Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Proper Study of God

In Tozer’s book, we head directly into God’s character, which I believe is the proper study of theology proper. God’s being, much of it, is a mystery. We need to know of God’s strength, God’s creation, God’s knowledge, otherwise we could be entrusting ourselves to a weakling. But the focus of our knowledge of God is found in the most repeated creed in Scripture:

"The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.>\" Exodus 34:6-7

It doesn’t focus on God’s power or might, but on who God is like. And it is this that we will focus on for the rest of our time with Tozer.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


On God’s omnipresence, Tozer says: “Few other truths are taught in the Scriptures with as great clarity…” This only goes to show, as much as I love Tozer, that he is a better student of theology than of Scripture. Scripture does say that God is “near to those who fear Him” and also He is “near to the brokenhearted.” Jesus said to his disciples that he would be “with you even to the end of the age.” So we can be assured that God is with His people who truly love Him and need Him.

Scripture also says that God spirit speaks to the world “concerning sin, righteousness and judgment.” Thus, the Spirit communicates to every person, good or bad, what is true. It also says in Psalm 139, in speaking of God’s complete knowledge, that God can go wherever He wishes, and that nothing is hidden from Him.

However, all this together does not equal the doctrine of omnipresence, which is God’s presence in every place at the same time. Scripture does not teach that. It says that God’s representatives, angels, are in many places, wherever God sends them. God’s Spirit is in His people. And God can see and know all things that happen. But not that God is, like some pantheistic ghost, hovering over every inch of the universe. If so, then I must question the independent sovereignty of God’s creation, which is declared in Psalm 8. If God is, somehow, in all places, then there cannot truly be independence, and there cannot truly be freedom to do as we please.

Nevertheless, if we are seeking God, God is there. If we are repenting, God is there. If we are loving in Jesus’ name, God is there. If we are crying out for help, God is there. If we are downcast in soul, God is there. God may not be in every inch of space, but God is there when we need Him. That’s what’s important

Friday, January 29, 2010

"Do You Not Know?"

In Scripture, one of the most powerful texts is Isaiah 40. Some of the greatest passages about God’s power and authority are there: “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, And marked off the heavens by the span, And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, And weighed the mountains in a balance And the hills in a pair of scales?
13 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has informed Him?
14 With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge And informed Him of the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.”

21Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
23 He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.
He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power.
30 Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly,
31 Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
Note that most of the passages are contrasts between God and someone else. God is greater than idols, God is greater than the nations and empires.

The reason for God’s powerful, bold statements is because of His promise. God had promised Israel that after 70 years of exile, they would return to the land. At Isaiah’s writing, the 70 years were just about up, but there was no sign that they would be able to return. In fact, the power of the Empire had as strong a grip as ever. Many were giving up hope that God’s promise would be fulfilled.

But God was reminding them that the One who made the promise was much, much more powerful than the Empire that held them, or the gods that they relied on. There was no reason for them to hesitate, to doubt God’s promise, because God was powerful enough to fulfill His promise.

Most of the time, when God is speaking about His power in Scripture, He is speaking to His people in despair or in crisis. They see their situation and say, “There is no hope. There’s nothing to be done. Even God can’t—or won’t help us now.” Then God always responds, “I see your plight. I know your crisis. I have waited to do something until now, but I won’t wait any longer. Not only do I have the desire to help you, but I have the power as well. I love you and you will not remain here forever.”

The problem of suffering has less to do with God’s power or love, and more to do with our patience. We don’t want to have to endure even a bit of suffering, while waiting for God’s power. God, on the other hand, is patient, waiting to see how the suffering will do us good before delivering us.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

God's Transcendence

Tozer and I are in firm agreement that God is in the highest place. That He is exalted above all things, all creation. Tozer then makes a shift that I cannot follow—He claims that God’s transcendence is primarily that of His being. He says, “God is spirit, and to Him magnitude and distance have no meaning. To us they are useful as analogies and illustrations so God refers t them constantly when speaking down to our limited understanding.” And, of course, there is much—a universe full—of our ignorance when it comes to the spirit world or God’s nature, and so God does use analogies to help us understand His nature and the power of His realm. However, I think that Tozer makes a shift in his interpretation of Scripture away from a Semitic understanding toward Greek philosophy.

God’s exaltation, in a Hebraic context, has less to do with God’s physical person rather than his social position. Greek philosophy is always drawn to being, while Semitic thought is always drawn to relationship. Greek philosophy, especially Platonism, believes that to find out what something really is, one must discover its nature, the basis of its existence. Hebraic thought is considerably different. They believe that everything is explained by relationship, one’s place in relation to others. Often, the focus of relationship is focused on authority, who has the right/responsibility to be in charge of others, both commanding them and in caring for them.

In this manner, the Hebrews, when they claimed that God is exalted above everything, is claiming that relationally and authoritatively, God is in charge of all things. When it says in Deuteronomy that God is One, it originally meant that there is no one beside God to share His authority. God is alone, solitary in relation to all other beings. When it says that God created all things, it means that He has the right to hold authority over all created things. When the book of Job deals with the problem of suffering, God’s answer at the end is very unsatisfactory to most Western thinkers, because God is simply re-iterating His position above all creatures, without actually defending His allowing suffering at all. That’s because, for the ancient Hebrew mind, that answer is satisfactory. To have authority and power is sufficient for whatever one does.

However, to rebel against authority is the most dangerous of all propositions. For a slave to stand against master, wife against husband, citizen against government, or government against God is to surrender one’s life and honor. Because life, honor, blessing, power—all that we could want out of life, comes from one’s authority. Thus, when we surrender ourselves to God’s authority, we have set aside the middle man. We do not need to receive blessing from another human, because God, the greatest of all powers, will grant it to us Himself.

