Everyone Wants a Piece of Tozer


A.W. TozerAiden Wilson Tozer is perhaps my favorite Christian author. Every book of his that I have read has stunned me, driven me to tears, left me broken, raised me up again, and filled me with joy. I believe he was a prophet, too; you read his books written in the 1950s and they are still speaking directly to the state of the American Church today.

But one thing I’ve never understood is how so many Christians who would profoundly disagree with Tozer in many regards still hold him up as the gold standard of 20th and 21st century Evangelicalism.

Tozer was a proponent of Christian mysticism. It’s baffling that so many Christian leaders who will pummel anyone who espouses Christian mysticism today give Tozer a complete pass as if he never once quoted Meister Eckhart, St. John of the Cross, or The Cloud of Unknowing.

Tozer was completely anticessationist; just this last week I included a Tozer quote saying as much. Tozer saw that the Church of AD 70 and the church of AD 2005 are to be the same Church in power, giftings, and so on. Yet cessationists quote Tozer as if there were no issue with his opposition to their position.

Tozer was not a proponent of Calvinism; I can’t remember him even mentioning that word in anything he’s written, yet Calvinists seem to love him, nonetheless. Just in the last few days both Steve Camp and Al Mohler held Tozer up as the example of doctrinally righteous Christianity. Curious.

Tozer damned “easy believism” and Christianity as “entertainment”—yet the bookstores of seeker-sensitive megachurches stock his books and their pastors even quote him.

Frankly, it startles me that Tozer is almost universally acclaimed by Evangelicals, yet most of them reject the foundational ideas he espoused in his preaching and teaching. Given that so many other preachers and teachers are routinely castigated in the blogosphere for even straying slightly from what is approved, why does Tozer, a man who preached a Christianity so unlike what so many others approve of today, get let off the heretic hook?

If you’ve never read Tozer, I say, Stock up! Start with The Knowledge of the Holy. There’s more truth in one of his books than any hundred teachings out there on the Web. Having said that, you can find Tozer’s teachings and sayings all over the Web—just Google “AW Tozer”. I would encourage you to do so.

16 thoughts on “Everyone Wants a Piece of Tozer

  1. It didn’t take two hours before someone got a hit off this post for “‘AW Tozer’ heretic” using Google.

    First of all, I’m amazed at how fast Google indexes this blog after I used Google Sitemap to set up a Sitemap for it.

    Second, I’m really tired of all the hits I get on this blog by people using Google to search for heretics. Jack Hayford is the favorite whipping boy here and not a day goes by that I don’t get at least two Google hits from people trying to pin a heretic label on Hayford.

    Man, is Christianity in this country in trouble or what?

  2. Matt,

    Just scratching my head about Tozer’s teflon position among Evangelicals who would gnash their teeth and rend to pieces a guy like Richard Foster, who is soundly trounced by some of the hardcore elements of Evangelicalism for his references to mystics.

    Likewise, you have guys like Camp and Mohler who never waste a chance to drop John MacArthur’s name, but who are quoting Tozer, a firm anti-cessationist who didn’t ascribe to Calvinism, either. You give me any modern day charismatic/Pentecostal non-Calvinist out there today who they would agree with on any point of doctrine—but Tozer’s unassailable.

    So many bloggers out there are poised to strike at even the smallest doctrinal variance from their own position, but Tozer, who is lightyears different on many topics, well you can’t say that about him.

    It’s weird that people do obeisance to him, but can’t swallow all his stances. In fact they ignore those Tozerisms that put the smackdown on their own brand of Christianity so easily, it makes me wonder if they’ve actually read him at all!

  3. Reloaded

    How timely. A person at our church recently forwarded an excerpt from some of Tozer’s writings to the church. It at once inspired many and inflamed many.

    I understand how Tozer could be very appealing to many, and I am not one to deny others what works for them when it comes to their faith in Christ, but I personally was nonplussed by his writings about “old cross” and “new cross.” I am quite unable to relate to what comes across to me as black-and-white dogmatism and tendency to generalize.

