Monday, May 11, 2009

A.W. Tozer: in Pursuit of God

Following the release of Lyle Dorsett's excellent biography of Tozer A Passion for God, this older biography of Tozer (first published in 1991) by James L. Snyder has been put out in an attractive paperback edition. I was at first concerned that this was simply an attempt to answer Dorsett's criticisms of Tozer's married life. But it was an unworthy suspicion. Arthur Porritt described William Adamson's biography of Joseph Parker as "A four-hundred page essay in incense-burning." This book is something else, it is a well-written biography that tries to present a picture of Tozer as he was, warts and all. The shape of the work is slightly different from Dorsett's, and one who has already read Dorsett will certainly get something out of Snyder's work.
Snyder gives an excellent account of the life and ministry of A.W. Tozer in this book. Each chapter ends with a section of 'Tozer-grams', brief, pithy quotations from Tozer, a feature I feel sure that many readers will appreciate. Snyder opens with an introduction entitled 'The Art and Stealth of Christian Biography', in which he lays out the pitfalls of Christian biography and describes Tozer's own philosophy of biography, opening with the temptation to leave out the subject's faults. There is of course the opposite tendency in some cases - the hostile biography in which the subject's virtues are obscured. Calvin is the most notable victim of this tendency, but there are biographies of others that do the same. This requires the rest of the book to live up to this aim - no bad thing!
Snyder's book is a popular, rather than a scholarly, work, but none the worse for that. Not all Christians are willing to read a book with eight pages of endnotes, after all! What is apparent, however, is that a great deal of patient research has gone into this popular-level biography. In our Church reading group at Tabor Baptist Church several of the members have complained about biographies that don't have pictures of the subjects. There would be no such complaints about this book - it has eight pages of black-and-white pictures in it.
What the reader will find here is Tozer in all his devotedness and eccentricity. The reader with a sense of humour will probably latch on to some of the eccentricity stories, but will deeply appreciate the devotedness of Tozer. A.W. Tozer was a man of prayer and study. He disliked the superficial 'now I am happy all the day' brand of Christianity, and refused to mistake religious busyness for the work of the Holy Spirit. He courageously denounced antinomianism, and refused to limit himself to the narrow limits of his own denomination.
A.W. Tozer: In Pursuit of God, by James L. Snyder, is published by Monarch Books, and is available from your local Christian bookshop. It retails at £8.99.

No comments: