Home Book Reviews Book Review: A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

Book Review: A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy


A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy. New York: Harper One, 1961. 120 pages.

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            A.W. Tozer is one of those writers for whom you must read everything they write. His depth of insight and power of vocabulary make you read each page carefully and prayerfully. This book is one of those I had always heard about and finally decided to take time to read. I was not disappointed!

In this book, Tozer examines the attributes of God. He explains: “An attribute of God is whatever God has in any way revealed to be true of Himself” (12). Tozer makes a compelling case that it is essential for Christians to have a proper view of God. He warns: “The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God” (4). He adds: “The man who has a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems” (2). He notes that the greatest sin we can commit is idolatry, that is, creating a false image of who God is. He warns; “An idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand” (8).

Throughout this brief book, Tozer makes comments that force you to stop and think. He lifts up a high view of God, yet he is unashamed to confess his ignorance of much of the divine. He notes: “We cover our deep ignorance with words, but we are ashamed to wonder, we are afraid to whisper ‘mystery’” (18). Tozer can at times be very direct in his critique of modern Christianity such as when he says: “The picture of a nervous, ingratiating God fawning over men to win their favor is not a pleasant one; yet if we look at the popular conception of God, that is precisely what we see. Twentieth-century Christianity has put God on charity. So lofty is our opinion of ourselves that we find it quite easy, not to say enjoyable, to believe that we are necessary to God” (34).

Tozer states: “The awful majesty of the Godhead was mercifully sheathed in the soft envelope of human nature to protect mankind” (35). He also comments; “To be made for eternity and forced to dwell in time is for mankind a tragedy of huge proportions” (41). He also notes: “How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none” (47). Interestingly, he notes: “It is heartening to learn how many of God’s mighty deeds were done in secret” (63).

In describing the various attributes of God, Tozer concludes: “With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack? Surely we are the most favored of all creatures” (64). There are several quotes that struck me: “He gives but He does not give away” (66). “How strange to Him and how empty would sound the flat, stale, and profitless words heard in the average pulpit from week to week” (71). “It is a grave responsibility that a man takes upon himself when he seeks to edit out of God’s self-revelation such features as he in ignorance deems objectionable” (80). “Grace takes its rise far back in the heart of God, in the awful and incomprehensible, abyss of His holy being; but the channel through which it flows out to men is Jesus Christ” (93). “As we approach the Garden, our home before the Fall; the flaming sword is withdrawn. The keepers of the tree of life stand aside when they see a son of grace approaching” (96). “He may fear God’s power and admire His wisdom, but His holiness he cannot ever imagine” (104). “To be holy He does not conform to a standard. He is that standard” (105). “We must take refuge from God in God” (107). “Man’s will is free because God is sovereign” (111).

I also appreciated Tozer’s discussion of God’s sovereignty and humanity’s free will. Often people with a high view of God find no place for people to have any freedom to choose. Yet Tozer does a good job of showing how God can maintain His sovereignty and yet choose to allow people choice.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It reminds me that I need to regularly take time to meditate upon the nature and attributes of God. A high view of God puts every other aspect of my life into proper perspective. If you have not read Tozer before, you need to acquaint yourself with writers who go deep in their thought and spare not their readers with politically correct jargon! Be prepared for God to challenge you as you read!

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