I couldn't remember if I had ever read The Pursuit of God before. Now having most definitely read it, I don't think I had spent time with it previously. (So thank you, Shonya, for picking it!)
While I'm glad to have read it, I cannot exactly say that I enjoyed the read. In true fact, I rather didn't. (Whaaa . . . ?!?!!) Oh well. You always need someone around who thinks about the book a little differently than the rest so that you can have something to talk about, right? The whole time I was reading this I was thinking to myself that I'm likely to be the odd man out. I guess we shall see, but I shall proceed expecting such a thing!
The chief reasons why I didn't care for The Pursuit of God is because I didn't care or Tozer's writing "voice." I felt like I was being condescended to the entire read and no one likes that feeling. His chief concern in writing the book in the first place was to address Christians that he felt were being sucked into a worldly mindset. He writes from what seems like a fear that the church is disintegrating into something almost unusable by the Lord. He writes with a wish and a passion that Christians return to right relationships with Christ. Now what is wrong with this? Well, nothing necessary. At least not on its face. We should be about the business of encouraging one another and building each other up to a deeper more meaningful walk with Christ. But while we do this we also need to keep in mind the following:
1. Jesus wins. In fact, He already won.
2. He has claimed the church. The church will be victorious.
3. We are His. Nothing can take us out of His hands.
The church is not going to fizzle out because we lack passion. It is a fixture, a people that God has made His own and will not forsake. Will the church suffer problems and difficulties? Yes, of course it will. Must we be vigilant to stand for truth and repent of sins? Yes, we must. But we don't need to have a down-in-the-mouth attitude about the church at large being doomed because we only see a small picture of the life of the church in Christ. (Note: we can quickly and easily see a bigger picture by returning to the Scriptures.) Again, the church is the Lord's and He has won it. It will stand victorious in the end and so we ought to be cautious about how much we lambaste the church and its members. It is important to remember that the Church belongs to Christ and He is full ownership and authority over it. We are called to be a part of it, not an attacker of it. Christians in every age have lamented the state of the Church. Today (here I go a-Tozer-ing) Christians are rather ecstatically leaping about, ready to throw the church and its members under the bus at the least sign of differences or provocation. People today have a tendency to get all doe-eyed and sentimental and individualistic in their faith walks instead of wanting to stand with the church. Perhaps this is a different problem than what Tozer himself focused on but it tends to result in the same attitude: condescension towards "well meaning but misguided Christians." (He used that phrase multiple times throughout the entire book.) Tozer deigns to condescend to the church at large and so do the modern individuals who deem it their mission to defend of whatever their favorite topic is. ("The Church today is so misguided about _________." etc.)
Tozer bickered and moaned about various dilemmas that he witnessed within the church in the 1950's. Were he to see it now I can only imagine he would have become an individualist himself. He thought Christians were too on the fence, not passionate about their faith and that the world lacked any man so great (i.e., a Martin Luther) as to have global impact. Ok maybe the world is "lonely" for a Luther. While we don't have a Luther we can be happy about the fact that we do have the church which includes a passionate people of God who go about their daily lives with a mission and a passion to see the Gospel spread. These congregants/individuals may approach things quietly and differently than Billy Graham but they still exist and are still useful and worth realizing. I am not sad that any one preacher doesn't have the ear of the entire world at his disposal. I am more sad that we would so easily attack the church when God has clearly claimed it for His own.
Tozer's book is useful if it does cause "the common Christian" to realize the deep need for a relationship with Christ in their life. However, I think the Gospel message has been preached far more hopefully, calmly, happily, compassionately and effectively than Tozer delivered it. I would probably choose another book over this one to spur another believer on in their faith walk. Tozer said a lot of things I simply disagreed with. Two things in particular that I took issue with were as follows:
1. He really passionately dislikes the idea of observing the church calendar. He said that a church calendar and liturgy are "Roman Catholic" and that the Reformation freed us from such slavery (see Chapter X, The Sacrament of Living). Tozer would argue that those who use the phrase "holy week" or "lent" are "misled." I disagree with him hotly on this point. But it makes sense that he would say that, having never attended seminary. That almost answers the question for me as to why he would take such a stand. It's a bit of that individualistic thinking in play wherein you fail to realize that you are called to a past history as well as to a glorious future in which you are connected with other believers into One Body.