To focus on being, in this mindset, is ridiculous. There’s no point to it. However one’s makeup is, it is the position that is most significant. Perhaps it is an interesting insight into the background of authority, but it is the authority that is most significant. That’s what the Bible talks about.

Nature and the Spirit World

“Where the sacred, ancient writers saw God, we see the laws of nature. Their world was fully populated, ours is all but empty. Their world was alive and personal; ours is impersonal and dead. God ruled their world; ours is ruled by the laws of nature and we are always once removed from the presence of God.” -Tozer

“Science observes how the power of God operates…. Religion… is concerned not with the footprints of God along the paths of creation, but with the One who treads those paths.” –Tozer

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


“Sovereignty and omnipotence go together. One cannot exist without the other. To reign, God must have power and to reign sovereignly, He must have all power.” –Tozer. This depends on a misconception of the idea of “sovereignty”, but we’ll discuss that when we get to that chapter.

The classic statement of omnipotence in the Bible is: “Nothing is impossible for God.” And that precisely defines what omnipotence is. It is not “God can do anything,” for this opens God up to the sophomoric statements like “Can God create a rock He cannot lift?” And then the theologian needs to then have alternative statements to make up for it. The most simplistic of statements about God’s power is this: God can do whatever He wants.

My favorite story about God’s omnipotence in the Bible is found in Numbers 11. The people of Israel are complaining that they haven’t had any meat to eat for ages. So God and Moses are discussing this, and God tells Moses to inform the people that they’ll have meat to eat for a whole month until they are sick of it. Moses replies, “And how can that happen? Do you realize how much cattle we’d have to slaughter to feed 600,000 people? I can’t keep that promise.” God rebukes his servant by saying, “Is God’s power limited?” And, sure enough, God simply diverts a wind, causes a huge flock of birds to fly over the Israelites and the birds fall down dead, right in the camp.

We often think that God is limited because we aren’t creative enough to see how God would work circumstances out. Or we put God in a box, saying “The only way to solve my problems is X”. But God’s power is not only vast, but infinitely creative. He will meet our needs in ways we couldn’t imagine.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Leading the Blind

“Most of us go through life praying a little, planning a little, jockeying for position, hoping but never being quite certain of anything, and always secretly afraid that we will miss the way. This is a tragic waste of truth and never gives rest to the heart. There is a better way. It is to repudiate our own wisdom and take instead the infinite wisdom of God. God has charged Himself with full responsibility for our eternal happiness and stands ready to take over the management of our lives the moment we turn in faith to Him. Here is the promise: ‘I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not… I will make darkness light before them.’

“God constantly encourages us to trust Him in the dark.” –Tozer

Monday, January 25, 2010

An Eternal Act Comes From God

“I knowth that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever; nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it and God doeth it, that men should fear before Him.”

-Ecclesiastes 3:14, as quoted by Tozer

The Wisdom of God

Some examples of God’s wisdom:

-To do mercy until one is sacrificed is foolish to men, but wisdom in God, for God rewards the purely merciful.
-To be faithful to one’s word even when it makes no earthy sense is God’s wisdom, for faithfulness is its own reward
-To love the unlovable is foolish to men, but it is exactly what God does, and all who are to be like God do this.
-To be pure by refusing oneself the common things of humanity is foolish to men, but it prepares one for existence with God and contentment with all things.
-To refuse one’s personal benefit for God is foolish to men, who pursue personal benefit before all things, but in God it is the poor who are honored.
-To be humble as to one’s attributes is foolish to men, but to recognize one’s place next to God is simple wisdom.

To follow human wisdom makes one human, with all the weaknesses implied. To follow God’s wisdom makes one a saint, God’s hero.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Good and Evil?

There is a battle between God and Satan and it is taking place among men.

But the battle is not between “good and evil” so to speak, but as to whether God will keep his promise to mankind that they will rule the world. Satan is proving again and again that humanity isn’t worthy, and God is proving that, although weak, humanity will eventually prove worthy. Thus, when Jesus, the one worthy human, came, Satan had to kill him, which proved Satan’s unworthiness, not Jesus’. In the eyes of humanity a crucified Lord is shameful, but in the eyes of God’s wisdom, it is beautiful, even perfect.

God's Knowledge of Us

To say that God cannot learn is to claim an inability of God. God, as we will see later, is able to do whatever He desires—including learning.

There is one thing that God knows perfectly that humanity can only grasp at straws—God knows Himself. God has more self knowledge than any human would ever possess. God also knows a lot of minute knowledge that for others would be trivial, for instance the number of hairs on our heads (which changes every minute, for some of us). But what is minutia to us, is significant for Him because He loves us so that He desires to know every hidden, insignificant part of us. We are not, cannot, be hidden from God.

This knowledge of us would make some paranoid, as if God has some eternal security clearance that He has no right to. First of all, as God’s creation, we have no right to hide anything from Him. Secondly, the fact that we still live after the fact that He knows all of our thoughts should give us comfort. God truly is merciful. He truly is gracious. He truly does want to give us chances. He knows us inside and out and He still loves us and wants the best for us. This should not stir fear in our hearts, but comfort.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


As usual, Tozer gives us a classic orthodox statement about God: “To say that God is omniscient is to say that He possesses perfect knowledge and therefore has no need to learn. But it is more: it is to say that God has never learned and cannot learn.” And, as is often true with orthodox statements, it says too much.

The original definition of omniscience is that God knows all things. It is easy to go from there to the statement Tozer made. But I think it is helpful for us to look at the Scripture and see what it says about God’s knowledge. Paul says: “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord… with whom has He taken counsel, who instructed him and taught him in the path of judgment and taught him knowledge…?” These rhetorical questions from Romans 11, certainly speaks to the wisdom of God. But they do not speak of God’s personal knowledge, but to a comparative knowledge. God, in these statements, is wiser than anyone. And He knows more than anyone. But we cannot, from these statements, say that God never learns anything.

