Wednesday, April 25, 2012

book review: A Passion for God by Lyle Dorsett

Title: A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer
Author: Lyle Dorsett

Cover copy:


"Pastor A. W. Tozer, author of the Christian classics The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy, was a complex, intensely private, deeply spiritual man, and a gifted preacher whose impact for the kingdom of God is immeasurable. In this thoughtful biography, bestselling author Lyle Dorsett traces Tozer's life from his humble beginnings as a Pennsylvania farm boy to his heyday as a Chicago pastor- when hundreds of college students would travel to his South Side church to hear him preach and thousands more heard his Sunday broadcasts on WMBI- to his final pastorate in Toronto.

From his conversion as a teen to his death in 1963, Tozer remained true to one passion: to know the Father and make Him known, no matter what the cost. The price he paid was loneliness, censure from other, more secular-minded ministers of the times, and even a degree of estrangement from his family. Read the life story of a flawed but gifted saint, whose works are still impacting the world today."


My impressions:

I sought this book out when I heard about it. I was for many years a part of the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination, where A. W. Tozer was regular fare. I have read his books and many are part of my library. Now I almost wish I hadn't read this biography. For it has taken the gilt off Tozer for me.

My greatest disappointment in reading about Tozer was that he was, well, every bit as human as all of us are. His humanness displayed itself in the somewhat thoughtless and cold relationship he had with his wife. Oh, I know it was a different era, and men treated their wives differently during those days. Still ...

I felt sorry for Ada, about whom Clara Moore (the young wife of a youth pastor who served alongside Tozer in the 1950s remembered: "Mrs. Tozer coming to church freezing from the long cold walks in the winter" because Aiden refused to buy a car (A Passion For God, Kindle Location 1775).

Author Dorsett summarizes, "The conclusion is inescapable that the more time Tozer spent with God, and said yes to invitations to travel and speak, he drove a wider gulf between himself and Ada .... Neither the seven children nor the men who know Aiden well believed he was intentionally hurtful. On the contrary, everyone was convinced he loved his wife. But he hurt her deeply and apparently did it throughout their marriage" (Ada's 1973-1974 letters are cited as source material here, KL 1782).

After Tozer died in 1963, his wife remarried. Several years later she summarized her view of Aiden and their relationship: "'My husband was so close to God, a man of such deep prayer, always on his knees, that he could not communicate with me or our family. No one knew what a lonely life I had especially after the kids left home.'


How ironic and sad that Ada Tozer experienced such loneliness when Aiden was overheard commenting to a pastor not long before he died, 'I've had a lonely life'" (KL 2152).

Of course the book details as well Tozer's many good points—his piety, his intelligence, his popularity, his magnetism, his disdain for public opinion, and his wisdom. He was exceedingly well-read, refusing to let the sensitivities of some curtail his reading list. He was much criticized for reading early Catholic writers, for example. But he kept reading them anyway: "These saints from Tozer's angle of vision, knew the Lord intimately and he learned from their writings about drawing closer to Christ—even if he did not agree with everything they believed" ( KL 2074).

All in all, I would say that A Passion for God is more a realistic than sanitized, picture of a modern saint whose influence continues into our time.



Violet Nesdoly / poems
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