Thursday, November 21, 2013

Undercover Agnostic (Update 25): A.W. Tozer's Ideas on the Holy Spirit

I have written before in this series about the Sunday School  books from Lifeway that many Southern Baptist churches, including the one that I am undercover in, are so fond of. They are quarterly workbooks with studies based off of the text of two books from popular ministers and theologians, both past and present.

Right now, we're at the end of the fall quarter, and the last section of the book is from Mystery of the Holy Spirit by theologian A.W Tozer, who died in 1963. Some of his books are considered classics in the world of theology.

I noticed some passages from the last week of the study sections that seemed rather interesting to me, and I wanted to know what the people out there in the blog audience thought of them.

So, instead of me rambling on and on (which you did know what you were getting into, after all, the blog is titled Ramblings of Sheldon ;) ), I'll let A.W Tozer speak for himself:

His comments on understanding the Holy Spirit:
I wish all church people might hear this. that the realm of the Spirit is closed to the intellect. It is not difficult to understand why. You see the spirit is the organ by which we aprehend divine things, and the human spirit is dead because of sin. Therefore the human intellect is not the organ by which we apprehend divine things.
If I stand up and say the ear cannot apprehend visible nature, nobody jumps up and says, "That man is a mystic." It is just common sense, it is ordinary scientific fact. So, when I say God did not give you your intellect to apprehend Him with, but He gave you another organ altogether, then there is certainly nothing profound unclear about it.
  His comments on trying to objectively prove miracles and Biblical accounts of events:
And the poor preachers, God help them; they have tried over the last few years to prove miracles. they want to believe the miracles. I believe them all, but I do not believe them because science permits me; I believe them because God wrote them in the Bible and they are there.
But some fellow finds a fish washed up on the shore and he measures its gullet. Gets himself a tape measure its gullet and finds out it is as broad as the shoulders of a man and he goes out and says see, a great fish could swallow Jonah. 

Why go to tape measures and fish to find out whether what God says is true or not? If God did the thing, I could believe that.

I suppose if he were alive today, he probably wouldn't be a fan of people like Ken Ham of the Creation Museum ......


  1. I would have agreed with Tozer at one time. IDK, it's frustrating, because the argument is completely circular. You can't understand the things of God with your brain. Use your brain to understand this analogy I used about the ear and eye thing. We can see ears and eyes and figure out how they work, but don't try to do that with spiritual things.


    1. Circular reasoning is one of the cornerstones of apologetics. :)

      What I find more striking is his statement that he feels that he needs no proof to back up the Bible, it says it, so that settles it....

  2. I"m confused.....I thought God=Holy Spirit? (Trinity...?...)

    "So, when I say God did not give you your intellect to apprehend Him with, but He gave you another organ altogether,"
    .....Does this mean God/Holy Spirit incarnates into an organ(body parts?) by which we "know" God/Holy Spirit?--or is this to be read symbolically?


    1. The whole concept of the Trinity baffles me anymore.....

      I think he means it symbolically, that the Holy Spirit is like a "spiritual mind" that we can use to understand God and the spiritual realm.

  3. I think he was at least honest about his denial of facts.It seems clear that he is denying the science which disproves his claims by inserting God. So while its ridiculous its also true that he was not lying he was openly honest about the fact that he denied scientific method.

    He certainly would enjoy the Creation museum as they also openly deny the scientific method.

    1. I don't think he would have liked the Christian museum, it seems clear that he didn't approve of anyone trying to prove Biblical stories, I wonder if he thought it showed a lack of faith in God. (No proof is necessary because faith is enough).

    2. Interesting way to think about it. That makes sense in a very warped way.

  4. So...there is more than one definition of Holy Spirit and in this case it is not God but "spiritual mind"? Tozer implying humans are also God/God-like? the "God-part" of humans connects with "God/Divine"(pantheism/panentheism)? ---am I again reading too much into this?

    Hinduism has a concept of Avatars (incarnation) and there is an idea in some types of Hinduism that all human beings have the potential to achieve "Godliness" (Holiness) and become avatars....
    (The Eastern religions do not posit a dichotomy between human intellect and spirituality, rather that LANGUAGE is inadequate in expressing knowledge of Divine/Spirituality....but human intellect is essential in "knowing" God/Divine/Spirituality.)

    Observation and measurement are not the only means of "knowing" intellectually. There is also imagination---a means of understanding/knowing that uses assumptions and theories......some of which can be tested through observations and measurements, others proven through mathematics and some retained or discarded using logic and reason......?..........

    imagination has creative potential---concepts, philosophies, things, can be "created" by the human intellect through imagination....because we imagine, it can "be"...........


    1. Yes, I do think that you are trying to read too much into it, no offense. There's not only the difference that he came from a different nation/culture, but that there's a cultural disconnect between even him and Americans like me, since he was from a different era (died in 1963).

      I don't think he would have been fond of Eastern religions/philosophies. Though, strangely enough, Christian fundies do believe that the Holy Spirit does live in each and every Christian, that it enters them at the point of their conversion, which is vaguely a "god within us" kind of idea, though they probably would be offended at the comparison to pantheism.

  5. Yet...this Holy Spirit and this special spiritual organ seem to be missing in action for the vast majority of human history and for a majority of the world's population today. Why has this all knowing, all benevolent creator failed so badly in establishing an effective, widely available "communication system"? That seems racist and cultureist to me,


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