Jesus knew what was in men’s hearts. God could see what Moses could not in the world. Nothing, it says in the Psalms, is hidden from God. So all knowledge, all understanding is open to God, even things that are hidden to all other beings. But does God not learn? Genesis 18:21 speaks to God’s judgment of Sodom and whether they had done evil. But it does not say the judgment was made, but rather a testing of Sodom and “If they have done this, I will know.” If there is an outcry against Sodom, and there is nothing for God to learn, then would He not already know? Why test? Why state that knowledge is in the future instead of the present? Also, in the garden, God called out to Adam: “Where are you?” If God already knew, was he deceiving Adam, to make him think He did not know? Was he seeing if Adam would remain hidden, thus testing him, and if so, was he using the statement to trick him?

There are many answers to these questions and the classic statement of omniscience could be defended here. But I would think, not solidly. Again, the knowledge of God is too deep for us to grasp, which Paul states clearly. This means that our definitions of God’s knowledge are meaningless. The most that we can say about God’s knowledge is: Nothing is hidden from God. God knows more than any other being. And God can know whatever He wants.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Molding God

“In all our efforts to find God, to please Him, to commune with Him, we should remember that all change must be on our part.” –Tozer

So often we shape God into our image, to fit our morality, our ideals. But the one who comes to God must, instead, be molded into God’s image. He is the ideal, we are the imperfect that must be shaped into improvement.

Bending God's Will

“God will not compromise and He need not be coaxed. He cannot be persuaded to alter His word, nor talked into answering selfish prayer.” –Tozer

"That They May Be In Us"

One of the most surprising facts in Scripture is the church’s sharing in the unity of God.

“May they be one as You are in me and I in You, that they may be in Us.” says Jesus to the Father. This, I think, should direct our idea of what the unity of God is.

Anselm and Aquinas focus on the singularity of God’s being—but if that is the case, then we as humans could not participate in it. I think that Jesus is speaking about God’s nature and will. All parts of God have the same will, as well as the same mercy, the same drive to save the world. Thus, in that we, the church, share in that will, that compassion, then we are one with God. But this would mean that God’s unity has less to do with His being than His moral character. That is what we can share, Jesus makes it clear: “Be merciful as your Father in heaven is merciful.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Self-Awareness of God

“To say that God is immutable is to say that He never differs from Himself.” –Tozer

Which is honestly different from humanity. Every person wonders at some time why they did a particular action and can say of themselves, “That’s just not me.” God is never hypocritical, never disingenuous, never self-deceptive. This also means that God is always aware of who He is. We are often surprised by the mystery that is ourselves—God is fully cognizant of His character, personality and nature.

The Infinite Mercy of God

“The mercy of God is infinite too, and the man who has felt the grinding pain of inward guilt knows that this is more than academic. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Abounding sin is the terror of the world, but abounding grace is the hope of mankind. However sin may abound it still has its limits, for it is the product of finite minds and hearts… Against our deep creature-sickness stands God’s infinite ability to cure.” –Tozer

Understanding the Limits of God

It is simply pride that causes some to think that they can measure God. Milton’s Satan could easily have said, “God has limits and I know where His limits are.” To know God’s limitations is to assume weaknesses and thus to know how to conquer. But God cannot be conquered—although some have tried. And God cannot be measured, for His end cannot be seen.

A God of Our Making

“The God of Abraham has withdrawn His conscious Presence from us, and another God whom our fathers knew not is making himself at home among us. This God we have made and because we have made him we can understand him; because we have created him, he can never surprise us, never overwhelm us, nor astonish us, nor transcend us.” –Tozer

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Problem With Eternity

I think the problem with talking about eternity is that we are trying to look at God beyond human scope.

No matter where we look, He is there. We go to the beginning of time? There He is. We go to the end of time? Yep. We go to the farthest reaches of space, He’s there. We look into the deepest miniscule particle—he’s there as well.

And so, in our minds, we want to say “God is in all places and is in all times at the same time.” But how can we say this? This is beyond human comprehension. Certainly God is beyond human comprehension, but we can’t claim what God is or where God is beyond our understanding. We’ve got to restrict ourselves to that which we know, and that which God revealed. As likely as some of our conclusions are, they are still guesswork.

Theology must be restricted more to the evidence.

Was, Is, To Come

“’Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, which was and is and is to come,’ they are identifying God with the flow of creature-life with the familiar three tenses; and this is right and good, for God has sovereignty willed so to identify Himself.”

Excellent point, Mr. Tozer.

God is clearly shown in Scripture as unchanging throughout all of time, remaining holy, faithful and true without change, ever. This is important for us to remember, because our experience of people is that they forget what they said or break promises. But God never does. God is unlike people, thus holy, and He doesn’t change, but remains the same eternally. And no matter how long it may seem, His promise will be kept to His people.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

From Everlasting To Everlasting

Tozer acknowledges that the words for “forever” and “eternal” in Scripture don’t literally mean “time without end.” However, he says that claiming the writers didn’t mean “forever” as we mean it has no basis in serious scholarship, pointing out the theological bias in trying to debunk orthodoxy. I am afraid that I might bounce the same criticism back to Tozer, in defense of orthodoxy. I have not done a serious study of the terms to see specifically how they are used, but I don’t think that a general statement about scholarship on this issue has merit, and that it really needs to be studied objectively.

“’From everlasting to everlasting thou art God,’ said Moses in the Spirit. ‘From the vanishing point to the vanishing point’ would be another way to say it quite in keeping with the words as Moses used them.” –Tozer

The question is, what did the writers of Scripture have in mind as the “vanishing points”? The beginning of time, as we might? Or the beginning of the earth? Or the beginning of human creation/history? We really don’t know.

