Revisiting A.W. Tozer, mystic

For we walk by faith, not by sight:—2 Corinthians 5:7

Dear friends,
It has been almost 3 years since my last major post, and my advice is still the same: please continue to be discerning and compare what you hear, see or read with what God wrote in his Book.

The Discernment ministries are still deceiving. They are ecumenical and mixing truth and error.

The original doctrines of many so-called Christian denominations never were biblical or based on just the Bible.

In almost every church which names the name of Christ, having your sins forgiven through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is not enough—there is something more you must do (or continue to do); or something you have to get.

I may write more on that subject in the distant future, but this post is about a comment I recently received on my areyouaware site. What follows is a large excerpt from a comment by “Paul (Continue in His Word).”

Hello areyouaware.
Thank you for posting. After reading your findings on Tozer, I did a little more research and came to the same conclusion as you. I found that Dave Hunt promotes Tozer without any warning, and this is the message I sent to Dave Hunt.

Dear Brother Dave,

I thank God for your courageous ministry and for standing up for the truth and being a watchman in this apostate generation. You are an inspiration to many of us young people who want to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.

I would like to bring the following findings on A.W. Tozer to your attention and ask you to carefully and prayerfully consider them.

1) A reviewer of the book The Mystic Spirituality of A.W. Tozer, a Twentieth-Century American Protestant by E. Lynn Harris had this to say on

    The biographical memoir of Tozer by David J. Fant, Jr., titled A.W. Tozer, A Twentieth Century Prophet (1964), is used as a springboard for Ms. Harris’ focused study of Tozer’s mystical and conceptual approach to the world. At the end of Fant’s book, he included a list of books recommended by Tozer, “For those who would know `the deep things of God.'”

    It is this list of thirty-five mystical works (which are included as Appendix A of Harris’ book) that Ms. Harris used as a frame of reference for analyzing Tozer’s mystical approach. Tozer’s list includes such classics as The Ascent of Mt. Carmel and Dark Night of the Soul by John of the Cross, The Cloud of Unknowing and Theologia Germanica written anonymously, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly, Christian Perfection by Fenelon, and Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich (the last being the only woman listed and who Tozer jokingly called his girlfriend).

    It must be noted, however, that the list was given by Mr. Fant with this qualification: “In recommending these books Dr. Tozer did not mean to put his stamp of approval on the entire contents. Rather they were offered as products of men and women who ardently loved their Lord; if any doctrinal defects should appear these would be far overbalanced by the spiritual verities.”

    Appendix B of Ms. Harris’ book includes a letter from Mr. Fant to the author stating that Tozer prepared the list himself in response to many inquiries and that there was a copy of each book in his personal library.

I haven’t read the said biography myself (by David J. Fant, Jr., titled A. W. Tozer, A Twentieth Century Prophet) nor Mrs. Harris’ book, but I do believe that this reviewer account is correct.

Tozer provided a list of 35 mystical works to his readers of which a couple of titles are mentionned in this comment. Based on this comment alone, I would avoid Tozer because he was a dangerous mystical man.

How come he would deliver his readers into the hands of Roman Catholic mystics by recommending them to “those who would know the deep things of God”?

2) Then consider this series of posts:
Conclusion of the Carmelite Order Posts or Why I am Writing about A W Tozer
A. W. Tozer, the Mystic, Part 1
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 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

3) I have read The Pursuit of God before, without any discernment, and after reading these posts, I revisited the book, and it is scary.

This is how he [Tozer] concludes the preface to the book:

    “This book is a modest attempt to aid God’s hungry children so to find Him. Nothing here is new except in the sense that 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, but if my fire is not large it is yet real, and there may be those who can light their candle at its flame.”

The “others before me” he refers to these Roman Catholic mystics he recomends. Yet these people had no light in them (Isa 8:20), with their Mariolatry, baptismal regeneration, Sacraments, Mass, Eucharist, Papism, etc… how can they show the way to anyone?

