Book Review: The Knowledge Of The Holy

Three Points and a Poem. When I first started trying to learn the art of crafting a sermon to preach to a congregation, I felt a strong need to do things my own way. I wanted to make my own mark in this world so-to-speak, and that meant I couldn’t resort to using antiquated methods like the cliche “Three Points and a Poem.” Suffice it to say that like many other things I’ve discovered along the way; I was wrong. While there are many variations of this method of presenting God’s Word from the pulpit, I have found myself preaching better sermons, and doing a better job of calling people to action while outlining my sermons in this general framework.
I come from a musical background. I’ve studied a few instruments, and performed as a “professional” for a number of years before having kids and pursuing full-time ministry. The correlation I have seen there is in understanding how western music is put together. Songs generally have a standard framework or “song structure” of three sections, most notably a verse, a chorus, and a bridge. Instrumental music won’t term them in the same way, but will generally carry sections called exposition, development and recapitulation. Keeping this in mind, there is tremendous variety and diversity within the limitless libraries of music, yet they share common and standardized format in how they are framed.
A.W. Tozer wrote an inspiring book called The Knowledge of the Holy in 1961. Given the date of its release, it would appear that the author prescribed to a teaching and preaching style, and in turn, writing style, as outlined above. Not having read any of Tozer’s other works personally, I am unable to comment on his full body of work to know whether this was a consistent writing style for  him, or a specific choice for this book, but it was an effective choice regardless. The book is 23 chapters in length and follows a similar pattern through each chapter. Tozer himself suggested “since this book is neither esoteric nor technical, and since it is written in the language of worship with no pretension to elegant literary style, perhaps some persons will be drawn to read it.” The book jacket shouts: “With more than 500,000 copies sold!” Clearly people have been drawn to it now for generations.
What if part of the book’s draw were the form itself in which it is written? What could we learn about it’s structure that actually pulls us towards The Knowledge of the Holy, as the title suggests? In the middle of a modern and high paced world, what the author, A.W. Tozer has done here in this book, is to build what I see as a repeating three section framework by which a “self-confident bustling 20th century worshipper can actually appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit.” Where should we begin?
First, if we are going to come to a knowledge of the Holy, we must start with prayer. Each chapter opens with a prayer of worship, or a prayer for understanding. “O Christ our Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. As conies to their rock, so have we run to Thee for safety!” prays the author before discussing the immutability of God. And, Tozer begins the chapter on God’s self-sufficiency by praying: “Teach us O God, that nothing is necessary to Thee. Were anything necessary to Thee that thing would be a measure of Thine imperfection. Thou does not need us, we seek Thee because we need Thee, for in Thee we live and have our being. Amen!” Clearly, the author has chosen to put his reader’s mind in perspective for what he is about to share. God is supreme. God is Holy. God is God; and we are not. First, if we are going to come to a knowledge of the Holy, we must start with prayer.
Second, if we are going to come to a knowledge of the Holy, we must seek God’s Word. “Scripture makes men see what God is like by showing them what He is not like” says Tozer. “Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard,” cries Isaiah, “that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?” God knows effortlessly all matters pertaining to man. He is not tired or worn down by the things that keep the human race from pressing on. Our God has no limits and Scripture will imperatively declare that to be the case again and again. “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,” cried Daniel the prophet, “for wisdom and might are his. He giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: he reveals the deep and secret things: I know if what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.” First, if we are going to come to a knowledge of the Holy, we must start with prayer. Second, we must seek God’s Word.
Third, we must study people and culture. “Philosophy and science have not always been friendly toward God,” says Tozer, “the reason being that they are dedicated to the task of accounting for things and are impatient with anything that refuses to give an account of itself.” If we are going to know how to live in this world, we must be aware of what is going on around us. Tozer was a reader, a studier of people, and as far as I can tell, non combative in his approach. He did not expect people who did not have Christ at the center of their theology, to behave like those who do. “With this agrees reason, he writes, “and the moral wisdom that knows itself runs to acknowledge, that there can be no merit in human conduct, not even in the purest and the best.” Outside of God, there should be no expectation that “good” will come to fruition. An awareness of people and culture around us will always remind that repentance is the only way by which the human race can receive a pardon from God. First, if we are going to come to a knowledge of the Holy, we must start with prayer. Second, we must seek God’s Word. Third, we must study people and culture.

Finally, when we begin to know the Holy One, when we take format our lives in these three ways, we begin to see that our completeness will only be found in Him. His love covers all. In fact, there is nothing to fear in death even, for it too reminds of the sovereignty of God. Martin Luther said, “The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.”


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