Thursday, July 13, 2017

Book Write-Up: The Wisdom of God, by A.W. Tozer

A.W. Tozer.  The Wisdom of God: Letting His Truth and Goodness Direct Your Steps.  Compiled and edited by James L. Snyder.  Bethany House, 2017.  See here to buy the book.

This book is a collection of A.W. Tozer’s reflections on the wisdom of God: God’s wisdom, Christ as the wisdom of God, and how people are saved so that they can walk in God’s wisdom.  The cover of the book says “never before published.”

Here are some reactions:

A.  Tozer stresses that the divine Logos of John 1 is based, not on Greek philosophy, but rather on Hebrew thought.  As examples of Hebrew thought, Tozer refers to the Wisdom of Solomon and the Wisdom of Ben Sira.  What Tozer neglects is that these works themselves drew from or engaged Greek thought.  Tozer also discusses Heraclitus, acting as if Heraclitus’ insights on the Logos resembled that of John 1, on some level.  Tozer’s argument on John 1 was not particularly convincing, but he does well to ask if the Logos of John 1 is similar to the Logos of Greek philosophy.

B.  As examples of the benefits of possessing divine wisdom, Tozer talks about believers knowing when God is disciplining them (as opposed to their misfortunes being caused by the devil), and believers being able to identify the hand of God in everything.  These are indeed desirable gifts to have: as Tozer says, being able to identify what God is doing will save one a lot of struggle and trouble.  But how many believers truly have these gifts?  I do not.  And I question whether people should be overly dogmatic about what God is doing.

C.  I identified with something that Tozer said on page 105: “Personally, I have always been afraid of souring down and hardening up into a self-assured, clever man who has seen all kinds of religion.  I know just where to put it, classify it, and what to do with every flash of fire that I see and every gust of heavenly wind, and every shining countenance.  I have always been afraid that I would get into that place and find myself, unknown to me, sitting in the seat of the scornful.”  I do not think that I know everything, or even most things, about religion.  But I do think that I have been around the block, and that new strands of thought that I hear can probably be categorized into what I already know.  It is easy for this attitude to lead me to a clinical view of religion, and that kind of view appeals to me because it can allow me to protect myself from religious tyranny.  But can such an approach insulate me, also, from spiritual wisdom?

D.  At times, Tozer came across as anti-intellectual, but Tozer went out of his way to say that this was not his intention.  Tozer believes that spiritual wisdom is accessible to everyone, whatever his or her level of education.  I hope so.  Would not one want and expect a loving God to act that way?  But what can check the tendency of some Christians to go overboard with their claims of spiritual revelation: to dogmatically claim that God is speaking to them, even though their supposed “revelation” goes against the Greek and the Hebrew, or what science demonstrates (not that science is infallible)?  Perhaps spiritual revelation is appropriate for certain areas, such as living the spiritual and moral life.  (And people can nitpick that claim, but I am not intending the claim to be the final word.  I’m just thinking here.)

E.  Throughout the book, Tozer contends against the misconception that Christianity is solely about escaping hell and going to heaven.  According to Tozer, it is about much more than that, and it includes walking in wisdom under God’s guidance.  Tozer is not for cheap grace, for he states that any Gospel that lacks repentance is a false Gospel.  As one who spiritually struggles, I tend to gravitate towards “grace” Gospels, yet Tozer does make a compelling point that faith should influence our lives.  Tozer presents scenarios of people who hear the Gospel, accept it, then forget about it, and people who are double-minded in the faith.  While the book could have used more grace, Tozer occasionally spoke to people who struggle.  He said that there is hope for seemingly impossible cases, that those who want to hear from God should take a spiritual retreat, and, quoting Thomas Aquinas, that “If thou lackest strength to take high flights to spirituality, then hide thee in the wounds of Jesus.”

F.  Appealing to John 20:29, Tozer highlights the importance of believing in God without proof.  Tozer argues that those who believe will then get the proof (or evidence) that they need, as they experience God.  What is the value of believing without proof, though?  Why does God value that, or want that?  Tozer should have addressed such questions.

G.  Tozer employs allegorical approaches, at times.  For example, in discussing Lady Folly in the Book of Proverbs, he talked about Queen Jezebel.  This added color and a stream-of-consciousness texture to the book, which enhanced it.

I am giving this book five stars.  It is thoughtful, and it comes across as concrete rather than vague, even though there are questions that I wish Tozer had addressed.  Tozer comes across as someone who has experienced the wisdom of God.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  My review is honest.

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