This is a quote from “The Pursuit of God”:

    The author of the quaint old English classic, The Cloud of Unknowing, teaches us how to do this. “Lift up thine heart unto God with a meek stirring of love; and mean Himself, and none of His goods. And thereto, look thee loath to think on aught but God Himself. So that nought work in thy wit, nor in thy will, but only God Himself. This is the work of the soul that most pleaseth God.”

Again, he recommends that in prayer we practice a further stripping down of everything, even of our theology.

    “For it sufficeth enough, a naked intent direct unto God without any other cause than Himself.”

Yet underneath all his thinking lay the broad foundation of New Testament truth, for he explains that by “Himself” he means “God that made thee, and bought thee, and that graciously called thee to thy degree.”

And he is all for simplicity:

    If we would have religion “lapped and folden in one word, for that thou shouldst have better hold thereupon, take thee but a little word of one syllable: for so it is better than of two, for even the shorter it is the better it accordeth with the work of the Spirit. And such a word is this word God or this word love.”

Is the “one word”, “a little word of one syllable” that he quotes to use in prayer not an endorsement of and a recommendation to practice “Lectio Divina” taught in the very dangerous book The Cloud of Unknowing?

I personally have been deceived and misled by a “disciple” (through his writings) of the Chinese mystic Watchman Nee (imprisoned in 1952, died in prison in 1972). One of the reasons being he has not been exposed.

Thank you for your consideration.
May the grace of our Lord and Saviour be with you always,

One response to “Revisiting A.W. Tozer, mystic

  1. Paul (Continue In His Word)

    Thank you for posting my comment.

    This is the quick I got from The Berean Call.

    They referred me to their past newsletter Q&A (see response below) that deals exclusively with the Lectio Divina issue, yet the problem is deeper than just that. I wonder if anyone ever read my letter (the reply was so fast) because they don’t address my concerns. I’m convinced brother Dave Hunt’s staff didn’t get him to read my concern.

    This leaves me very puzzled about the motives of TBC. Are they hiding something?

    God Help us please in this dark hour. Lord I pray for brother Dave Hunt and T.A. MacMahon and all the staff at TBC that they will discern the truth about Tozer, that this man was a wolf in sheep clothings used by Satan to kill the Protestant Reformation and bring all Christendom back into the fold of apostate Roman Catholic. Open their eyes so that they will expose him, dissociate from him, stop promoting him, and AT LEAST WARN their readers about the dangers of reading Tozer.

    Dear Paul
    We have addressed this issue in a past newsletter. The Q&A follows.

    Thank you for writing.


    Question: You have promoted books by A.W. Tozer, yet Tozer constantly quoted from Catholic mystics, and some have said that he even practiced “Lectio Divina.” In view of your warnings regarding the Contemplative Movement, how could you offer his books, knowing of his practices?

    Response: Tozer did not practice Lectio Divina, a method that many mystics and occultists have used to supposedly experience God. The exercise involves reading a Bible verse or phrase, often repeating it many times like a mantra, for the purpose of stimulating insights that transcend what might be gained from the normal reading and understanding of the Scriptures. Rather than understanding a passage based on the objective meaning of the words, the grammar of the verses, and the context, the words become devices for receiving personal, subjective revelation from God.

    Anyone who is familiar with the writings of Tozer knows that such a technique is completely foreign to what he taught throughout his lifetime. Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped some people from referring to him in order to support their promotion of mystical methods and teachings.

    John Armstrong, for example (who is general editor of Roman Catholicism: Evangelical Protestants Analyze What Unites and Divides Us, Moody Press, 1994), has stated that Tozer “listened to God and practiced lectio divina in his reading habits.” The “Emerging Thought” blog, among other Emergent writers, has commented, “I am going to go through the book by Brother Lawrence called Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life.

    I already had someone on the leadership team comment (jokingly) about me teaching RCC stuff. Yet, I see that John Wesley and A. W. Tozer both recommended him.”

