Book Review: The Pursuit Of God

The Pursuit Of God, by A.W. Tozer

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Aneko Press/Life Sentence Publishing in exchange for an honest review.]

Like Pilgrim’s Progress [1], The Pursuit Of God is a book that is considered a Christian classic, and both of these books focus on a believer’s walk with God, and with the practical outgrowth of faith in action. Where Bunyan’s classic work is an allegory full of plainspoken but easily accessible wisdom, this book is written in a somewhat paradoxical way, in that it has the elevated language and quotations of various Christian mystics would presuppose a high degree of religious knowledge on the part of the reader, but at the same time the book is particularly harsh towards head knowledge that is not translated into heart knowledge [2]. Although there is a lot of mystical language here, some of it quotation from other Christian mystics going back to the early centuries of Hellenistic Christianity and to close to the present period, like Augustine, Nicholas of Cusa, Thomas a Kempis, and Friedrich von Hugel, among others, the real appeal of this book is its passionate appeal for believers to live their faith and to overcome the false dilemmas between the ‘real’ and the spiritual and the sacred and the secular. For its brave defense of a unified Christianity that applies to all areas of life alone, this book is worthy of praise, and worthy of being read.

In terms of its structure, the book reads like a series of meditations that begin with biblical verses and that often at least refer to scripture, or at least the author’s understanding of scripture, but that quickly leave the firm foundation of God’s word in the Bible and enter into the much more murky world of speculation as well as the not entirely godly example of various Hellenistic Christians through the ages, who are quoted here at much greater length than the word of God. Each of the chapters of the book, furthermore, end with a passionate prayer from the author to God. To be sure, this book deals with such matters as the imminence and transcendence of God, the immense graciousness of God in first calling us to Him and then provoking our longing so that we follow Him and grow. Some of the language of this book is deeply profound and moving, such as the author’s commentary on the qualities of various godly individuals in scripture and history: “I venture to suggest that the one vital quality which they had in common was spiritual receptivity. Something in them was open to heaven, something which urged them Godward. Without attempting anything like a profound analysis, I shall say simply that they had spiritual awareness and that they went on to cultivate it until it became the biggest thing in their lives. They differed from the average person in that when they felt the inward longing, they did something about it. They acquired the lifelong habit of spiritual response. They were not disobedient to the heavenly vision (52-53).” Passages like these demonstrate the sincerity of the author’s passionate search for intimacy with God, a zeal which should be present in the lives of all believers.

That is not to say that this book is perfect, or even close to perfect. In particular, the author is remarkably sloppy about matters of interpretation and what is written in scripture. One time, for example, the author’s speculation about the supposedly perilous relationship between Abraham and Isaac, a peril based on a misunderstanding of what is said in Genesis, leads the editor of the book to make this pointed remark in a footnote: “We are unaware of this thought being supported in scripture. Rather, Genesis 22:1 says And it came to pass after these things that God proved Abraham. This verse indicates a test rather than a reprimand (14).” When the author makes the following quote: ““we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one: the glory equal and the majesty co-eternal.” So in part run the ancient creeds, and so the inspired Word declares (25-26),” the knowledgeable and godly reader can only reply: “But where does it say that, either in word or in idea, in scripture?” And the answer is silence, for the author mistakes the Hellenistic language of the creeds with a Bible that does not say anything of the kind whatsoever. The author would know that if he knew his Bible better, and if he was content to let his mind be filled with God rather than allow it to be mediated by the thoughts and words of post-Nicene church fathers and mystics. Yet this book is to be praised not for its zeal not according to knowledge, but for its sincerity of heart, and for pushing its reader towards a life of practical obedience, with the hope that the reader may be wiser and more obedient to God’s ways than the author himself.

[1] See, for example:

[2] This is the subject both of other books I have read recently as well as my own writing. See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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16 Responses to Book Review: The Pursuit Of God

  1. Thank you Nathan, for well-written, honest review.

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