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

Christianaudio.com is giving away the MP3 audiobook for free during the month of May. I highly recommend the book, so I am reposting my review from 2 years ago.

Takeaway: God uses people. They will not be perfect, but those that are used, are usually changed by God.

A. W. Tozer has had a resurgence in my world lately. I have not read anything that he has written and really did not know anything about him, other than I know my grandfather liked him and people quote him all the time. Louie Gigglio only started using twitter after he decided to start doing Tozer Tuesday quotes. And then Out of Ur blog decided to copy the idea. After a friend, Matt Erickson, blogged about this book, I figured I would start reading here.

Lyle Dorset was a professor at Wheaton when I was there and I have met and talked to him several times, but never had him for a class. I really liked his biography on Dwight Moody, A Passion for Souls and the very brief biography of E. M Bounds (it was free last month at christianaudio.com but the offer is no longer good.)

Dorset’s biography was well done. It is brief (just under 200 pages), but very well documented with lots of personal interviews personal correspondence that was not available to the previous two biographers. Dorset does what I want in a biography, especially one of a Christian, showing the whole person. But part of my issue with a new introduction to Tozer (not having read any of his books before) is that he was a very broken man. Like many mystical oriented prayer warriors in Christian history, Tozer likely suffered with depression throughout his life. He was an introvert and almost never greeted people before or after church on Sunday. Instead he went to nursery to play with the children.

Tozer spoke, prayed and wrote. Those were his gifts. He was a teaching pastor before teaching pastors were cool. His last church he only preached on Sundays and the rest of the time was allowed to write and travel to speaking engagements. All other pastoral care and work of the church was done by other pastors.

For all of his gifts it is clear he did not focus on his family. He was scared to drive in the city so for 20 years his family did not drive because he did not drive. (His wife, Ada, quickly got a driver’s license after his death so she could drive.) Tozer did not invite Ada to travel with him, even after the children were out of the home. He routinely gave away half their income to the church and turned down raises, in spite of the fact that they were far from rich, without talking to Ada. There is no indication that he talked to Ada about any of their job changes or moves before accepting them. All of the children, except for the youngest (and only daughter) Rachel commented about how distant Tozer was from them growing up.

Maybe we focus too much on the family now, but my pastor always says that if he is going to cheat at something, it is going to be the work at church, not his family. After Ada was re-married she frequently told people that asked about how she was doing , “I have never been happier in my life. Aiden loved Jesus Christ, but Leonard Odam loves me.” I never want my wife to say similar words about me.

In the end, I would love to have the closeness with God that Tozer had. But I have to view Tozer as a great example of God working through broken, sinful people. I just cannot view Tozer as an example of a Godly man, without noting his strong negative example with his family.

Dorset did a good job with the biography. He summed up Tozer’s life well,

“Any candid portrait of this twentieth-century prophet and Christian mystic reveals that he was far from perfect. Indeed, even after his conversion, growth in grace, and years of mature and successful ministry, personal flaws are readily apparent. That he consistently wounded his sensitive and loyal wife, albeit unintentionally, is irrefutable. That he revealed more of himself to a few young men he mentored than to his own children—with the possible exception of his daughter Rebecca—is undeniable. That he offended some members of his church and a few fellow ministers—but without malicious intent—is abundantly clear.”

But God did use him, and used him greatly. Thanks be to God for A. W. Tozer!

A Passion for God Purchase Links: Hardback, Kindle Edition, Christianaudio MP3 Audiobook (Free during month of May 2013


If you would like to read something by Tozer, his Pursuit of God is in the public domain. You can get a free electronic copy for any ebook reader from Project Gutenberg. My review of Pursuit of God is here.

Other biographies by Dorsett that I have enjoyed:
A Passion for Souls (DL Moody)
Man of Prayer (EM Bounds) – My Review
And God Came In (Joy Davidman, wife of CS Lewis, book the movie Shadowlands is based on) – My Review



One Comment

I'm glad you read the book, Adam. It's well worth the read. You should definitely take a peak into "The Pursuit of God" or "Knowledge of the Holy" if you get the chance. "Knowledge of the Holy" is definitely the pinnacle of Tozer's writing, in my opinion.

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