Tag Archives: Arminian theology

Review: The Knowledge of the Holy

Rating: ★★★★★

Author: A. W. Tozer was an American pastor with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. In addition to the books that he wrote during his lifetime—of which the most famous are The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy—hundreds of his sermons have been preserved for us and published in various forms. He also wrote many short articles as editor of the Alliance Weekly, seen for instance in Of God and Men and Born After Midnight. He is Arminian in theology, but mystical in outlook.

Genre: Devotional, theology proper.

Overview:

Tozer makes a statement in the introduction of this book that encapsulates the meaning and importance of theology proper for every believer:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. (p. 1)

After this challenge, he handles attributes of God one by one in 23 chapters, each of which has been carefully distilled.

Theology proper was the task of a lifetime for Tozer. In addition to The Knowledge of the Holy, he has numerous sermons and sermon series on God’s attributes, some of which have also been published in book form. His Attributes of God series goes into more detail on specific theological questions. Of them all, however, The Knowledge of the Holy is the clearest and the best.

Tozer sees theology as leading us first and foremost to worship. As such, his book only takes on controversial topics as they tend to the kindling of renewed faith. He is the consummate devotional writer: which is to say, his goal in his writings and sermons is always to lead his listeners and readers to worship.

Meat:

The first chapter, “Why We Must Think Rightly about God,” is an obvious high point.

A high point in this book for me was Tozer’s Arminian explanation of “The Sovereignty of God.” He writes that we may know with certainty that a steamer is bound for Boston without knowing who will be on the steamer; in the same way, we know that the “elect” are going to heaven, but who is included in the “elect” is a matter subject to change over time. This explanation should be lucid and helpful to most Arminians.

Bones:

After the introductory chapters (1-4), Tozer spends five chapters introducing theology proper in a kind of Classical framework, which is obviously influenced by Greek philosophical thought. Although there is very little that I take issue with in chapters 5 through 10, the framework is based on systematic philosophical concerns. I think it could have been a more biblically grounded, rather than systematically grounded.

Probably the hardest thought of all for our natural egotism to entertain is that God does not need our help. . . . The God who worketh all things surely needs no help and no helpers. Too many missionary appeals are based upon this fancied frustration of Almighty God.

While this is clear enough in systematic theology, it is not so clear in biblical theology. One of the misconceptions of Job’s friends (42:8) was that they believed that God puts no trust in his servants (4:18-19, 15:15-16). On the contrary, the theatrical frame for the Book of Job leads us to believe that God puts too much trust in his servants. God isn’t flippant concerning our spiritual outcomes; both Testaments lead us to the conclusion that he is truly invested—if anything, more invested than we ourselves are.

Quotes:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. (p. 1)

The greatness of God rouses fear within us, but His goodness encourages us not to be afraid of Him. To fear and not be afraid—that is the paradox of faith.

God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, ‘What doest thou?’ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.

Review: Adventure in Adversity

Rating: ★★★★

Who: Paul E. Billheimer (1897-1984) was an American Charismatic minister who worked in media ministry during the last decades of his life. The thesis of most of his books is that the Bride of Christ is in on-the-job training for her eternal destiny through prayer and overcoming. His books are easy to read with short sections, lots of Scripture quotation, and simple, modern language.

Overview: This book is a brief devotional study on the Book of Job. The author teaches that Job was “perfect,” but only “relatively perfect,” at the beginning of the narrative. He shows how God taught Job brokenness and self-disillusionment in four areas of his life: family life, materialism, physical afflictions, and defective theology.

Some of Billheimer’s books are geared mainly towards bringing balance into the Word of Faith crowd—he worked with TBN in his later years—and you will notice a special focus on healing. Billheimer points out, however, that holiness trumps healing every time. How importance is character to God? “God is willing to be misunderstood in the universe he has made, in order to achieve his purpose of character development.” (p. 18) Delays and afflictions can work holiness in us, and even healing is meant to promote holiness in believers.

Meat: I am usually disappointed by reading someone else’s comments on Job—not so with Billheimer. He has some pretty good insights into what it means to be “relatively perfect.” Even though Job had no “blatant sin,” suffering refined him of attitudes that were not becoming in a saint.

The author’s theology is basically Wesleyan: “God does nothing except by prayer.” Billheimer’s books will resonate with those who prefer relational theology over systematic theology. Although he writes that God refines his people through suffering, he balances this by talking about God’s suffering, and emphasizing God’s compassion in his cosmic purposes.

Bones: Although Billheimer is bringing balance to the “name it, claim it” crowd, some of his statements make it sound like, if you just had enough faith, or were holy enough, then you would never experience sickness or affliction. Taken as a whole, though, I think this book is rather meant to oppose such attitudes of judgmentalism in the Church.

Quotes: “God’s purpose in permitting adversity is growth in holiness, in agape love, and that is obtained by progressive overcoming of the effects of the fall.” (p. 11)

“Tribulation’s imprint is on all great saints. It has been said that crowns are cast in crucibles … Blood marks the steps that lead to the heights.” (p. 30)

“None of us has reached the point where we are truly broken so long as we sit in judgment upon any act of God.” (p. 50)

Related: Don’t Waste Your Sorrows, The Mystery of God’s Providence, Destined for the Throne