Knowledge of the Holy

knowledge of the holy

Knowledge of the Holy, Kindle edition, by A.W. Tozer. Originally published in 1961.

It has taken me a long time to review this book, despite having read it weeks ago because it turned out to be far more personal than I anticipated. I strongly considered not reviewing it all. However, because I believe it is worth sharing and encouraging others to read, I’m going to make an attempt at a proper review.

Books that call me out of my stoic, reserved, cards-close-to-the-vest nature tend to make me uncomfortable. The Practice of the Presence of God was such a book, and this one was similar in that regard. What was different about this book was that while Tozer demanded that “reason kneel in reverence outside” the place in the spirit where love and faith reign at home, Knowledge of the Holy was still full of intellectual stimulation. It just stimulates the reader to remember that true Christian faith can never be fully validated intellectually:

Philosophy and science have not always been friendly toward the idea of God, 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. The philosopher and the scientist will admit that there is much that they do not know; but that is quite another thing from admitting that there is something which they can never know, which indeed they have no technique for discovering. To admit that there is One who lies beyond us, who exists outside of all our categories, who will not be dismissed with a name, who will not appear before the bar of our reason, nor submit to our curious inquiries: this requires a great deal of humility, more than most of us possess

Indeed this is true, and the distinction between acknowledging a lack of knowledge and accepting the impossibility of full knowledge is an important one. We currently live in a world where we are being told that science reigns supreme and is certain despite many of its obvious contradictions and limitations.

As Reformed theology is growing as a reaction against watered down, emotion-driven postmodern Christianity, I appreciate being reminded that childlike faith and perfect love trump intellect and reason in God’s economy.

One of the reasons it took me so long to read -and review- this book is that I had to stop several times to do some introspective work. This book compelled personal examination about what I really believe. Challenges such as this were good for me:

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 done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic.

The question Tozer posed here is one that occupied me for several days, and in many ways I am still considering it, distinguishing between intellectual assent born of a lifetime in the church, and the reality of what I truly believe. It is a question we should all consider from time to time:

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

There is a lot more to said about this book, but I’d rather you read it for yourself. It is an excellent exposition on the modern man’s interpretation of God compared to how Scripture reveals God to us.

It will make you think, regardless of whether or not you ultimately agree with Tozer’s conclusions… if what he reaches can be called conclusions.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

7 thoughts on “Knowledge of the Holy

  1. nellperkins says:

    After learning about this book from Hearthie, I still haven’t read it. Now I want to read it even more, but I’m certain now that, if I were still leading a contemplative prayer group, this would be our next book to read.

    I know Reformed aren’t fundamentalists, but I think I assumed that you all would share their opinion that contemplative prayer — which sure seems to be what Tozer is writing about — is an evil practice, opening yourself up to satan. And that always made no sense to me because contemplative prayer by definition is a time when one endeavors to open yourself up to God and God alone, which seems to me would surely be a time when God would be most protective of His children. Anyway, I’m so glad you too are reading such things and I’m so glad that there are other orthodox Protestants out there who think and pray this way.l

    Liked by 1 person

  2. smkoseki says:

    The philosopher and the scientist will admit that there is much that they do not know; but that is quite another thing from admitting that there is something which they can never know, which indeed they have no technique for discovering.

    Chuckling here. Kurt Godel in 1931 proved there are true things we can never prove. Specifically: for any self-consistent axiomatic system powerful enough to describe natural number arithmetic there must exist true propositions that cannot be proved. This isn’t an opinion or a theory. It’s proven mathematical fact.

    So: One need not religion (one can even be a raging atheist) to know with absolute certainty that not only are there true things we not only do not know, but we simply can never know.

    Sadly Godel was so crazy in old age he wouldn’t eat food not prepared by his wife. So when she she got sick and could no longer feed him he literally starved to death (65# at his death). And he’s got another one of those German (Austrian?) faces that makes one shake their head in awe and know: physiognomy is real.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Elspeth says:

    Well, this is a book about theology and our approach to God. That particular snippet or quote wasn’t a significant thrust of the book.

    You don’t even have to be a genius mathemetician or scientist to know that there are some things we can never know. And you’re right. You don’t even have to be religious. Just realistic and not blind. I don’t think the fact that someone else said it sooner makes Tozer’s observation any less valuable. After all, to go back even farther than 1931, there is nothing new under the sun. At least as it relates to the human condition.

    That said, as we are living in a technocracy where credentials and so-called expertise is the gold standard for many things that used to be common sense, I appreciated that particular quote. We’re being told to trust “science” even as it asserts that men can have periods and women have penises, to present a more extreme example.


  4. smkoseki says:

    Well, this is a book about theology and our approach to God.

    Hey, my comments are not meant to be critical. I get he’s talking colloquially (I doubt he has the chops for mathematics anyway; few religious-minded folk do, maybe a few Dominican monks, and there is nothing wrong with that).

    What frustrates me about this particular issue is that his point has already been mathematically proven and needs not further arguing. It’s over, done, kaput. Godel put a fork in it. Yet this is not well known, and this is totally different from general/popular opinion such as Ecclesiastes’ “nothing new under the sun”.

    Liked by 1 person

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