That Incredible Christian, by A.W. Tozer
I feel, after having read this short but very worthwhile book, that this book somehow has the wrong title. Although the author has a lot of very pointed things to say about what makes someone an incredible Christian, that does not appear to be the main focus of this book. Rather, this book consists of a thoughtful and sustained critique of the sort of Christianity that was contemporary in the time of the author (the early 1960’s) and that is still extant today, if not even worse. The book reads like a classic and not like a dated work, which reflects the way that the author looks at his time through eternal truths rather than writing in a way that sought to make his book wholly relevant to his own times, which would have made them largely irrelevant to our own. As someone who enjoys reading rather critical works , this book was certainly an appealing one, taken from the author’s editorials for The Alliance Witness from 1960-1963, along with one longer piece taken from Moody Monthly, a periodical it sounds like it would have been enjoyable to read if one had the chance to do so. Readers expecting a lengthy and sustained argument will likely be a bit disappointed, but those who enjoy short and punchy editorials of a high order will find much to appreciate here.
In terms of its contents, most of the book consists of short essays of about three pages apiece. One gets the feeling that the author had some strict word counts for his editorials, as the works are all nearly identical in length, totaling to just about 140 pages of powerful material. The book takes its title from its opening essay, but many of the essays involved deal with subjects of lasting relevance like the challenge of holiness and godliness for the unregenerate and rebellious heart and mind, the need for balance in the life of a believer, the importance of faith, putting our beliefs into practice through obedience, the struggles and difficulties of the godly life, the importance of taking theology seriously, spiritual warfare, the importance of knowledge of God and relationship with God, as well as the need to overcome partial understanding that leads to doctrines of half-truths. As is fairly common in Tozer’s work, this is a book that challenges the reader, and can be taken as somewhat bracing for those who do not come to books to be confronted with the flabbier parts of their nature.
When one deals with a book like this, it is worthwhile to ponder whether one gets more out of wrestling with those who, like the author, are rather tough-minded, or whether one is in need of tenderheartedness. I think, ultimately, that we need both approaches at different times or sometimes even the same time. While the author himself discusses the need for balance often here as a writer, one can see that he clearly has an approach that wishes to challenge others where they are weak, and that it is the sort of attitude that could trouble and offend. Yet precisely because of that it is important to read books like this, not only because we live in an age where to offend others through challenging them is to be viewed as the worst kind of sinner. We need to be challenged, as those who flatter us about the way we are ultimately do not have our best interests at heart, and if one might doubt about the author being a particularly sympathetic person, there is no doubt in reading this that the author does want a great deal out of the reader as a person of faith as well as sound intellect and obedience, at least as the author understands it.
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