    To quote someone does not necessarily include recommending him. Yet, we would take issue with Tozer regarding some of the people he quotes. In chapter 3 of The Pursuit of God , “Removing the Veil,” Tozer quotes Chinese sage, Lao-tze: “That is the first step, and as…Lao-tze has said, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step.'” Quoting this one point, which is hardly profound, is not “endorsing” Lao-Tze.

    One might wonder, however, where Tozer stood when one considers the Roman Catholics (Augustine, Nicholas of Cusa, Thomas á Kempis, Francis of Assisi, von Hugel, Bernard of Clairvaux, the poet William Blake, and hymn writer Frederick Faber, a convert to Catholicism) that he has quoted or referred to in his books.

    That’s rather puzzling, since the gospel that Tozer preached and wrote about so well couldn’t be more contrary to the gospel and dogmas of Catholicism, beliefs strictly held by those mentioned and most of whom were canonized as saints by the Church of Rome. TBC does not condone Tozer when he quotes those with whom we have serious theological disagreement (and with whom, we are sure, he would also disagree). Moreover, instances of such quotes are so few in his many, many volumes that it’s clear they were in no way significant to his teaching.

    Tozer himself recognized the confusion he generated by quoting those noted for their Roman Catholic mysticism. He wrote in his own defense,

    “Some of my friends good-humoredly–and some a little bit severely-have called me a ‘mystic.’ Well I’d like to say this about any mysticism I may suppose to have. If an archangel from heaven were to come, and were to start…telling me, teaching me, and giving me instruction, I’d ask him for the text. I’d say, ‘Where’s it say that in the Bible? I want to know.’

    And I would insist that it was according to the scriptures, because I do not believe in any extra-scriptural teachings, nor any anti-scriptural teachings, or any sub-scriptural teachings. I think we ought to put the emphasis where God puts it, and continue to put it there, and to expound the scriptures, and stay by the scriptures. I wouldn’t–no matter if I saw a light above the light of the sun, I’d keep my mouth shut about it ’til I’d checked with Daniel and Revelation and the rest of the scriptures to see if it had any basis in truth….I don’t believe in anything that is unscriptural or that is anti-scripture” (A.W. Tozer, “What Difference Does the Holy Spirit Make?”)

    Even so, some object that quoting Tozer to prove he wasn’t a mystic ignored his advice to “get still to wait on God” with the “Bible outspread.” To say that Tozer practiced lectio divina because of this statement is to be driven more by surmise than substance. The full paragraph reads:

    “It is important that we get still to wait on God. And it is best that we get alone, preferably with our Bible outspread before us. Then if we will, we may draw near to God and begin to hear Him speak to us in our hearts. I think for the average person the progression will be something like this: First a sound as of a Presence walking in the garden. Then a voice, more intelligible, but still far from clear. Then the happy moment when the Spirit begins to illuminate the Scriptures, and that which had been only a sound, or at best a voice, now becomes an intelligible word, warm and intimate and clear as the word of a dear friend. Then will come life and light, and best of all, ability to see and rest in and embrace Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord and All.”

    There is a vast difference between Tozer’s teaching and lectio divina. The Lord tells us to “be still” at times. To “be still” is not to empty our minds, as in lectio divina. Reading Scripture without distraction, we trust the Lord to bring illumination, or “understanding.”

    Though Tozer speaks of a “sound as of a Presence walking in the garden,” he means that the Holy Spirit begins to bring understanding (1 Cor:2:11). “Then a voice,” denotes better understanding of a formerly opaque Scripture. Tozer speaks of “an intelligible word” consistently throughout his writing. His focus remains “the Word.” “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein” (Jos:1:8).

    The Scriptures warn us to fully discern the truth of a matter. Discernment is more than suspicion. We are cautioned in the scriptures against “evil surmising” (1 Tm 6:4), which today might be called “evil suspicion.”

    To establish Tozer as a “Catholic mystic” cannot be done objectively, without exaggeration, and with only selective use of evidence.

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