One thing I do affirm, however, is that the writers did not consider “eternity” to be “outside time” as we might think of it. That is a more recent philosophical/scientific concept, and has no place in ancient thought. Time is thought of in the ancient world as a series of ages, and the “end of time” is truly the end of an age, or era. For the Jews, 70AD is the “end of time” because their history as a people changes remarkably at that point.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Contradictions in Scripture

Tozer is more than willing to accept contradictions within Scripture. And, I must admit, that when Scripture deals with the spirit world, I am accepting of that. When humanity has an area in which they have very little information about, there are seeming contradictions that cause us to doubt the whole project—such as the controversy about the make up of matter and quantum theory. The contradictions are so stark, that they seem impossible, yet somehow, we know that matter exists and that certain evidence exists and so it must all work together somehow. That is how it is with the spirit world. We have enough evidence to say it exists, but what actually goes on there is difficult for us to judge. We just don’t know.

But other contradictions in Scripture are harder to determine. First of all, I accept that there are some contradictions in fact within Scripture. In fact, Jesus insists upon it. He points out a number of things that He disagrees with the Hebrew Scriptures, and He corrects them. Paul does the same thing, pointing out that Jesus’ death creates a new realm and the old path doesn’t apply anymore. Also, we have some seeming contradictions within books—for instance, I Cor 14 saying that women should be silent in the churches, but I Cor. 11 saying that women can prophecy in church if they have a head covering. Also Genesis 1 saying that plants were created before humanity and Genesis 2 saying that plants were created after humanity—a clear contradiction. Also we can find contradictions between different authors, such as the famous difficulty that Jesus says that judgment is based on what we do and Paul saying that our salvation is not based on works. Long theologies have been written to reconcile these positions. Another one along these lines is someone recently pointed out to me that government in Paul (Rom 13) is instituted by God, but in Revelation (13) it is instituted by Satan.

There are a few principles I use to work on this. First of all, I think that we can create a single, unifying philosophy/theology from the canon of Scripture. But, on the other hand, there are clear contradictions. How can we do this? First of all, we need to clearly determine what is a contradiction and what is not. For instance, although Jesus and Paul seem to have an opposite viewpoint of “good works”, if we understand that Paul is only speaking about good works outside of Jesus, then we have a clearer understanding. Paul, in fact, states the same as Jesus, that we will all be judged according to what we do (Romans 2:5-6), and that we need to live according to love (Romans 13). Also, Revelation does say that Satan creates empire (not all government), but this is done under God’s direction, until after Satan is thrown out of heaven after the death of Jesus, so this is not necessarily a contradiction as well.

Right now, there is a tendency in theology to focus on the differences in the theology of the writers. This is a good thing. But to take that as a principle—there are things that can’t be reconciled between writers—without a counter principle—we refuse to accept something as a controversy without examining it carefully—is foolish. You end up with a one-sided analysis of a person’s point of view. Because the fact is, we all make statements that seem contradictory on the surface until they are examined carefully. I believe that all war is wrong and I believe that government has the responsibility, under God, to do war. That statement is seemingly contradictory unless one cares to examine my theology and find out how it works together. People may not care about my theology as much as Paul’s, Jesus’ or Genesis’, and so they may not examine my statement, but we should give that extra care for Scripture’s to find out what they are saying, without assuming contradiction.

But sometimes the contradiction stands past examination, like Genesis 1 and 2. If that is the case, then we must accept the contradiction. And that contradiction probably means—like when they both exist in the same book—that the issue just isn’t significant to the author. The timing of creation clearly isn’t interesting to the editor of the two accounts in Genesis. But this allows us to focus on what is important to the editor—the fact that God is the creator and that He has a special plan for creation and for humanity. Contradictions sometimes can help us to set aside the unimportant details to focus on other more important facts.

But sometimes contradictions are there to point out important issues about theology, such as the differences between the Hebrew scriptures and the NT. It is clear in the NT that God has not changed between the testaments, but, with Jesus, God’s plan is clearly different. God hasn’t changed, but the agent of God has changed. Instead of being led by Moses, the people of God are now led by Jesus and this means a difference in law, a difference in theological focus, a difference in people and so many other things. This is less contradiction as it is progression. But with this, we cannot just use the Hebrew Scriptures to justify any kind of theology or ethic we find pleasing to us. Rather, we must center all of our Biblical understanding on Jesus. Jesus doesn’t reconcile all the contradictions—heck, He actually causes some of them. But Jesus gives us a focus to help us see what is significant and what is dross. What we should keep in our philosophy of life and what we shouldn’t. We have Jesus as a focus only because we are followers of Jesus, believers in Jesus. If we weren’t then we can make any old philosophy we wanted from the Scriptures—make a truly good mess of them. But if we are followers of Jesus, then we can disagree with some other parts of Scripture, hold it as the word of a different agent of God, but keep Jesus’ word as single and true.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Perfection of Jesus

“The truth is that the Man who walked among us was a demonstration, not of unveiled deity but of perfect humanity.” –Tozer

Spiritual Warfare

It is true, what Tozer says, that there is not, presently, an actual battle going on in heaven that God must defend Himself against. Of course there were real battles—that of Michael against Satan, for instance, although that was not for God’s protection, but to place Jesus in power beside God. But God did battle against Leviathan and against the Sea. And that wasn’t necessarily for God’s protection, but to defeat His enemies. God also battled against the Canaanites and the Babylonians and others. The spiritual warfare that the Bible mostly talks about is God battling on earth for our sakes. Battling against spiritual forces that attack us, not Him.

