Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review: The Knowledge of the Holy

The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer, 1961

If I were to pick a book that is completely opposite of Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”, this would be it. While I concluded that Rob Bell wrote of God in a flippant, disrespectful way, A. W. Tozer writes in such a way that leaves the reader in awe of who God is. I find it ironic that both books are published by the same publisher: HarperCollins Publishers.

Tozer doesn’t waste any words in this book. In fact, one of the ideas that Tozer repeats throughout this little book is that any words used to describe God are merely human, finite words, and thus, man can never reach an accurate description of God. It is this type of writing that leaves the reader careful of not only what he will say of God, but how he will think about God. “The Knowledge of the Holy” is an incredibly simple book. Tozer writes with no biases, no bent toward one theological extreme. He writes with incredible clarity and gives helpful insights towards a good number of God’s attributes. There is not a chapter in the book that does not contain some small, understandable quote that leaves the reader with a nugget of truth to mull over. Indeed, it is the sort of book that could take weeks to read in spite of its small number of pages.

Tozer begins with three chapters to establish the rest of the book: 1) “Why We Must Think Rightly of God”; 2) “God Incomprehensible”; and 3) “A Divine Attribute: Something True About God.” In these chapters, Tozer stresses our total inability to fully understand any single truth about God, but why we must strive to understand as rightly as we can about God. He explains exactly what he means by the word ‘attribute’: “If an attribute is something true of God, it is also something that we can conceive as being true of Him. God, being infinite, must possess attributes about which we can know nothing. And attribute, as we can know it, is a mental concept, an intellectual response to God’s self-revelation. It is an answer to a question, the reply God makes to our interrogation concerning Himself.”

This is an incredibly simple book. The chapters are no more than 3-7 pages long. Each small chapter seeks to take an attribute of God and explain what we mean by it, why we use the words we do, what that means in relation to God’s other attributes, and why it is important for the Christian to think of God in this way. Let me give you an example from the chapter on the Love of God: “From God’s other known attributes we may learn much about His love. We can know, for instance, that because God is self-existent, His love had no beginning; because He is eternal, His love can have no end; because He is infinite, it has no limit; because He is immense, His love is an incomprehensibly vast, bottomless, shoreless sea before which we kneel in joyful silence and from which the loftiest eloquence retreats confused and abashed.” Such is the nature of this book!

My favorite chapter is on the Mercy of God. My personal experience with God’s Mercy thus far has been that of fear. I thank God each time He withholds judgment from me, but at the same time I am cowering before Him fearful that the next time I fail Him He will unleash His wrath upon me. Tozer has helped me to see differently. Listen to this: “If we could remember that the divine mercy is not a temporary mood but an attribute of God’s eternal being, we would no longer fear that it will someday cease to be. Mercy never began to be, but from eternity was; so it will never cease to be. It will never be more since it is itself infinite; and it will never be less because the infinite can never suffer diminution. Nothing that has occurred or will occur in heaven or earth or hell can change the tender mercies of our God. Forever His mercy stands, a boundless, overwhelming immensity of divine pity and compassion.” That totally rocked my feeble understanding of God’s mercy!

This book will strengthen your mind. This book will encourage your heart. This book will uplift your spirit to worship the one, true God. This book will open your eyes to the vast, incomprehensible God described so eloquently in the Bible. I will read “The Knowledge of the Holy” again, soon. Thank you A. W. Tozer for your helpful words.

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