Majesty Replaced By Mystery


A few years ago, because I wanted to look up something about God’s character, I pulled out my copy of The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer, then decided it was time to re-read that slim volume again. The preface alone was arresting.

In reference to the hearer, Tozer says the “message must be not only timeless but timely.” He then launches in on the rationale for his book—Christians have a low view of God. (If he thought this back in 1961 when he wrote the book, imagine what he would think today!)

The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking…

The only way to recoup our spiritual losses is to go back to the cause of them and make such corrections as the truth warrants. The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go a long way toward curing them. It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is. (pp 6-7, emphases here and throughout are mine)

Because Tozer started with the remark about the timeliness of the message, I had to ask, is this a timely message for postmodern America? What I hear and read most often proclaims God’s mystery, not His majesty. In fact, a quick check using Google search revealed seven times more blog articles discussing God and mystery than God and majesty.

Of course, if those using the term “mystery” actually mean “transcendence,” then they’re on the right track. But too often the meaning is, “We cannot know”; God—the great Question Mark, about which we cannot know and should not claim to know—is hidden from us.

Except, all throughout Scripture, God declares who He is. Take Exodus 29:46 for example:

They shall know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God.

Or how about Hosea 6:3:

So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.

Then there is Hebrews 8:11 quoting from Jeremiah:

AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’ FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.

Christ, the mediator between God and Man has made this possible.

For in Him [Christ] all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form (Colossians 2:9)

Then we have Jesus’s own statement:

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” (John 14:7)

A mystery, God is not, at least for those who know Jesus Christ.

This contradicts our postmodern culture. Our problem, then, seems to be that we no longer grasp the majesty of God because we no longer believe it is possible to do so. Who could grasp what is shrouded in mystery?

What a subversive lie Satan has introduced. (He’s good at that, being the father of lies). First the idea that God is unknowable undermines the authority of the Bible. If we can’t know because God is mystery, then whoever or whatever claims knowledge of God is suspect. No longer is the believer to give definitive answers, and the one who seeks and keeps seeking is considered wise.

Except this position contradicts Jesus Himself.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Matt 7:7-8)

Throughout the Bible, God promises Himself to those who seek Him:

  • But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. (Deut. 4:29)
  • the LORD is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. (2 Chron. 15:2b)
  • You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jer. 29:13)
  • Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8a)

A. W. Tozer took it upon himself to write The Knowledge of the Holy as his timely, timeless message—a way of calling Christians back to an elevated view of God.

It seems to me we have a different timely, timeless message to convey today before we can grasp Tozer’s—that is, God revealed Himself precisely because He wants to be known. Would Jesus have come in the form of man, lived on earth, and died otherwise? Would God have sent His Holy Spirit if He didn’t plan for us to have an intimate relationship with Him? Would He have given us Scripture if He didn’t want us to know about His person, plan, and work?

At every turn, God reveals Himself so that we can enter into relationship with Him.

Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. (Jer. 9:23-24)

This article with some changes is a reprint of one that first appeared here in March 2012.

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Published in: on November 24, 2015 at 6:47 pm  Comments (2)  
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Majesty Replaced By Mystery


Recently, because I wanted to look up something about God’s character, I pulled out my copy of The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer, then decided it was time to re-read that slim volume again. The preface alone was arresting.

Speak to the condition of the hearer, Tozer quotes. The “message must be not only timeless but timely.” He then launches in on the rationale for his book — Christians have a low view of God. (If he thought this back in 1961 when he wrote the book, imagine what he would think today!)

The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking…

The only way to recoup our spiritual losses is to go back to the cause of them and make such corrections as the truth warrants. The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go a long way toward curing them. It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is. (pp 6-7)

Because Tozer started with the remark about the timeliness of the message, I had to ask, is this a timely message for the postmodern generation? What I hear and read most often proclaims God’s mystery, not His majesty. In fact, a quick check using Google search revealed seven times more blog articles discussing God and mystery than God and majesty.

Of course, if those using the term “mystery” actually mean “transcendence” then they’re on the right track. But too often the meaning is, “we cannot know”; God is hidden from us — the great Question Mark, about which we cannot know and should not claim to know.

Except, all throughout Scripture, God declares who He is. Take Exodus 29:46 for example:

They shall know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God.

Or how about Hosea 6:3:

So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD.
His going forth is as certain as the dawn;
And He will come to us like the rain,
Like the spring rain watering the earth.

Then there is Hebrews 8:11 quoting from Jeremiah:

AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’ FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.

Christ, the mediator between God and Man has made this possible.