We must not confuse Milton with the Bible's theology! According to Revelation, the battle between Satan and Michael happened after Jesus' ascension, not before the creation of the world. As we can see in Job, Satan is welcomed into heaven at that point. Popular theology is... well, popular. But let's stick with the evidence.

Some would say that such language of battle is metaphorical and God does not actually battle, either spiritually or physically. However, this arbitrary choosing of some concept above the actual revealed word of God is disturbing to me. “God isn’t physical, therefore he doesn’t battle,” is an argument used against Scripture. Should our concept of God become so lofty that we must do away with a simple understanding of God’s word, then our theology needs some serious adjustment.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

“Probably the hardest thought of all for our natural egotism to entertain is that God does not need our help.”

This statement is both true and misleading.

God is all powerful and can do as He pleases. He does not need our help to accomplish anything. Rather He commands us and cajoles us for our own sake and for the sake of our neighbor. God does not need us to act, but we do. And God deeply desires us to act for our own and others’ benefit. He needs for us to live for the benefit of others—not because He can’t do something Himself, but because of His love for us. He loves us so much that He is constantly yearning for us to act in our own benefit.

This benefit, admittedly, looks a lot like no benefit at all, for self-sacrifice does not look like the love of oneself, but a hatred. But the fact is, if we loved ourselves, we would sacrifice ourselves for others’ benefit. God desires this, not because He needs our action, but rather our companionship. Only those who live the love of God can truly understand Him and fellowship with Him.

God, the Most High

“Since He is the Being supreme over all, it follows that God cannot be elevated. Nothing is above Him, nothing beyond Him.” –Tozer

This is the basic idea behind God being the Most High. He is above all creatures and rules all creatures. Nothing is beside Him. In reality this is the primary meaning when we say that God is One. His unity is firm, but the more important meaning is that no one and nothing is beside Him. He is alone in His authority and power. All receive command from Him, no one commands Him.

God's Self-Sufficiency

Another philosophical idea is the self-sufficiency of God. Tozer, as usual, explains it perfectly: “Whatever God is, and all that God is, He is in Himself;” and “To admit the existence of a need in God is to admit incompleteness in the divine Being;” and “The word ‘necessary’ is wholly foreign to God.’ We must admit that all life and being comes from God, but that is not to say that God is complete in and of Himself, nor is it to say that God has no needs to meet.

The philosophical idea of a conceptually perfect being is beautiful and full of symmetry, but, again, it is not necessary to apply it to the God of Scripture, nor is it necessarily helpful to do so. It is a theological distraction from the true nature of God, that which He wants to reveal to us. To focus on the perfect conceptual being is to distract us away from the Person who is “merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and truth” as God revealed Himself.

Tozer promotes the idea of God’s self-sufficiency from Jesus’ saying, “The Father has life in Himself.” In the context, Jesus is speaking of the Father containing life, and thus passing that life onto the Son, so that he also may contain life so that the life can be passed on to others on judgment day. It is not so much speaking of the self-sufficiency of God as God as the storehouse of life.

And to argue philosophically with the idea of God having no need: The being that has no need does no action. Action is borne out of need, as one’s deep desire cannot truly be separated from need. Thus, if God had no need, he would not have created the world. Nor would He have revealed Himself to humanity. Nor would He answer humanity’s call for salvation. To say that God acts is to say that He has need. To say that He acts dramatically and sacrificially is to say that He has a truly deep need. The philosophical concept of God paints God without emotion, without similarity to humanity. But God describes himself as jealous, angry, loving, compassionate—and these are all emotions of need, the need of love and the need to give love. To deny God’s need is to deny His self-description.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Self-Existence of God

The idea that God has no origin comes from two sources: First of all the name of God, “Yahweh” by which God describes it as “I am that I am”. From this theologians extract the idea of the self-existence of God, that He is complete in and of Himself, having only being, not being caused by anything. Secondly, it was necessary for theologians to speak to Aristotle’s idea of the First Cause. All things, stated Aristotle, have a cause, but there must be, at some point, something that caused all things. Theologians of all time, most famously Aquinas, used this idea as a proof of God—that God, by definition, is that which caused all things.

The problem, biblically, with all this is that God did not actually reveal Himself as self-existing. Yes, He described himself as “I am that I am”—but what does that really mean? It means, “I have a nature and you don’t have the right to question it.” But also, in context, it means, “I am the one who is there with you,” especially meaning the poor Israelites. To get self existence from the phrase, especially without any other support canonically, leaves the whole notion on weak grounds.

Like the traditional idea of Trinitarianism, the self-existence of God can neither be affirmed nor denied by Scripture, and so we must remain agnostic. That which is not clearly reveled about God by God himself is unknown. What other option is there, biblically other than the self-existence of God? Well, we know that God caused all things in this universe. But we also know that God is outside of this universe, being a part of the spirit-realm. Thus, we can biblically and philosophically agree that all things must have a Prime Mover, and God is that first cause in this universe. But of the other universe, we do not know enough or have enough communication to know what causes or is caused by anything. And so the cause of God, rather than landing on the side of God’s self existence, must firmly reside in the area of our own ignorance. Unless God chooses to reveal that part of Himself to us, we must live with the mystery.

It bothers me greatly that orthodox doctrine has not stood with biblical revelation, but has accepted that which is philosophically determined. Philosophy is strong within theology, and so it should be. But it should never be a part of doctrine, for God does not require men to think the same as other men in order to be right with Him.

One Will

“’Purity of heart is to will one thing,’ said Kierkegaard, and we may with equal truth turn this about and declare, ‘The essence of sin is to will one thing,’ for to set our will against the will of God is to dethrone God and make ourselves supreme in the little kingdom of Mansoul.”-Tozer

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Frank Words About the Trinity

Tozer scoffs at those who deny the Trinity of God because it does not make logical sense. “Some persons who reject all they cannot explain have denied that God is a Trinity. Subjecting the Most High to their cold, level-eyed scrutiny, they conclude that it is impossible that He could be both One and Three.” He goes on, rightly, to explain that God is incomprehensible, and it is good for our humility to remember that we cannot understand everything.

