from the scholar and give it back to the human heart. The believer’s faith in the deity and person of Jesus does not rest upon his ability to comb through history and arrive at logical conclusions concerning historical facts… It is no longer an intellectual problem – it is a moral problem!
…I repeat: that the use for [your Christian mind] will not be in the realm of divine evidences. The Holy Ghost takes care of that.”
In light of this quote it is quite easy to see why Tozer’s work should be directed more towards the devotional aspect of Christian writing than the theological. Now, I by no means mean to object to the statement that God is able to do His mighty work in His own way or that the Holy Spirit is the mode of that working – however, I do not think that the goal of the Holy Spirit entering the world is to take away polemics (‘the practice of theological controversy to refute errors of doctrine’) or to refute intellectual pursuit of the scriptures, apologetics, hermeneutics and the study of theology in general.
It is through the Holy Spirit working in the heart that one comes into faith and while Christianity is a moral problem it does bring forth many intellectual issues which serve to grow the believer in the faith and allow them to better understand that moral problem. The former is the milk, the latter the solid food that Paul speaks of in Corinthians.
It is the moral issue, the saving from sin, which brings the individual into faith, but that cannot be cut from the intellectual issue – the fact that there is a God, that he created the world and was made incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ in order to save those sinners facing that moral problem, that he died for that sin and rose again and did not potentially but effectually saved those the Father calls from that sin, once and for all, that he issued a sign of his covenant in baptism, set forth his supper and that he will return again; each of these areas has its own Biblical intricacies.
Furthermore, Tozer’s quote presumes that it was at some point not a moral problem, only becoming one with the coming of the Spirit – yet it has always been a moral problem, even since the garden, indeed it began in the garden.
It is due to this shying away from intellectualism that Tozer may followup his statement in saying that, “I have refused to become involved in arguments and controversy over the matter of eternal security, because I want the Holy Spirit to help me and guide me and He will not help me if I insist on fooling around in those areas that are not the most important in Christian truth and proclamation.”
It may be true that eschatology, modes of baptism, how best to perform the Eucharist, whether tongues are still valid and various other debated topics are not immediately vital for saving faith through the proclamation of the gospel, however that is not to say that there is not a truth in each area, that knowing that truth will not aide the Christian in their walk, and the Christian teacher should proclaim those truths
Besides, one can hardly say that perseverance of the saints (or it’s watered-down cousin, “once saved always saved”) is not one of the most important Christian truths, for what security and what hope does the believer have if they cannot even be sure that they will not fall right back into the pit should they lose concentration for a moment – especially when it can be summed up in the simple statement of Christ that “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out (John 6:37).” Frankly, I fail to see where there is room for debate.
There are many truths within Christianity that are not needed to be known in order for the individual to attain salvation, as Tozer says they need not comb through history or theology or philosophy to develop a systematic theology before they’re able to become a Christian, however that is not to say that theology is no longer relevant or that only the moral issue should be stood upon. Tozer falls into his own hole, for he states that “religious people are prone to select a favorite Bible doctrine or truth and to hold to that one truth at the expense of other basic tenets,” and this is exactly what Tozer does at this point, he creates a dichotomy and emphasizes the moral truth at the expense of the intellectual when in truth the two are bound more closely than the consummated marriage.
A few final criticisms I’ll offer of Tozer is of his statement that “You live in that body of yours, sir, and you cannot properly blame your body for anything. Your body is what you make it to be. Your body is not a responsible being. It is guiltless and without blame.”
Correction: “I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:21-25)”
Lastly is his statement that “I do not think you can make the Bible say that a man who is dead in sin is a completely dead man – one who can neither be persuaded nor convinced, pleaded with nor appealed to, convicted or frightened.”
I simply return Tozer’s own words to him, ‘the Holy Spirit takes care of that’; our words may only reach the dead man as the Spirit gives him life. Besides, since when is there such a thing as being partially dead? Dead is an all or nothing deal, completely or not at all.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”–Ephesians 2:4-5
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”–Colossians 2:13-15
The main point being that its God that makes them alive, not us, not even themselves.
Ordained PCA | MDiv
May or may not be a Time Lord