For in Him [Christ] all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form (Colossian 2:9)

Then we have Jesus’s own statement:

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” (John 14:7)

A mystery, God is not, at least for those who know Jesus Christ.

This contradicts our postmodern culture so the problem now seems to be that we no longer grasp the majesty of God because we no longer believe it is possible to do so. Who could grasp what is shrouded in mystery?

What a subversive lie Satan has introduced. (He’s good at that, being the father of lies). First it undermines the authority of the Bible. If we can’t know because God is mystery, then whoever or whatever claims knowledge of God is suspect. No longer is the believer to give definitive answers, and the one who seeks and keeps seeking is considered wise.

Except this position contradicts Jesus Himself.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Matt 7:7-8)

Throughout the Bible, God promises Himself to those who seek Him:

  • But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. (Deut. 4:29)
  • the LORD is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. (2 Chron. 15:2b)
  • You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jer. 29:13)
  • Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8a)

A. W. Tozer took it upon himself to write The Knowledge of the Holy as his timely, timeless message — a way of calling Christians back to an elevated view of God.

It seems to me we have a different timely, timeless message to convey first — that God revealed Himself precisely because He wants to be known. Would Jesus have died otherwise? Would God have sent His Holy Spirit if He didn’t plan for us to have an intimate relationship with Him?

Published in: on March 19, 2012 at 6:43 pm  Comments (7)  
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God Is Good


Email problems turned into computer problems, so I haven’t been able to post here of late. But I was reminded this morning that God is good, and I know this is true regardless of the kind or severity of the problems we encounter. From A. W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy:

Always God’s goodness is the ground of our expectation. Repentance, though necessary, is not meritorious but a condition for receiving the gracious gift of pardon which God gives of His goodness. Prayer is not in itself meritorious. It lays God under no obligation nor puts Him in debt to any. He hears prayer because He is good, and for no other reason. Nor is faith meritorious; it is simply confidence in the goodness of God, and the lack of it is a reflection upon God’s holy character. (p. 89, emphasis mine)

Published in: on November 11, 2009 at 4:13 pm  Comments Off on God Is Good  
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How Does God See Mankind?


I’ve been thinking a lot about “worldview” again. Often I use “Christian worldview” and “Biblical worldview” interchangeably, though I know there are lots of people who profess to be Christians and who do not believe the Bible the same way I do.

In part I think that latter fact is responsible for professing Christians differing in our worldviews, one from another. “Worldview,” of course, is how we look at the world—through what glasses, if you will.

But how I view what is, does not change what actually is. So a group of people can state loud and long that the Nazi holocaust never actually happened, but their view doesn’t change the historical fact that Hitler’s Germany slaughtered millions of people, mostly Jews. Their worldview is false, though they might hold it religiously.

So it seems to me, the wisest thing is to work toward as accurate a view as possible. But can that happen? I mean, doesn’t everyone have a right to his or her own view?

A right, certainly, but again, another person’s right doesn’t make what they believe, true. And not all beliefs can be declared true because many clash with each other.

Thankfully, God did not leave us in the dark. Granted, the lenses we look through are still darkened, but at least we have lenses. I’m referring, of course, to the Bible. Through the pages of Scripture, God reveals Himself. He also tells us about His plan and purpose for us.

So I came across a quote from The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer that reminded me how important it is to see Mankind, other Christians, myself, the way God sees us.

The moral shock suffered by us through our mighty break with the high will of heaven [when Adam sinned] has left us all with a permanent trauma affecting every part of our nature. There is disease both in ourselves and in our environment … Until we have seen ourselves as God sees us, we are not likely to be much disturbed over conditions around us as long as they do not get so far out of hand as to threaten our comfortable way of life. We have learned to live with unholiness and have come to look upon it as the natural and expected (p. 110; emphasis mine)

“There is disease both in ourselves and in our environment”—the disease of a sin nature that causes us to live under the law, that sentences us to death, that separates us irreparably from God.

And yet … God created Man in His own image, then declared that everything He had made was “very good.”

So which is it? Both. The “made in His image” part is clear—we have a will, emotions, “eternity in our hearts,” a moral compass, a propensity to worship, reason—all things no other created being on earth has.

And yet, God, who sees perfectly, identifies us as sinners, under the penalty of death (“all have sinned,” “none righteous,” “the wages of sin is death”).

Here’s the resolution: knowing who we are, God declared His love for us through His self-sacrifice—God, in the flesh, dying in my place. So now, we clay pots can be temples.