However, in the matter of the Trinity, most Trinitarians and most Christian anti-Trinitarians have forgotten their humility, their stand with the word of God, in order to say about God only that which Scripture says. Scripture says there is one God, only one. Scripture says that the Father is God. Scripture says that Jesus is God. And Scripture implies that the Holy Spirit is God. That we can stand with. But when, in the fourth century, it was determined by a council that anyone who denies that the Father and the Son is of the same essence is a heretic, outside the church. Yet Scripture no where gives this explanation for the unity of the Father and the Son. In fact, Jesus prays that the Church “may be one, even as You and I are one.” The Church does not share in the essence of the Godhead, does she? No.

Part of the problem comes in with how Scripture uses the word “god”. We want to use the term strictly for the single, unified, all-powerful being that created the universe. However, as even Jesus himself pointed out, Scripture uses the term “god” in different ways. It is used for angels, it is used for pagan gods—or demons—frankly, it is used even for Satan! And so we cannot say that because the term is used for one being that the being is of the same essence as another. Scripture just doesn’t give us enough information.

I affirm the mystery of God. In this I also affirm the mystery of the trinity and how Jesus is God and the Father is God yet there is one God. Are they the same essence? No one knows. Does Jesus have a beginning? No one knows. Is the Holy Spirit of the same essence of the Father and the Son? No one knows. Orthodox theology, while affirming mystery in general, denies many mysteries that exist in Scripture, acclaiming and affirming that which is unknown by God’s revelation. Some authorities of the church have put themselves above God’s own word in declaring when God is silent. And they have made the worse mistake by judging those who affirm that silence.

Let us repent of our rejection of those who see Scripture differently, when we have no reason to say that they are wrong. Let us repent of our high-mindedness, and humbly admit that God truly is unknown, and yet he reveals himself to us through His Son.

What if we Knew Nothing and Saw the World?

“Thomas Carlyle, following Plato, pictures a man, a deep pagan thinker, who had grown to maturity in some hidden cave and is brought out suddenly to see the sun rise. ‘What would his wonder be,’ exclaims Carlyle, ‘his rapt astonishment at the sight we daily witness with indifference! With the free, open sense of a child, yet with the ripe faculty of a man, his whole heart would be kindled by that sight… This green flowery rock-built earth, the trees, the mountains, rivers, many sounding-seas; that great deep sea of azure that swims overhead; the winds sweeping through it; the black cloud fashioning itself together, now pouring out fire, now hail and rain; what is it? Ay, what? At the bottom we do not know; we can never know at all.’”

Monday, January 11, 2010


“The doctrine of divine unity means not only that there is one God; it means also that God is simple, uncomplex, one with Himself.” This is the beginning of the misunderstanding of God.

Tozer contrasts God with a human being who might change one’s mood. While God is unique, we see God have strong emotions, and also repent of a decision. God changes his plans, if not His nature.

To be sure, I am not saying that God is like human beings (except in those aspects in which He created us to be like Him). But to declare God “uncomplex” is to put God into a philosophical box. To say that we can put Him in a place and He will never shift from that. This is simply wrong. God is complex. And while He never changes and remains “one”—in charge of the universe—we will never grasp his reasons for doing what He is doing. Because God is a person, and as complex and unpredictable as any person.


So much of God is a mystery in the Scriptures. There are so many questions not answered. Rather, the Scriptures focus on the experience of humanity, of actions done justly or unjustly, in love or not in love, acting for God’s glory or being idolatrous. Is it right for us to spend much time in seeking the nuances of God’s being when, perhaps, we should instead be focused on doing right and offering glory?

“What is God like? What kind of God is He? How may we expect Him to act toward us?... To our questions God has provided answers, not all the answers, certainly, but enough to satisfy our intellects and ravish our hearts.” –Tozer


Tozer uses the term “attribute” as being “whatever God has in any way revealed as being true of Himself.” I like that, but, as we will see, even Tozer will apply “attributes” to ideas that have not been revealed by God. We must divine the word so carefully.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Knowing God

How then can we know anything about God, let alone where He dwells? We cannot unless God tells us. We are like the insect trying to understand the ways of humanity. They can see the works of humans and make use of their accomplishments, but they cannot comprehend us, because our ways are so different from theirs. If one of us could become an insect and learn their ways, then, in some limited way we might communicate to them what we are like and what our ways are. But even then, most of the complexity of humanity is incomprehensible to the insect world. So it is with us and God.

We can understand some of God, but only that which He explained to us. Perhaps that understanding is finite and less than we desire, but nothing else can accurately be explained. We must remain with the limited explanations the word of God gives us. If we go beyond that, we wander into speculation and assumptions about what cannot be known is the same as idiocy.

“O Majesty unspeakable, my soul desires to behold Thee. I cry to Thee from the dust. Yet when I inquire after Thy name it is secret. Thou art hidden in the light which no man can approach unto. Therefore, I pray, whatever of Thyself Thou hast been pleased to disclose, help me to search out as treasure more precious than rubies.” -A.W. Tozer

Seeing the Spirit World

God dwells in a world beyond measurement or sight. The mystic might gain an experience of the spirit world, but even that is hard to describe. The mystic cannot communicate to us the spirit world, but can only experience it.

God's Freedom and Human Freedom

If God is the only one who is completely free, as the Cause of all things, then God has purposed to limit His freedom by granting others—if only human beings—freedom. In granting sovereignty to humanity, God so reduces his sovereignty by exactly that much. In determining to love and forgive and promising to forgive the repentant, God limits Himself to that love, and so reduces His freedom. But in even his own limitations, God remains free—free to remain in the love He chose, free to grant to humanity freedom.

