|The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life
by A. W. Tozer
One of my favorite books of all time is The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. I first read it as a freshman in college. It was a gift from a youth worker at my home church in Canadian, TX. Tod Meek gave it to me as a graduate gift and as soon as I began reading it, I was hooked.
As a high schooler, and actually for most of my life, I was the kind of kid who loved to "philosophize", coming up with deep thoughts to enlighten my friends. I can recall the development of a metaphysical doctrine centered on a substance of which all matter and energy in the universe consisted. My friends and I scanned through the Old Testament hunting for a "cool" sounding name for this essence and finally settled on arphaxad. Arphaxad, also, happens to be the first person who was born in the new world after the flood. Since I can’t recall many of the details of this fabricated doctrine, I’ll spare you and simply say that the above mentioned book provided substance to an eager mind to think deeply.
I’ve chosen to go back and reexamine it from my current perspective having become a mathematician, professor, bioinformacist and researcher. I’ve not meditated on the attributes of God with any real focus since my days as a student at Wayland so I hope to experience the joy of contemplating His character as I did when I first read this text but also in a new way with 10 more years of life experience informing my thought process.
Chapter 1: Why We Must Think Rightly About God
Tozer begins with the essential question of the book: What is so important about thinking of God as He truly is? Why ponder the attributes of God at all?
Always the most revealing thing 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 than her speech.
Our faith and, particularly, its expression is directly correlated to our idea of God. Tozer identifies the source of idolatry is to "[entertain] thoughts about God that are unworthy of him." It is Paul who said, "When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened." (Romans 1:21 KJV)
We are given the opportunity to see God’s character because He has revealed himself to us in Scripture and in His interactions with mankind throughout history. If we misconstrue God’s character, we make Him less than God and become guilty of idolatry in our hearts.
Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.
The first consideration in elucidating God’s attributes is to recognize that any attempt to exactly describe him will fail since we are creatures with a finite consciousness and we cannot comprehend the incomprehensible.