Published in: on July 16, 2009 at 11:42 am  Comments Off on How Does God See Mankind?  
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Knowing the Incomprehensible God


Evangelical Christians are often criticized for claiming to have answers to all problems. Thus, the author of The Shack, William P. Young, stated there are “religious people” who want to keep God, not in a box, but in a book, with leather binding and “guilt” pages.

The emerging church view, predicated by Postmodernism, is that God is Mystery; we can enter into relationship with Him but we can’t understand Him.

Like so many other emerging church views, this one has an element of truth—perhaps an element that has been glossed over in the past. However, the conclusion leads away from Truth.

First the element of truth. God is incomprehensible. I find that to be a much more accurate description than “mysterious,” as I think you’ll see why a bit further down. The fact is, no creature is like the Creator. We sprang from His mind, as did the galaxies that exist beyond our sight. As did the theory of relativity and the string theory and light’s wave-particle duality, as did an untold number of questions we don’t even have enough knowledge to ask.

Unfortunately, Mankind has a tendency to reduce the irreducible. As A. W. Tozer says in The Knowledge of the Holy

Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms. We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him. We want a God we can in some measure control. (p. 16)

Thus we have preachers and writers formulating how-to’s for everything from happy marriages to healings and inner peace. The idea is, if we just do our part, God is obligated to do His.

Or, on the other hand, we have preachers and writers saying that God will act just like we want Him to act—with love and forgiveness, never with wrath and justice, because that’s the way of relationship, isn’t it?

Ironic that these folks who so want to free God from preconceived ideas so that he can be the mysterious being they want to worship actually limit him by their own imaginings. They don’t understand how God could possibly be both Love and Justice, so they opt for the trait that gives them what they most want—a God who submits to them (I’d give you the quote from The Shack that says this, but I’ve returned the book to the library) rather than the other way around.

What am I saying? God IS incomprehensible but not mysterious—because He chose to reveal Himself to us. He gave us Scripture to tell us about Himself and He came as God Incarnate to show us Himself.

As a writer, I think that’s pretty cool. God wasn’t content with exposition but gave us The Narrative; He didn’t just tell us, but He went on to show us.

And why would He, unless He intends to be known.

A High View of God


One of my criticisms of The Shack by William P. Young was that it portrays God as less than Who He is. The god of the shack is Nanny-god, regular-Joe god, or ethereal-sister god, but not the High and Holy God revealed in Scripture.

Sadly, others professing the name of Christ also have a low, though different, view of God. I’m thinking particularly of the name-it-and-claim-it crowd that rally around such works as Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now or Become a Better You. I found it interesting that one of the main criticisms in the Publishers Weekly review of Best Life was this issue of how the book portrays God:

Many Christian readers will undoubtedly be put off by the book’s shallow name-it-and-claim-it theology; although the first chapter claims that “we serve the God that created the universe,” the book as a rule suggests the reverse: it’s a treatise on how to get God to serve the demands of self-centered individuals. … Theologically, its materialism and superficial portrayal of God as the granter of earthly wishes will alienate many Christian readers who can imagine a much bigger God. (emphasis mine, here and in the following quotes)

This skewering of who God is evidently is not new. A.W. Tozer wrote about a growing low view of God within the church back in 1961 in his book The Knowledge of the Holy. Today his words seem prophetic:

The message of this book … is called forth by a condition which has existed in the Church for some years and is steadily growing worse. I refer to the loss of the concept of majesty from the popular religious mind. The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men. (p. 6)

What I find particularly interesting is what Mr. Tozer identified as the effects of a low view of God:

With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. (p. 6)

Ironic. Mr. Young claims that Man’s greatest need is relationship with God, but by stripping God of His awe, of His justice, of His holiness, he is putting forth ideas that countermand the very thing he advocates.

Mr. Tozer goes on to say

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us … Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. (p. 9)

How important, then, that we look at God’s revelation of Himself rather than at some men’s imaginings of Him, be they hopeful and entertaining or not.

The Pursuit of God


I started two books in the last two days, and although they are drastically different, they have a point of confluence.

The first one, which I found in our church library, is Oprah, Miracles, and the New Earth: A Critique by Erwin Lutzer (Moody Publishers, 2009). Here’s the opening:

More than one hundred million Americans claim n allegiance to a church, synagogue, or temple. Many of them, perhaps the majority, are pursuing some form of what we’ll call Spirituality, hoping to connect with something greater than themselves. They are looking for meaning, seeking for some higher purpose that will fill their inner emptiness and persistent longings for peace. And they are being told that they can do this without believing doctrines, without acknowledging their sins, and without having to commit to believie anything too specific.

