Friday, March 6, 2009

'A Passion for God' - Review

A.W. Tozer was a prophetic voice in the wilderness of American Fundamentalism in the first half of the 20th century. Born in rural Pennsylvania in 1897, he began his life's work as a minister in the final years of the First World War, and continued until his death in 1963. His books are still widely read, and yet little is known about the man in most circles. Lyle Dorsett's book A Passion for God (Moody, 2008) is therefore especially welcome.

A writer of biography himself, Tozer disliked those books that applied a liberal coat of whitewash to their subjects. He knew there was only one perfect man on earth, and that was the Lord Jesus. Thus I think Tozer would have welcomed Lyle Dorsett's honest appraisal of his life. We have here both the good and the bad - and, indeed, the ugly. Dorsett paints a picture, not of a plaster saint, but of a real man who seems often to have been so wrapped up in the affairs of the Kingdom and the things of God that he forgot his role as a husband and a father. I do not bring this up to attack Tozer, but as a warning, it is possible to be so taken up with the work of the Church to forget that we also have a life as a human being to lead!
Dorsett is always a refreshing read because he is so honest about his subjects, even when those subjects are iconic figures in evangelicalism, such as Tozer, Moody and Billy Sunday. Thus the reader can evaluate for himself the character of the man. In A Passion for God, Dorsett gives us Tozer 'warts and all', yet without the sort of exaggeration of faults that makes the picture more a close-up of the warts than a portrait of the man. So we have Tozer the pastor and preacher, Tozer the man who cared for the Church, and who was grieved to his heart by the fact that the Church in America seemed divided on racial lines, "I do not believe there is any color line in the Kingdom of God", he said. Yet even in Chicago Sunday morning seemed to be the most segregated time in the life of the community. We see the man who prophetically challenged the attempt to draw crowds to the churches with sensational and tasteless gimmicks - the example that Dorsett gives is Tozer's criticism of a church that advertised "Moving pictures of cannibalism" to draw people to a missionary convention!

This is a book the only real complaint about which is that it could have been longer. Long may Dorsett be spared to give us such volumes! It is available through, and from good Christian bookshops.

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