I’ve tried for years. In various articles and now with The Knowledge of the Holy, and I have to say – with apologies to all who do – I just don’t like the guy. And perhaps worse, I don’t agree with a lot of what he has to say about God and the nature of faith and church community*
Here are the five things I find hardest to agree with in his work:
1. The characterization of science as a failure. Now, I’m not one to say science trumps everything – I don’t believe that. But I do believe in the practice of science as something that can align with the practice of faith. Tozer doesn’t seem to see that.
2. The portrayal of most humans, but not him, as looking for a weak, “everything goes” God. Of course, at some times all of us long for a God that will look with favor on the really stupid stuff we’re doing, but in actuality, I truly believe most humans want a God who, while loving them all the time, really wants to protect them from their own stupidity, even if that means being disciplined and hurt a little.
3. The tone of his writing. Because Tozer doesn’t refer to himself any time he’s talking about the “wrong” ways people believe and act, and because he seems to think – even as he says it’s impossible for humans to do so – that he has God figured out, I find him terribly arrogant. So much could be gained if he simply used himself as an example sometimes. Or if he admitted he didn’t know something. Then, maybe I could feel some camaraderie with him.
4. The literal reading of Scripture. Now, of course, this says so much more about my understanding of the nature of Scripture, but for me, it’s really hard to grasp some of his points when we just don’t read the Bible the same way. I see story and metaphor and poetry – he sees history. That’s a hard one for me to reconcile.
5. The lack of a pervading sense of compassion and grace toward humanity. This one thing makes it very hard for me to read him. So much of what he says seems to have written humans off, as if we cannot possibly “get it.” But if our God can love us and have enough compassion enough to send Godself, God’s own son to earth to give us the grace we don’t deserve, well, I wish Tozer could cut us a little slack, too.
*I realize I could be the wrong one here. Maybe my perceptions of these things are in error. I’m fully willing to admit that. So feel free to explain to me why I might be mistaken about Tozer, nice, okay?
Also, I haven’t given up on Tozer yet. I keep working through his books and discussing his writings with people. I’m not writing him off . . . just trying to find out why he makes me so darn nuts.
What do you think of A.W. Tozer? How is his work meaningful to you? How does is it not? Are there other writers you prefer to read?