    So, like I said, very timely.


  4. Dan: “Second, I’m really tired of all the hits I get on this blog by people using Google to search for heretics.

    On a jocular note, did you ever see my Swiftian table of HIVs, Heresy Index Values, for various people, which I constructed using Google? I probably should recompute my table adding some of the names from The Church Report’s top 50.

  5. Brian

    Tozer writes some good stuff.

    Just because he wasn’t a calvinist doesn’t mean he isn’t worth reading.

    In fact, the way a lot of people approach Tozer is a very good example in my opinion of how we should approach other Christian writings.

    I haven’t run across any Tozer books where he is bashing calvinists. He didn’t appear to be very divisive in his writings which is a good thing. He attempted to speak truth and use Scripture to do it.


  6. Anonymous

    Howdy Dan,
    Tozer’s books have been very helpful in my walk with Christ.
    It is funny that when you google at calvinist sites, they have him listed as an arminian. Yet, when I read his writings I see much of a balance in his view of God (i.e. in the chapter “the Faithfulness of God” in “The Knowledge of the Holy” he says that we are not to neglect God’s mercy when considering his Sovereignity)
    Now, there is a book he wrote called “Jesus, Our Man in Glory” from where I extract an interesting excerpt as follow:

    […]People have cornered me and pressured me, asking pointedly, �Are you Calvinistic or Arminian in doctrine?� I think I have effectively parried this thrust by repeating a conversation I once had with a prominent English clergyman of our times. He spoke to me of another minister of his acquaintance, and I asked, �He is a Calvinist, I presume?�
    My minister friend smiled with good humor. �Well,� he replied, �I think he is what we might call an equivocating Calvinist! �From a personal point of view and to answer the curious, I would say that the phrase also describes me fairly well!


  7. joe

    tozer speaks the language of experiential christianity.. so reformed christians who have every read puritans especially will see something similar in his voice.. something they hardly hear even in their own communities.. the voice of one who walked with God..

    that is why i am a calvinist who named his second son aiden wilson, because i want my son to have a deep communion with God, just as my first, Owen (after john owen). that transcends cultural moments, and theoretical understanding.

    do we honestly think people did not hear the voice of the spirit before calvin or turentin if we are big reformed guys like i am? common, i think folk from various traditions hear something real in tozer, and that’s why they are drawn to him.

    i hope there is a place for us to be more christian then we are ‘reformed’ or arminian or anglican or whatever labels we qualify our distinctive.

    one of tozer’s influence “Thomas à Kempis”

    “Yet learning is not to be blamed, not the mere knowledge of any thing whatsoever, for that is good in itself, and ordained by God; but a good conscience and a virtuous life are always to be preferred before it.”

    “God will not ask us what we have read, but what we have done”

    This what the doctrines of grace folk love, because our beliefs make us react to the what the mass of evangelicalism does, which is cheapen true conversion into an assent of a small list of theological formulation(four laws, romans road, whatever), and turn on its head the most obvious of truth. 1. Jesus is awesome and holy, and the most important one in the life of anyone who can carry the name christian. how can we pretend he doesn’t speak to every area of our life? 2. Conversion is more significant than a change of mind on some religious and political values and beliefs, but the formation of a new spiritual reality in previously spiritual dead men.

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  10. Hi Dan. I’ve just now discovered your blog and it’s a breath of fresh air! I start to wonder at times if I’m the only one thinking these things.
    Tozer is my favorite author as well!
    I, too, wonder where to classify myself in the Calvinist/Armenian/Charismatic camp. I was a non-questioning Baptist cessationist until Jesus filled me with the Holy Spirit and I had to go back to the word and figure out what was going on! I like your happy conclusion that we don’t have to wear a label and it’s okay that many aspects of God’s nature and ways are to remain a mystery. I will keep coming back to this blog! Balance seems to be a quality in short supply these days! Thank you for yours!

  11. Jonathan Hoover

    The pursuit of God, I’m quite sure Tozer speaks about Calvinism. He dismissed the need to really be concerned whether it is or isn’t true.

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