I do believe that following a Church calendar and observing times and seasons is not only completely scriptural (see the entire Old Testament which was never made completely irrelevant) but practically useful in examining one's heart and spiritual health. Also, any argument about "not liking liturgy" is going to fall on deaf ears with me because every church has a liturgy, even though they might not call it such. Every church service follows a particular pattern. You know when the call to worship will be given, and when the sermon is, and when the offering will be taken, etc. Liturgy. It's there whether you want to call it that or not. You might instead choose to call it, "The Order of Service" to make it sound less high brow but it's the same thing. Different words, same meaning. Creating order and liturgy is an inescapably human thing to do. Why? Because it's an attribute of God Himself to desire order and we who are created in His image desire order also.
But let's move along.
2. Tozer made the following statement which really lit my fuse:
"Again, it does not mean that every man is as useful as every other man. Gifts differ in the body of Christ. A Billy Bray is not to be compared with a Luther or a Wesley for sheer usefulness to the Church and to the world; but the service of the less gifted brother is as pure as that of the more gifted, and God accepts both with equal pleasure." (Chapter X, The Sacrament of Living)To that I can really only say, "What a dunderhead."
But I expect others would like it if I explained myself a bit more.
There is neither slave nor free, Jew, nor Gentile, Wesley or Bray, Tozer or Lewis, male or female. (I paraphrased but there really is a period in the Bible after that statement. See Galations 3:28.) For? For we are all one in Christ Jesus. One in the Church. One in the Body of Christ. Each of us made with a purpose. Each of us called with the same calling. Each of us called with a different gifting, yes, but each for the same thing. There may only be room for one on a stadium platform but that doesn't mean that there aren't forty more worth knowing in the audience. Some listen more, some speak more, some plan, some are "flexible", some are old, some are young, some have media attention, some are only noticed by a handful. Each one is part of the Body so each one matters equally because it's not about us, is it? No, it is not. I personally cannot preach a sermon. But there are things I can do that my pastor cannot that will connect widely with others. We are both needed within the Body. We are both equally sinners. We are both equally worthy of having a relationship with Christ NOT because of anything within us but because of Who Christ Is and what He has chosen to do. It's not of me, so I cannot boast. I can merely be grateful and connect myself to the Body which He has named as His own and make myself useful there in the manner I am called.
Perhaps I am being terribly uncharitable towards Tozer. I fear so. However, when someone holds themselves out as being Chief in Knowledge and purports to lead a flock of believers they are subject to examination themselves and I can't say I'm impressed with the general attitude expressed. There is a distinct lack of humility which was really glaring to me and, as I say, made it hard to "hear" what he wanted me to hear.
Know this (as I do truly understand!): Tozer was passionate about developing a deep relationship with His Lord and Savior. I believe that. He was passionate about others feeling the same. I believe that's why he wrote this book and it's as good a reason to write a book as any! The best! If I were to summarize I would simply say that he was so passionate about talking to others and instructing them in their endeavors to obtain this relationship that I think he failed to listen and to observe. There's not much room for debating any subject with him, I think. He doesn't give off the impression of being much open for having a conversation with anyone that he felt was "misguided" and, I confess it, when I meet with that personality I feel compelled to walk away. It doesn't seem that much good will come of an argument with them. But when two parties are ready to and want listen to one another, then you begin to see amazing things happen, not just between them but within the church also. Note too that when I run into this attitude it always causes me to examine myself and my personality and see if I've been overbearing and harsh with others. (I have a tendency towards this and it's something I've been taking care to pay attention to. For this reason, chiefly, I think this was a good book for me to read.) I know too that even when a person appears not to be listening, they really are. And that's an invitation to talk to me, yes, even when you aren't sure that I'm hearing you. I am therefore willing to give Tozer the benefit of the doubt that he's not so condescending as he sounds but I still don't agree with the above statements in particular.
On that note, I'm personally looking forward to a lively but respectful discussion about this book. I'm curious to hear what other people are getting from it that I am not. Would I say it's a good book to read? Hmmm.... I don't know. Convince me.
Or, in the words of another lofty fellow, "I'm listening..."