Who is A.W. Tozer? and, Why Should We Listen to Him?

A.W. Tozer was a mid-Twentieth Century pastor and Christian writer. His writings have had a profound impact on many Christians, and after having posted several articles using quotes and thoughts from A.W. Tozer, I thought it would be prudent to explain who he is and why he matters. After all, there are plenty of great things being written today, so why bother reading from a man such as Tozer?

TozerFor a short biography, we should start with the name. A.W. stands for Aiden Wilson. He lived from 1897-1963, serving his entire ministry with The Alliance (The Christian and Missionary Alliance). Most notably were his thirty years spent at Southside Alliance Church in Chicago. It was during his time in Chicago that he was appointed the editor of the Alliance Weekly Magazine, through which he expanded his ministry beyond the reaches of his Chicago church.[1] It was in the pages of this magazine that much of his thinking and writing was expressed, as well as in many books and tracts.

Of his writings, two books are considered classics. The first, titled “The Pursuit of God”, explores the Christian’s need for discovering the depths of a personal relationship with God through the person and work of Jesus Christ. In it he moves the reader toward an experience of God that is not stuck in cold-hearted theology and a cognitive assent to Christian doctrine.  Rather, it is in the direct interaction with the God of the Universe in which man can truly discover meaning and truth. It was such writings that led some to call Tozer a Christian mystic, and anyone willing to spend time considering his thoughts through his writings will find a willing mentor into the deeper things of God.

The second work considered a Christian classic is “The Knowledge of the Holy.” In this work, Tozer unwraps the wonder of God as a Person. Although this is a treatment of the attributes of God, it is in no way similar to what one might encounter in a standard theology text. In fact, Tozer seeks to restore our understanding of God’s majesty and preeminence.  He 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 worshiping men…The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the case of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us.”[2]

As he describes and unravels each aspect of God’s character, he pushes back on our easy-to-digest ideas of who God is and reminds us of whom He really is as Creator, Sustainer and Lord of the universe.  In so doing, he seeks to once again give Christians a high view of God which will, in turn, lead to holy living and the redemption of humanity.

Having reviewed a snapshot of the man, let me explain the three areas that I think make Tozer important for today. First, his prophetic ideas, articulated in the middle of the Twentieth Century, are as true today as they were then. Maybe more so, since so many Christians ignored his warnings that much of what he said about the diminishing influence of the church has come true.  As quoted above, the Church’s “low view of God” is an infection within the Evangelical Church that, in many ways, remains embedded in the culture and teachings across denominational lines.  The result is a widespread ineffectiveness in dealing with the social and cultural decay we are currently experiencing.  Tozer believed, and rightly so, that as Christians yield to the reality of God’s greatness that it would transform them, and thus transform the Church, as well as the world.

Secondly, his voice was clear regarding the trappings of external success, to which many Churches succumb. He was able to see through the glitz and glamour that was growing in his own time and identify the real issues—the heart issues—that Christians were experiencing. This was especially true as he noted the decline experienced by the Church as its leaders were wooed by popularity and fame. The shallow reality of spiritual health was glazed over by what the Church appeared to be in the midst of its own apparent success. We certainly have not come much further today, and the trappings of popularity are even closer at hand through the increased role of new types of media.

Thirdly, he points to Christ and the life of holiness as the proper expression of what being a Christian is really about. From that standpoint, the Christian can truly live each day through the power of the Holy Spirit as He glorifies God through us. Upon the foundation of willing submission and ready obedience, God will once again move the Church into a transformative organism in culture.  Even so, today, we desperately need this kind of revival.

Parenthetically, we of the Colson Center desire to see this kind of revival of Christians, leading to renewal in families and churches, and ultimately, an awakening of all people to redemption found in Jesus Christ.  For a further discussion regarding this vision see T.M. Moore’s article, “What We Seek:  A Kingdom Manifesto.”

Knowledge_of_the_Holy_by_TozerSo, this is A.W. Tozer. As you see more articles reflecting his thinking and pursuit of God, I hope you will hear the prompting of God’s Spirit as he continues to use this man’s voice to encourage the church toward holy living and transforming presence.

 

(Original Post on April 10, 2013 at the Worldview Church: http://www.worldviewchurch.org/worshiparts/articles/19543-who-is-aw-tozer-and-why-should-we-listen-to-him)

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Posted on January 6, 2014, in Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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