Unknowable God

“The intellect knows that it is ignorant of You because it knows You cannot be known, unless the unknowable can be known, and the invisible beheld and the inaccessible attained.” –Nicholas of Cusa

New Knowledge

“We learn what we already know as a bridge over which we pass to the unknown.” –Tozer

Saturday, January 9, 2010

How High?

What is it that holds God so high above men, above the world? We should make a careful study of this. Is it not as wrong to make God so high He cannot be reached as well as to make Him so low that He constantly lives in our limitations?

The Idolatrous Heart

“The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is… and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness.” –Tozer

Knowledge and Action

Tozer puts much power into the right knowledge of God. However much one might know about God’s power and attributes, however, one can still live an immoral lifestyle, fraught with hatred and full of the things God hates. Knowledge is significant, but true faith lives out knowledge.

Theology and Religion

“No religion has ever been greater than its idea of God… The Church can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God.” –Tozer

Be Still and...

“The words, ‘Be still and know that I am God’ mean next to nothing to the self-confident, busting worshiper in this [time]” –Tozer

Experiencing The Spirit

“Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit.” –Tozer.

I am not certain of Christianity in Tozer’s day, but today I think that is less true. The concern that Tozer is focused on is less a concern today, although still true in some places. The Charismatic movement has given the Spirit again his proper place in the Christian life, and although many do not experience this, it is still a mighty change from a hundred years ago. Also, the evangelicals, as well as the new worship forms, have re-emphasized God’s majesty and greatness. However, it is true, that few Christians do the necessary work of connecting with the Spirit or truly seeing and responding to God in His magnificent state.

Who Do We Worship?

“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, worshipping men. This she has not done deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic.” –Tozer

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer

I decided that I should read and write a book on Theology Proper-- the study of God Himself. His nature, His character, etc. There are a number of books I could have read: The Existence and Attributes of God by Stephen Charnock, Christian Theology by Millard Erickson, or the Dogmatics by Karl Barth. I looked for The Institutes by John Calvin, but couldn't find it on the shelf at the library. After getting home, I looked on my own shelf and found The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer. Then I knew I had found the right book.

First of all, it's a slim book, unlike, say, Barth's Dogmatics. So I'll be able to get through it relatively quickly. Secondly, it covers briefly all the main points of orthodox knowledge about God-- the Trinity, and all the basic attributes of God. Also, Tozer has wonderful prose-- I have always loved his writing and at times have wanted to copy it. I also wished I could have visited his church one Sunday in his crowded facility and listened to him rail on the state of the church-- also one of my favorite subjects.

This is not to say that I agree with Tozer all the time. He goes too far in his judgments, even of the church. And, as you shall see, I certainly don't agree with Tozer in his theology all the time. But I still think that this is one of the most worthwhile books on God ever. Even when he's wrong, Tozer still gets the basics right.

Find this book. You should be able to get it in the library. Follow along with me. I'm probably going to post a chapter a day, although I have a lot to say on his five page chapters. It's dense stuff.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Real Thing

There have been many ways the church has used to accomplish the blessing of the anawim: celibacy, surrender of possessions, missionary work, fasting, martyrdom, self-torture, intentional poverty—but all of these are pointless without using these tools to accomplish the benefit of others.

Church Leadership

“The church leaders seek avidly to dominate the masses… They are seen to appear as brilliant and pure but their souls are worse than mud and dirt, worse even than any kind of deadly poison, these evil and perverse men!” -Symeon the New Theologian

Repentance and Fasting

The professional repenter gains no reward unless they truly look at the sin in reality instead of in general.

Fasting is good. Being able to do God’s will with bright eyes is better.


Those who are resurrected are those whose lives have been so miserable for God’s sake that they deserve a second chance.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Reason and Faith

Natural reason cannot promote humility or sacrifice or honor to God. These are distinctly religious virtues that come from a religious worldview.

Democracy and Dictatorship

“A democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.” –John Paul II

Top Cat

The desire of the common man is to be in charge, on top of the world, a fat cat, above his peers. But this is, of course, not a tenable ethical position, for not everyone can be above his peers. It is an ideal that isolates us from society.

This is not, by the way, an example of the Kantian Universalized Ethic. He said that any ethical principle only works if it works universally-- such as "Do not steal" only works if it is universally applied without exception. My example above is simply a point of fact: Not everyone can be on top. Not everyone can be above average. Not everyone can be the best. Simple mathematics: Not all the numbers can be One.

True freedom gives life to all, not just to self.

Using the Norm to Thwart

The Bible challenges human culture by using the forms of human culture and thwarting it to God’s purpose and ethics.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Theology and Ethics

“Dogmatics is ethics. Ethics is dogmatics.” –Karl Barth

Dogmatics is Barth's term for the basic teaching of the church-- that which we affirm and teach to others. What he clearly states is that ethics cannot be separated from the church's teaching. If we teach about God, we teach about what is right and wrong.

How Far We Have Fallen!

No matter how debased humans have become, the foundational ethic of creation is still imbedded in the human psyche.

Jesus and Anawim

Jesus is very clearly on the side of the poor, which the wealthy might think of as a plot to immortalize strength, wealth and power.

However, Jesus didn’t object to power or wealth, but of their neglect of the anawim—the vulnerable. Wealth and power always neglect the vulnerable, the outcast by definition. If wealth and power didn’t neglect them, they would not be outcast. Jesus is about the creation of a society in which the only vulnerable are those who created the vulnerable.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Crazy Ethics

Jesus’ ethics are, without a doubt, based on selfishness. He encourages certain actions by promoting reward, blessing. wealth, and high office.