I don’t know about you, but my mind immediately traveled to The Shack, for certainly I think this paragraph could have been written with that book in mind. Actually it was not. Rather, Mr. Lutzer wrote with the New Age and eastern mysticism influences in mind.

So far, everything I’ve read confirms my belief that The Shack essentially incorporates elements of eastern mysticism with Christianity. But Mr. Lutzer’s book opened my eyes to how pervasive the influence of this brand of spirituality is … and how influenced by Satan.

To be honest, I felt weighed down, depressed. But then, in preparation for my quiet time, I picked up The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer (Horizon House, 1948). I’d pulled it off my shelf yesterday in preparing my last Shack post and decided I’d read a bit before putting it away.

Here’s the section that especially served as a salve to my soul:

Religion, so far as it is genuine, is in essence the response of created personalities to the Creating Personality, God. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

God is a Person, and in the deep of His mighty nature He thinks, wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires, and suffers as any other person may. In making Himself known to us He stays by the familiar pattern of personality. He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills and our emotions. The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion. (pp. 13-14, emphasis mine)

So The Shack can lambaste established religion and New Age writers can claim secret spirituality, but only Christ can give us what our hearts need, and only Scripture can reveal this truth.

God and Fiction – A Look at The Shack, Part 10


I’m going to backtrack a little. Last Friday I said I would look at good and evil as William P. Young’s The Shack portrays them, but the thing is, I have no disagreement with Mr. Young’s characterization of good and evil.

My point of contention comes with the idea that Man’s problems result from choosing independence, although there’s a great deal of truth in that statement.

[Jesus is talking] “In Eden you abandoned relationship with us to assert your own independence … By choosing to declare what’s good and evil you seek to determine your own destiny. It was this turning that has caused so much pain.” (p. 146-147)

Mr. Young holds Man’s choice for independence in opposition to disobedience, however. In other words, Man’s condition isn’t a result of violating the standard of a Holy God but in choosing to create our own standard. In addition, the idea that God holds Man to a standard and finds him wanting is belittled:

[Papa talking] “For now I just want you to be with me and discover that our relationship is not about performance or you having to please me. I’m not a bully, not some self-centered demanding little deity insisting on my own way. I am good, and I desire only what is best for you. You cannot find that through guilt or condemnation or coercion, only through a relationship of love.” (p. 126)

Later Jesus tells Mack

“My words [expectancy instead of expectation and respond instead of responsibility] are alive and dynamic—full of life and possibility; yours are dead, full of law and fear and judgment. That is why you won’t find the word responsibility in the Scriptures.” (p. 205)

Before this Mack discusses God’s wrath with Papa:

“But if you are God, aren’t you the one spilling out great bowls of wrath and throwing people into a burning lake of fire? … Honestly, don’t you enjoy punishing those who disappoint you?”

At that, Papa stopped her preparations and turned toward Mack. He could see a deep sadness in her eyes. “I am not who you think I am, Mackenzie. I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” (p. 119-120)

[I have to add an aside here and point out the distortions in the passage. The Bible does indeed say God (actually his angels) is the one who will spill great bowls of wrath and who throws people into a lake of fire, but it does not say He enjoys punishing anyone. That line conjures up the image of a cruel sadist, not a loving Creator. Because such an image is easy to reject, the natural reaction is therefore to reject what comes before it—a God who pours out wrath on sin, who punishes those opposed to Him.

Look too at the statements about sin. “Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside.” True. Sin devastates. But does that mean the previous line is true: “I don’t need to punish people for sin”? Just like Satan saying, Surely you won’t die, this questions God’s word. He was the one who told Adam he would die if he ate of the fruit, but now Mr. Young says God doesn’t need to punish people for sin.

And finally, it is God’s joy to “cure” sin, but His love does not negate His justice. That’s the beauty of Christ’s redemptive substitution, taking our deserved punishment upon Himself.]

Once again truth resides alongside falsehood. God is not a bully but He is demanding. Jesus did say He came not to condemn the world but to save it, however He went on to say, “He who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18 – emphasis mine)

The fact is, God is Holy—so Holy that our sin separates us from Him. Because of our sin, it is not even within our power to choose to “stop such an insane lust for independence” (p. 136).

Sin is a much bigger problem than Mr. Young paints.

God is holy and He has made holiness the moral condition necessary to the health of His universe … Whatever is holy is healthy; evil is a moral sickness that must end ultimately in death (The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer, p. 113).

Thanks be to God that He did not leave us without a Redeemer!

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ (I Peter 1:17-19)

[Series concluded – A final thought in The Pursuit of God]

Published in: on June 8, 2009 at 12:07 pm  Comments (4)  
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