27 March 2015

The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

     I made the mistake of reading Carrie’s review of The Pursuit of God before I even started the book, so I may have begun the book with an already tainted perception of it. I would like to think; however, that I would have come to some of the same conclusions without reading what she had to say. I was already a little skeptical when I saw that Mr. Tozer was a pastor without formal training. *sigh* I’m not even going to start ranting about that. Also, I knew there were just going to be some things I disagreed with when I read that he was a Methodist minister. I’m sure he is a sincere believer with a serious love for the Lord, but I knew we were going to have rather large theological differences.

Reading to Know - Book Club

     That being said, I feel like Mr. Tozer and I could have had a better conversations if he stuck to his points rather than attempting to hammer them home by pointing out how “many misguided Christians today think…” or “Churches today often blindly do…” I actually came away totally unsure of who he was talking about. It kind of sounded like everyone except Mr. Tozer himself.  He even went so far as to say that most churches don’t encourage their members to pursue God. I apparently lucked out and went my entire life to that slim percentage of churches that did encourage their members to pursue God. In, fact, somehow despite my immersion in the intellectual side of theology, the churches I grew up in actually encouraged a heart and head approach to God. Who knew how close I was to attending one of the GINORMOUS amount of churches who have absolutely NO idea about how to actually have a relationship with the Lord?! Lucky me!
     Ok, all sarcasm aside I now have to come to grips with a few of his points. His tone was just so distracting it was hard to get to these points. Mainly, Mr. Tozer is all about the experience. This really shouldn’t come as a shock since he is a Methodist minister. I don’t feel like I’m denigrating the experience, when I say it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Some people (you can’t actually SEE me but I’m pointing at myself) grow up with no memory of a conversion experience, but are still somehow able to be awed by the work of Christ in their lives. And some people do have quite a dramatic experience and also end up awed by the work of Christ in their lives. God works in all kinds of ways, and to insist that He only work in one is, at best, a little arrogant.
     Also, somewhat unsurprisingly Mr. Tozer is very skeptical of theology. Now, I agree that one can know theology and not have a very thriving relationship with God, but I feel like a lot of misguided Christians (sorry, I can’t stop) think that a strong emphasis on theology immediately equals a poor relationship with God. Believe it or not, one can have both! “The highest love of God is not intellectual, it is spiritual,” says Mr. Tozer, but Luke 10:27 says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” (my emphasis). Jesus Himself believes that both are important. Why are both important? (I mean, besides the fact that Jesus said so, which honestly is actually good enough of a reason) Because we are sinners and sometimes our “feelings” and “emotions” will fail. We will grow weary and in those moments we just need to hold on to what we KNOW. There is a popular song from a few years ago about our relationship with God. It says “More like falling in love than something to believe in/More like losing my heart than giving my allegiance.” I imagine if one treated marriage this way (No honey, we don’t need to make vows, we just need to be in loooove), it would go horribly awry. Why do people feel like we can treat our faith this way. We need the heart AND we need the head to be fully engaged. One is no better than the other.
     In chapter five, Mr. Tozer talks about Universal Presence. He starts (of course) with talking about how he is the ONLY person who is comfortable talking about the universal presence of God. “Christian teachers shy away from its full implications…and, if they mention it at all, mute it down.” I’ve actually not experienced this, but ok, Mr. Tozer. Later in the chapter he talks about the biblical biggies: John, Moses, and Isaiah and even talks about later saints like Luther and posits the idea that they were perhaps more spiritually receptive than others. I’m not necessarily saying he was wrong, but I personally think the reason those biblical characters are so powerful is that there really isn’t anything bigger or better about them. The fact that they are all ordinary sinners like us is more of a testament to the power of God. He uses ordinary sinful people to enact His plan.
     In chapter eight, Mr. Tozer takes up the subject of restoration. He says that the fall created an estranged relationship between creature and Creator (true) and how we need to be restored to that right relationship (true). So, we need to work on that (um…?) and somehow this is a separate work from what Christ already has done (wait, what?). I feel like there is a bit of self going on in Mr. Tozer’s thinking. I don’t think he would agree with me, and I think he is very sincere, but every chapter (especially this one) seems designed to pump up the Christian (Emotion! Experience!) and encourage us to do something. I guess I feel like the work has already been done by Christ. Not that we are off the hook. We are told to examine our lives and of course we want to look more and more like Christ, but I just think there is a worry from Mr. Tozer that Christendom just needs to work harder. I think this might be a misplaced worry.
     So, I guess at the end of this book I’m glad I read it, but I won’t be reading it again. And I don’t think I will attempt anymore of his books either. I don’t read enough theology though, so I am glad to have got this one under my belt. I'm actually looking forward to someone's review who actually LIKED this book. Thank you to Carrie and Shonya for the opportunity to read this with you all!


Carrie said...

"We read [blog posts] to know that we are not alone."

I'm sort of relieved to know that it's not just me. And I'm glad you read it. :D

It's certainly an interesting read but I just think there are other books out there which are ever so much better than this one in preaching the gospel (which is essentially preaching the love) of Christ. I wouldn't pick this one and I'm now a little wary of the name Tozer.

But! I, too, am looking forward to reading everyone's take on this one. I think it'll make good conversation.

Barbara H. said...

I was surprised that you and Carrie were so offended by his tone. I didn't think anything negatively of it nor thought that he was promoting emotion and experience over knowledge. I thought he was promoting experience and not "just" knowledge (like the Pharisees who had great knowledge but no true genuine spiritual experience.) I also didn't get any "I'm the only one who is right" vibes. I don't know what the church situation was in his day that led him to point out what he thought were its errors.

Although I prefer a pastor with seminary training, it didn't bother me that Tozer was not trained in that way - Spurgeon wasn't, either.

But....different authors will appeal to different people. A former pastor once pointed out that many of the major and minor prophets were contemporaries, and one reason for that was that different ones would appeal to different listeners. I know many people love Oswald Chambers' book My Utmost For His Highest, but I read it once and didn't care for it. It's been so long that I can't remember specifics, but I was disinclined to read anything of his ever again. But I don't doubt he's a good man and God has used him.

"Different strokes for different folks" as they say. :-)

BerlinerinPoet said...

Carrie: I too am wary of the name Tozer though part of me wants to try again because maybe this is his "warning to the church" book and the others are better? I think this one has already made good conversation.

BarbaraH: Not having seminary training wasn't necessarily going to count against him if I felt he made his points well. It just already made me wary. That and knowing we were already going to disagree on some theology. I did somewhat wonder what was going on in the church during that time. Perhaps if he could have been more specific about what exactly it was, that might have helped. It seemed like all of Christendom was having trouble with every aspect of Christianity.
I have to confess that I started reading My Utmost for His Highest and I literally had no idea what he was saying, so I stopped. So, I definitely agree, "Different strokes." hehe

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I loved this one, but as Barbara says, "different strokes. . . "

I think it had the most to do with the fact that I've been grappling with lots of INTELLECTUAL things lately, and haven't been "experiencing" enough. Plus, I don't read enough such books, I guess, so I'm sort of a dry well. :-)

BerlinerinPoet said...

I just can't really stomach the one OVER the other. I don't think it has to be that way. But I do understand that certain books mean more at certain times of one's life.