“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”—John 16:3
“For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail.”—Isaiah 32:6
Tozer is called both a mystic, and a preacher who calls “for evangelicals to return to the authentic, biblical positions that characterized the church when it was most faithful to Christ and His Word.” Though Tozer is elusive regarding his bent towards mysticism, others praise him for it. [Was A. W. Tozer a Mystic?]
Rather than take the word of others, I decided to search Tozer’s writings to see if they contained any mysticism. I will mainly be referencing Tozer’s The Pursuit of God (1948), which I have read a number of times. I also reviewed Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy (1961), for mystical references.
In 1963, the year of his death, Tozer wrote, The Christian Book of Mystical Verse, a poetry collection from the saintly mystics (which I won’t be reviewing).
The prefaces to both The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy, indicate Tozer was offering what the mystics believe. Tozer is not hiding what he is offering—once you realize he is really speaking from the viewpoint that the mystics are right. Tozer is steeped in the literature of the mystics, but not the language of the Bible, even though he often quotes it or alludes to it.
from Preface to Tozer’s The Pursuit of God
“…This book is a modest attempt to aid God’s hungry children so to find Him…it is a discovery which my own heart has made of spiritual realities most delightful and wonderful to me. Others before me have gone much farther into these holy mysteries than I have done…”
Tozer ends with an offer, “if my fire is not large it is yet real, and there may be those who can light their candle at its flame.”
from Preface to Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy
“…Were Christians today reading such works as those of Augustine or Anselm a book like this would have no reason for being. But such illuminated masters are known to modern Christians only by name…
“It is my hope that this small book may contribute somewhat to the promotion of personal heart religion among us; and should a few persons by reading it be encouraged to begin the practice of reverent meditation on the being of God, that will more than repay the labor…”
In The Pursuit of God, Tozer often quotes or positively references Roman Catholic mystics and their writings—Augustine, Nicholas of Cusa, Thomas a Kempis (and “the Voice” from his “Imitation of Christ”), Francis of Assisi, von Hugel, Bernard of Clairvaux, Cloud of Unknowing, Frederick Faber, the Catholic hymn writer, as well as the Chinese sage, Lao-tze.
Though the Carmelites, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Brother Lawrence, are not mentioned specifically, their mystic belief system is
referred to as a correct way to God—John’s ascent to God, Teresa’s
mystical ecstacy (including terms such as piercing sweetness), both John
and Teresa’s use of being inflamed with love for God, in which they were
referring to a marriage or “union” with God, and Lawrence’s Practicing
the Presence of God which referenced, “the All.”
Thirteen years later, in Knowledge of the Holy, Tozer again referenced Augustine, Nicholas of Cusa, Cloud of Unknowing, and Frederick Faber positively. Among the People Tozer added were Richard Rolle, Julian of Norwich, Meister Eckhart, Bernard of Cluny, and Anslem, a mystic scholastic.
“But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”—Matthew 15:9
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you
into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
“Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”—Galatians 1:6
Other Posts related to Tozer and The Pursuit of God
Conclusion of the Carmelite Order Posts or Why I am Writing about A W Tozer
Was A. W. Tozer a Mystic?
Tozer the Mystic, Part 2, What is wrong with Pursuing God?
A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God and Augustine
A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, von Hugel, Bernard of Clairvaux, and the
Cloud of Unknowing
A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, the Chinese sage, Laotze, and Faber, the Catholic Hymnwriter
A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, Thomas a Kempis, and Nicholas of Cusa
Unbiblical and/or mystical phrases, in The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer
What is so appealing about the The Pursuit of God by Tozer?
JTB series: Scripture compared with some phrases in The Pursuit of God