This book review was submitted as a graduate assignment in seminary. I was so moved by it that I couldn’t leave this critique as a simple writing in my archives. So, I’m listing it in the book review section of my website and recommending it as one every believer should read at least once in the course of their spiritual walk. While this is an academic paper, I left out most of the formalities. I urge you, Sons of God, read this book. It encapsulates what true relationship with God might look like; and the message inside will deeply impact your life in Christ. – Theresa Harvard Johnson on A. W. Tozer’s book, And He Dwelt Among Us
A. W. Tozer, commonly known as a 20th century prophet, was a renowned preacher, pastor, writer and author whose ministry spanned over 40 years across the Unites States and Canada. Tozer, who had no formal theological training, is best remembered for his intense focus on prayer and his passionate call for Christians to abandon the things of the world in pursuit of Christ. Tozer pastored a number of congregations including the Southside Alliance Church in Chicago, and the Avenue Alliance Church in Toronto, Canada. He was the editor of Alliance Magazine and authored more than 40 books including two “Christian classics: The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy” (The Alliance: Living The Call Together 2003). While Tozer was a successful author, he lived a very simple life and released his book royalties to those in need. Tozer, who was born in 1897, died in 1963 at the age of 66 and is buried in Akron, Ohio.
The book, And He Dwelt Among Us: Teachings From the Gospel of John by A. W. Tozer, focuses on helping Christians come to terms with God’s relationship with them and their relationship with God outside of theological, humanistic perspectives in which he is often limited to the extent of reasoning, intellectual debate and imagination. With the Gospel of John as his central focus, Tozer introduces readers to a mystical Christ which “simply refers to the cultivation of a deep appreciation for the unique nature of Christ and our fascination with Him” (Tozer 2009, 15). Tozer’s desire, however, is that the reader comes to know Christ solely under the guidance and revealing of the Holy Spirit, breaking free of how many Christians have been taught or have learned to perceive Him. Tozer states emphatically: “Certainly I am not against doctrine or theology and understanding what the Bible teaches, but some things go beyond intellectual knowledge” (Tozer 2009, 17). And it is from this perspective that readers are re-introduced to an incarnational God whose sole desire is to dwell with us.
In this revealing, however, Tozer clearly shows the reader how Christians often talk of how wonderful God is, but fail to truly grasp hold of the reality of it. He quotes John 1:11 which says, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” In this Tozer teaches that many believers are unable to receive the fullness of God because:
(1) Our personal priorities are out of order. He illustrates this through the parable of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-29 .
(2) We are stuck in routines and habits. The Jews faced this hindrance when they realized that “to receive Jesus Christ would have meant a change in their way of living. They refused to allow the pattern of their life to be disturbed” (Tozer 2009, 71).
(3) We do not want to go through a personal cleansing. Tozer notes that a pure heart is required to truly see God and many are unwilling to go through “inward housecleaning” (Tozer 2009, 72).
(4) We do not want to change the direction of our lives. Tozer said plainly that “many would choose sin over Jesus; they would rather have buzzards perch in their hearts than the heavenly dove come in” (Tozer 2009, 73.)
(5) We do not want to trust what we cannot see. In other words, Tozer believed that some Christians were not ready to walk in blind faith. They wanted to cling to what they could see and explain in the natural.
Speaking from a pastor’s heart, Tozer dedicates the remainder of the book to revealing the incarnate God to readers; convincing them to surrender to the will of the Holy Spirit; and illuminating the path to true intimacy with God. In a very unusual way, Tozer walks us through the revelation of Christ in the Gospel of John that takes us into the very center of God’s will concerning his great love for us.
The overall purpose of A. W. Tozer’s book, And He Dwelt Among Us: Teachings From The Gospel of John, is to intimately acquaint Christians with the depth of God’s relationship with humanity and empower us to receive him from this completely mystical reality introduced through the Gospel of John. Tozer’s foundational approach or premise challenges Christians to completely reconstruct their understanding of who the Messiah or Christ of the Old and New Testaments is and begin to relate to him from what he describes as “the realm of the everlasting” (Tozer 2009, 16). In other words, Tozer paints a convincing picture through the scriptures that God has always existed – that he is, has always been and remains eternal.
