Worldviews, Worship, and Wineskins

The Gospel at Work in Every Context

Friday Night Mystics: A. W. Tozer


Last week’s “Friday-Night Mystic” was Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection: a simple man who was madly in love with God.  Is simplicity an ideal of mysticism?  Would the one who wants to draw near to God jettison his intellect?  A. W. Tozer (among others) shows us this is not the case.  Passion for God is not the opposite of excellent scholarship and thinking.  In his writing and speaking, Pastor Tozer shows a consistent and thoughtful interatction with the world’s philosophies, arguments and pitfalls, as well as the church’s.  For example:

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

“The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.  Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

“For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart concieves God to be like.  We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.”  (from “Knowledge of the Holy”)

Tozer was the Pastor of Southside Alliance Church in Chicago from 1928 to 1959, but is probably best known for his devotional classic, “Pursuit of God”.  In that work, the church is called out for her apathy and God is exalted as worthy of passionate pursuit.  His indictment on the state of the church rings as true today as it did fifty years ago:

“Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies of the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold ‘right opinions,’ probably more than ever before in the history of the Church.  Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb.  To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and it its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’  This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.”  (Tozer’s preface.)

This modern mystic spent much of his energy lamenting the impotence and apathy of the church of his day.  But don’t be fooled.  He wasn’t just another angry critic (after all, Jesus’ bride is an easy target.)  Tozer’s chiding was the result of a sincere burning passion for the living Christ and a desire to see Him receive the worship He deserves:

“The moment the Spirit has quickened us to life in regeneration our whole being senses its kinship to God and leapus up in joyous recognition.  That is the heavenly birth without which we cannot see the kingdom of God.  It is, however, not an end, but an inception, for now begins the glorious pursuit, the heart’s happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead.  That is where we begin, I say, but where we stop no man has yet discovered, for there is in the awful and mysterious depths of the Triune God neither limit nor end.

Shoreless Ocean, who can sound thee?

Thine own eternity is round Thee,

Majesty divine!

“To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.”


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