The Knowledge of the Holy

I recently finished reading A.W. Tozer’s book, The Knowledge of the Holy. It was a second reading for me (though my memory of the first reading turned out to be more sketchy than I thought!). I read it again because it was included as part of the curriculum for the Collegiate Mentoring Program, which I helped to facilitate this summer.

Even though I’m a pastor, I don’t typically read a lot of theology. My inclination is to think of theological discourse as too ethereal, too impractical. It doesn’t often feel like there’s a clear tie-in from the study of God (theology) to the experience of God (theopraxis), so (I’m embarrassed to say) I often just glaze over the theology. This is a personal weakness, and I think some would say it’s a general weakness for the network of churches with whom I’m associated.

But what I appreciated about this book — and the group context in which it was digested — is the way that it genuinely created space for us to think about God, shape our thoughts about God, and enhance our experience of God. The chapters of this book are short — each one centered around a single attribute of God — and it could be tempting to clump them all together in one big reading on the day before our Group Discussions of the book. But we all encouraged each other (and provided a sort of implicit accountability for each other) to take in the chapters of this book slowly: ideally one chapter per day. And the chapters really did have much greater impact when they were given space to breathe.

The Knowledge of the Holy was written in 1961. Consequently, the language and style of Tozer’s writing felt old-fashioned: kind of a cross between King James’ 17th Century English and mid-20th Century Modernism. It seemed to me that Tozer harped on some themes that may have been more necessary for readers in 1961 (a thoroughly Modern generation) than they are for readers in 2019 (a thoroughly Post-Modern generation). At the same time, there were other elements of Tozer’s writing that seemed surprisingly fresh and contemporary — even though they were written almost 60 years ago.

When it comes to the real substance of the book, though, I really appreciated the perspective that seemed to drive Tozer’s writing: “We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.” He said one of the most meaningful things about a person might be one’s answer to the question, “What comes to your mind when you think about God?”

My favorite chapters in this book were Chapter 3, A Divine Attribute of God: Something True About God (the end of Tozer’s introduction), Chapter 20, The Love of God, and Chapter 22, The Sovereignty of God. Really, though, I felt all of the chapters were useful — and I heartily recommend this book to any Christian who wishes to deepen their understanding and appreciation for the God of the Bible.

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