As Nietzsche paraphrases Jesus, “He who humbles himself wants exaltation.”

But Jesus makes it clear that he is not working toward success now, but in the future. And those he selects for all this sordid gain are those who are the poor, humble, sacrificial and merciful. So these that Jesus receives to be great in God’s kingdom are trained to be the kind of leaders and wealthy people the poor had always wished for. The kind that would rule with an eye to the needy—the kind of ruler the world has never had. So Jesus trains unselfishness through selfish motives.

Crazy like a fox, our anti-Machiavellian.

Tough Love

Abraham’s choice to sacrifice Isaac is the choice of his relationship to God above his relationship to Isaac. He was forced to choose between his fidelity to God and his fidelity to his fellow human. Thankfully, God had his own fidelity to Isaac—to humanity—so Abraham had every right to entrust the future of humanity to God. By faith, Abraham knew that entrusting all to God preserved his fidelity to humanity.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Law and Grace

The “law” is any ethic or principle of rule that is “required” for salvation apart from the life and teachings of Jesus. Should anyone call the life or teaching of Jesus a “law” apart from “grace” is a heretic and rejects the true life.

Government v. Church

The government is the representative of God’s judgment, as shown by the command “An eye for an eye.” The church is the representative of God’s grace, as shown by the command, “Repent and be forgiven.”

The church should not give way to the government, for the two entities are, in a sense, in competition for humans souls. Should the government surrender some of it’s punitive nature in order to offer mercy, well and good (but we do not expect it). However, the church must never surrender its grace and mercy to become punitive, for then the witness of Christ is lost to the world.

Was God's Original Plan Anarchy?

It was always God’s intention to have human leadership over humans—e.g. government. But not the heavy-handed style. Rather gentle and guiding, for we would all be considered the same.

“The individual interest and the common goal are not the same” –Aquinas

Paradise Reexplained

It was never God’s plan that humanity would be sinless or perfect. Otherwise we would not have been created with anger—a response to injustice. Nor would Jesus have expected sin in his church. However, in God’s perfect creation, all sin would be corrected and rehabilitated, not punished.

Returning Evil for Evil

It is natural for us to do evil for evil done—however, in a world of evil, the Christian must be restrained in order for grace to be offered.

Grace allows us to live as we were created to. Grace allows us to grant grace to those who do not.

Why Are We Stuck Sinning?

Why are we in the predicament of doing evil?

1. The Fall
Whether literally or symbolically, individually or collectively, there has been a rejection of God’s leadership—both His structural leadership and His ethical leadership. God gave humanity sovereignty over themselves and creation and they chose to reject God’s direct rule and law and guidance.

2. Human Nature
Human nature was created to respond to difficulties, injustices, inadequacies and poverty. It also has specific drives and needs—physical, social, sexual, emotional, etc. It was not intended to be in a context without God’s rule and guidance and so missteps—mostly unintended—are made because of a wrong reaction to a context of lostness.

3. Judgment
Due to rebellion, humanity—both individually and collectively—are under the judgment of spiritual forces. Sometimes this judgment is due to specific sin, sometimes due to general rebellion. But disasters, attacks, diseases, etc, come because of general disobedience.

4. Ethical Lapses
Selfishness, narrow-mindedness and misunderstanding cause humanity to do evil or to refuse to do good, thus creating a cycle of evil.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Destructors of our Soul

What destroys ethical living:

Selfishness: Only seeing what is right and wrong to ourselves, not to anyone else

Narrow-mindedness: Only seeing right and wrong for a certain culture, nation, social group, etc.

Universality: Assuming rules of right and wrong must apply to everyone without taking into account cultures, lifestyle, differing ideals and abilities.

Misunderstanding human nature: Not comprehending the possibility of human evil or human sacrifice for the good of all.

Misunderstanding reality: Ethics is based on what we perceive to be real, but if we do not grasp reality, our ethics will be impaired.

Natural Ethics

We are created with ethics. It is built into us. We have an emotional response to an unethical situation—it is usually anger, but it could possibly be fear, sorrow, grief or loneliness.

For most of us, ethics is strictly emotional. “Right and wrong” is that which we innately sense is “right and wrong.” However, our emotional reasoning often leads us to an ethic that might seem fair to us but not to those around us.

Can We Do What Is Right?

Pelegius says that since perfection if possible it is obligatory. The issue here is not a matter of “works v. faith” or legalism v. grace. Rather we should recognize what is the ideal and then se the human individual as being complicated and tricky to maneuver. Living the right life is not only hard to know, but difficult to do, although it can get easier with practice (until your body changes with age).

Created Sexes

Augustine said that sexuality is not a defect, but is natural. Thus God, who established the two sexes will restore them in the resurrection. If the sexes are good, we have no right to reject or spread dissent about one or another. When faced with the mystifying actions of the other sex, we should marvel at God’s variety of creation.

Friday, January 1, 2010


“In the reception of poor men and pilgrims special attention should be shown, because in them Christ is more truly welcomed; for the fear [and greed] which the rich inspire is enough of itself to secure them honor.” –Benedict

Ethics of Leadership

Law must be as binding on our leaders as they are on everyone else. Nor should leaders be subjected to a law apart from the law of the people. The only exceptional law of the leader is: “To the fullest extent, do good to all.”

The Christian rule of leadership is that the leader is not to use his or her position to benefit oneself, but the community, especially the needy.

Society and Ethics

To live ethically is to live in society. To live in an artificially controlled society—one in which an ethic is forcefully maintained or one is exiled—is not to live a fully Christian ethic. The ethic of Jesus is meant to be lived among those who do not follow the ethic. It is an ethic that is all about dealing with sin and enmity and hatred and abuse. To refuse to deal with evil in the world, to escape from it, is to not be Christ-like.