What is so striking about Tozer’s, The Knowledge of the Holy, is not so much that the author sees theoretical theology linked closely with practical sanctification, but how he clarifies this link. He argues that an insufficient view of God leads to the deterioration of one’s own faith and walk with God. Behind that argument is the notion that ideas are inextricably bound up with practices. One cannot actually praise and worship an unworthy God without making oneself unworthy in the process. Humans degrade themselves by believing in a petty god who cannot really accomplish anything in their life.
At first, this thesis seems counter-intuitive. Doesn’t it happen that doctrinally unsound positions are fervently held by people who can still live out their lives for God? At first blush, that seems right. Yet we know that Paul taught that one can perform amazing acts and be sold out to God and still lack love. That lack of love can vitiate the entire point of good works: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (I Corinthians 13:3; ESV). Paul hints that even all the knowledge in the world cannot really help you when it comes to a lack of love.
God can reveal Himself to the most uneducated and illiterate of souls; and when they turn to pursue God, they will soon have a working knowledge of His grandeur, even though they may not obtain a college or seminary degree. This distinction is not necessarily upheld or sustained by author, Tozer, but in my reflections, it seems evident that he is not excluding simplicity of worship of God; only that our view of God must be lofty enough to buoy up our spirits when we are engaged in worship of that most high Being.
Within American culture, the “12-Step Recovery” programs have become fairly popular with their sense of “higher power.” People who have experienced an extreme dependency upon alcohol or some chemical agent as a psychological or emotional recourse for defeat in their personal lives are encouraged to acknowledge their dependence upon this vague “higher power.” For Tozer, this is fundamentally misguided. We should not start with some inferior, worthless conception of man in a dependent state and construct our image of God on that basis. We should first acknowledge the transcendence of God grounded in His self-revelation and recognize that our experiences of dependency and deficiency may actually reflect how we have attempted to fashion our idea of God out of our personal experiences of success or failure. In other words, a high view of God is not maintained by reducing His nature of holiness to the lowest common denominator of human seekers who have experienced the travails of dependency.
It is not because mankind is utterly helpless in the face of a dependency upon some physical addiction that he must turn to a “higher power.” It is rather, to the contrary, that the “higher power” is already defined as an Absolute Sovereign who declares that all of mankind’s efforts to be independent of Him must lead to personal and spiritual failure.
Tozer’s point is that we cannot enter the act of worship of a God who is not the self-revealing and self-disclosing God of Scripture. That would be, in effect, to worship ourselves since this God would be fashioned like one of His creatures. As Paul affirms in Romans 1, humankind, even though created in the image of God, can rebel against Him and His will and worship something self-made: “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (1:24-25; ESV).
“Before that burning bush we ask not to understand, but only that we may fitly adore thee, One God in Persons Three. Amen.”–Knowledge of the Holy.
One of the best ways to learn about the character of the God we worship is by studying His names for it is through the revelation of His names and by observation of His holy acts that we can learn and grow in His character.
Do you enjoy vocabulary-building exercises? If so, you might like to try out this quiz to help Boost your Word Power with the audio version performed by Disney’s Cheryl Texiera. The ebook version is fully interactive and allows you to review your progress.