He states that because humanity was created in the very image of God that we also have eternity on the inside of us. He challenges the reader to reflect on these truths as a means to realizing or awakening to the reality that “man was created to soar into the heights of eternity and fellowship with God” (Tozer 2009, 22).
However, Tozer noted that when sin entered in our ability to truly connect with God on a pure, eternal level was interrupted. Evil entered into man’s soul causing a great rift between man’s mind and heart – so much so that the mind desires its own will and the heart is still longing to reconnect to the “eternal or everlastingness” that is intrinsically inside us. Tozer contends that the human soul and spirit is incomplete because it’s missing that necessary component that can only be reconnected through a deep, intimate relationship with Christ.
This assumption, based on the word of God, is correct. Isaiah 59:2 American Standard Version says, “…but your iniquities have separated between you and your God…” Tozer’s position in the midst of this is that Christians must posture themselves in Christ to receive the fullness of who they are beyond absolutely anything they have previously known or experienced about God. Tozer’s challenge for the readers to see God from this higher place, and from grasping a deeper understanding of God as “everlasting and eternal” can also be proven in these truths he shared:
(1) God is self-sufficient, meaning “He needs nothing outside of Himself” (Tozer 2009, 32). Tozer said that we cannot give God anything – not even praise or worship – because it belongs to him anyway. In other words, how can we give God anything when all things – not sin – belong to him anyway?
(2) God is self-existent. Tozer reminds us that God existed long before he created us, and that he does not need us for anything. God, however, has chosen us; made a conscious decision to involve us; and has eternally tied us to him by creating us in his image.
(3) God is beyond time and space. Tozer argues that exists as “a medium in which change takes place” (Tozer 2009, 36).
As Tozer takes the reader into understanding the deeper relationship that Christians are called to have with God, a renewed focus is placed on the relationship God had with Adam and Eve, Moses, Enoch and Abraham. Tozer pointed out that these relationships reveal something every important about God’s relationship with us: He appeared to man, he dwelled with man, and ultimately he began dwelling in men. Now we have a self-sufficient, self-existent, beyond-time-and-space God who has everlastingness seeking to bring us back into this place of spiritual existence – beyond the natural mind.
Just as Tozer reveals God to us, he continues to bring forth reminders concerning the effort that is necessary on our part to receive him from this “higher place.” Tozer states that many Christians have been offered a “divided Christ” – one that is either savior or Lord (Tozer 2009, 88). He states, “There is no savior without Lordship. Jesus Christ is both Lord and savior, and He was Lord before He was savior; and if He’s not Lord, He’s not savior” (Tozer 2009, 88). He also reconciles other distortions in the faith. For example, he clarifies that the “God of the Old Testament is the God of the New, and the Father of the Old Testament is the Father of the New Testament” (Tozer 2009, 88). He even clarifies understanding the Godhead, grace, righteousness and the atonement for our sin. These areas, according to Tozer, are clearly presented in the revealing of the Gospel of John from this higher place. Tozer shined a light on John 1:18 King James Version which reads: “He hath declared him.” He stated that John declared “God’s holy being, above all, for us poor sinners; He declared His love and His mercy” (Tozer 2009, 92). These areas, in my opinion, were well defended by Tozer.
It is clear in reading this book that humanity is the central focus of God’s heart. Tozer takes an increasingly strong stand as the book progresses in pushing this point. In examining John 3:16 Tozer states that this scripture can viewed as meaning “I mean something to God” (Tozer 2009, 109). This passage, Tozer expounds, clearly shows how deeply our connection is with God. Satan’s goal, he explains, is to cause every person to believe the exact opposite. Tozer declares: “We have been made into the image of God. The thing that has destroyed this potential has been sin. It is this that brings us to a sense of orphanage” (Tozer 2009, 110) and causes us to believe that we do not matter to God.
- Last Updated: 27 November 2016
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