This morning I was re-reading a wonderful chapter from A. W. Tozer’s book, Knowledge of the Holy, and wanted to post some quotes from the chapter as well as thoughts about them.
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us… That our idea of God correspond as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us.” (p. 1,2)
Tozer makes a connection that is rapidly dissolving in the minds of some Church people today; the connection between theology and life. This connection is a sword with two edges, cutting in the direction of two errors we make in our thinking about theology. On the one hand is the danger of thinking that head knowledge is the whole of the Christian life, without that knowledge ever really “becoming true” of us. Tozer undercuts that mistake by insisting that the nature of our picture of God is such that it has a direct and immediate call on our actions/values/thoughts in our actual day-to-day lives. If the connection isn’t flowing that direction it is possible that you haven’t actually begun to worship the real God; it is the most important thing because an encounter with the real God does not leave us the same as it found us. Tozer speaks to the opposite error as well. If you listen, you’ll hear both errors in the air today, but this one seems to gaining popularity. It is the idea that theology is esoteric. We must preserve the idea that theology means not less than simply “what we think about God”. The Christian life is like finding pieces of the picture of God and putting them in their right places, like a mosaic. Tozer is saying that this mosaic – what it holds and what it does not hold – is life and death. Everything flows out of that mosaic (and not just in some “spiritual” realm of life, but in all of life). If those are the stakes, then every piece matters. There is a not a category for “accessories” when it comes to theology. Everything matters.
“We tend by a secret law of the heart to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing things about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent that her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God.” (p. 1) Christians, as a body of the Church and as individuals, are continually bearing witness, both intentionally and accidentally. It cannot be stopped. This is a very comforting thing and a very challenging thing. It is comforting because it seems, at least for me, to take weight off of the enormity of the calling before the Church, as it shifts the focus from “go and DO” to simply go and BE”. If the Church is there is cannot hide its witness; it just needs to be what God made it to be, to love God, worship him with its life, to enjoy him, to love and care for what he has made. This being speaks with a loud voice, often louder than any words. But if Tozer eases the burden in one place he underscores its weight in another. He says the Church is responsible not only for what it is, but what it is not. The task before the Church is to love what God loves as a reflection of his character, and what the Church fails to be, it proclaims that God also is not. That’s a sobering reality, and what human community is equal to the task of embodying an infinite, holy God? But that is the calling nonetheless, and that is the lens we should examine ourselves with.