A.W. Tozer Reconsidered This is the first of several articles on A.W. Tozer, his life and teaching. It is part of a projected larger series of studies on several teachers of the last century or so who, however else they differ, have one thing in common: Devaluing of the Word of God and of the simplicity of the Gospel. To be sure, Tozer is right no the money in some of his assessments of the 20th (now 21st) century church. But we cannot simply ignore other harmful tenets to be seen in much of Tozer's works. Someone has written me recently asking why I should feel it necessary to name names and "attack persons"? The answer is quite simply that these very names have become an impervious refuge for some of the most obstinate errors in our church. We are against error in principal, but are not always aware of it in particular. For instance, I could write generally against some of the errors of AW Tozer - without naming him - and get comments of agreement. But when I pin an author to these errors (see below) and give accurate quotes, I get defensive letters from some ... and enthusiastic Amens from others. So this is why I "attack" Tozer. I don't hate the man. I love the Truth he himself - albeit unwittingly - attacks. Please consider this article if you are still unconvinced. Introduction I am sure I am not the only one here who has been much influenced by Aiden W. Tozer. His devotional writings have been praised by a wide spectrum of appreciative believers within Christendom, myself included. Recently however my praise for this writer has been replaced with a growing awareness of a tendency in his teaching, a major tendency, to turn his readers away from God-appointed means of sanctification. The Word of God is not only our message of salvation; it is also our method of salvation. Lastly, it is our Man of salvation - He is the Word of God, the God-Man Christ Jesus. In all of these - and in a few other areas, as well - Tozer comes up short, as we shall see. A.W. Tozer is a revered authority for many, and to attack him almost seems to be an attack on sanctification and holiness itself. But, with him as well as ourselves, we need to always apply the tests of Scripture on the teachers of Scripture. None of us are immune from this necessary cross-examination. That is what these articles are about. If you find that my lines here spark in you a desire to write back to me, well, great! But if you are all set to defend your man, don't shoot from the hip. Quote from the Book. I am certainly open to correction. Mystic Sidetracks Our author's indebtedness to the Catholic mystics of the Middle Ages becomes apparent to anyone who studies Tozer. He often does not bother to divulge precisely where his quotes are from, though whether by design or intentional neglect is hard to ascertain. Teresa of Avila, Nicholas of Cusa, Meister Eckhardt, the anonymous penman of "The Cloud of Unknowing", and several more, are called as testimonies for his pressing for the need for a closer walk with God. But who would argue the need for this closer walk? Not us. What we disagree with is the calling in of these dubious authorities when the Scriptures are a much better means - in fact the only sure source - that we need to have Christ formed in us. "To the Word and to the testimony!", Isiaiah warns us (Isa. 8:20) "If they speak not according to this word there is no light in them." To this we can add Acts 17:11. Later in this article we will take a closer look at Tozer's favorite authorities, and see if they are to be trusted. Many do not know much about these mystics and monks that Tozer references. If they did, their respect for them - and for anyone who quotes them approvingly - would lessen considerably. Tozer observes:[COLOR="DarkGreen"[I]]"That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its bearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die."[/I][/COLOR] - A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place Of God, 1946, Published 1966 Yes, he has some good points, yet his approving quotes of mystics constitutes this same "friendly parallel between the ways of God ... and men". [B]Nicolas, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila[/B] and many others of Tozer's "saints" [I]were active supporters of the anti-Christian papal system, and of the works-related method of salvation.[/I] Are they considered holy just because they speak of sanctification, Christ and heaven? The Devil does as much. Tozer bemoaned the fact that these writers are virtually unknown in modern times. In this we agree - if they were more thoroughly known then Tozer's quotes can be shown for what they really are - passages taken largely out of context from a system that has much more of the Counter-Reformation than the Reformation. And his quoting of these mystics is more frequent than you might expect. In his slim volume, "[I]Knowledge of the Holy"[/I], for instance, there are at least eighteen quotes that are to be found. [COLOR="Navy"] An "Open Secret" or a Second Work of Grace?[/COLOR] An additional problem with his views on sanctification is that he downplays doctrine. This is from his "Root of the Righteous": "Bible Taught or Spirit Taught? It may shock some readers to suggest that there is a difference between being Bible taught and being Spirit taught. Nevertheless it is so." Although Tozer's point - especially the very next paragraph - is valid, there is indeed a false dichotomy being set up here. It is not Bible taught or Spirit taught. The Spirit of Christ unlocks, teaches and applies the Word of Christ to us. "They shall all be taught of God" (John 6:45) assumes this very growth in knowledge. The Holy Spirit will not teach of things other than Christ. He is "the way, the truth, and the life". Tozer goes on: "It is altogether possible to be instructed in the rudiments of the faith and still have no real understanding of the whole thing. And it is possible to go on to become expert in Bible doctrine and not have spiritual illumination, with the result that a veil remains over the mind, preventing it from apprehending the truth in its spiritual essence." This is all true, yet, this is not the whole story. Also I believe we should instinctively distrust when someone who is quick to use the word "doctrine" in a limitedly pejorative sense, as Tozer often does throughout his works. This should become obvious as we look further into Tozer's words. "I am a Bible Christian and if an archangel with a wingspread as broad as a constellation shining like the sun were to come and offer me some new truth, I'd ask him for a reference. If he could not show me where it is found in the Bible, I would bow out and say, I'm awfully sorry, you don't bring any references with you". But the problem is not with the readily identifiable archangel. It is with those subjective experiences. This is where we must unflinchingly apply the standard of God's Word. It is also with our choice of spiritual teachers. Tozer did not ask for spiritual references when he effusively praised the ecstatic utterances of Julian of Norwich, nor of the "insights" of that "master of the inner life" (his words), Evelyn Underhill, the ecumenicist mystic. If he would have asked for proper Scriptural backing from them, and found them wanting, he would have saved himself much confusion - and the church much polluting error that is now hard to eradicate. When I first decided to wrote on Tozer I wondered if I wasn't just being bitter and overly fault-finding. But the more I study him, the more I see him as a clear danger for Christianity. His influence is wide and he is accepted by a broad spectrum of religionists (including, but not restricted to, Christians). His doctrine and practice are so often overlooked by many other wise astute Bereans who cry "Wolf!" at the same infractions in more recognizable enemies. Tozer and the Word Perhaps the best single mark to judge someone's teaching is their pronouncements on the importance of the Word of God. If a writer is strongly committed to holding the Word of God as being central, then we already have a hopeful indication of orthodoxy in that teacher. At the very least we can hold that writer to his own professed adherence to Scripture. However Tozer is somewhat hard to pin down here because he is not consistent on this central topic. In some places (like in the first quotation below) he seems to hold a high regard for the Bible, yet in others (the very next quote) he all but negates this. So, on the issue of the Word of Life, Tozer speaks against Tozer.