Was A. W. Tozer a Mystic?

A.W.Tozer
Aiden Wilson Tozer (1897 to 1963), was a Preacher with the Christian Missionary Alliance denomination, an author, and a magazine editor.

Aiden’s family moved from Pennsylvania to Ohio, where Tozer, at the age of 15, worked at the tire companies to support his family. Several sources commented that, Aiden, 17, was on his way home from work when he overheard a street preacher say: “If you don’t know how to be saved…just call on God, and He will hear you.” Aiden, it is reported, returned home, climbed into the attic, and heeded the preacher’s advice.

In 1919, five years after his conversion, and without a high school education, twenty-two year old Aiden Tozer started pastoring a Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) Church, thus beginning forty-four years of ministry associated with the C&MA Church. Tozer received Honorary Doctorates from Houghton College and Wheaton College.

“Tozer’s real strength came from his prayer life. He often commented, ‘As a man prays, so is he.’ His entire ministry of preaching and writing flowed out of fervent prayer…

“A major concern of Tozer was the lack of spirituality among professing Christians of his day…Speaking about the frenzied pace set by religious leaders leaving no room for unhurried reflection and meditation, he cautioned, ‘Our religious activities should be ordered in such a way as to leave plenty of
time for the cultivation of the fruits of solitude and silence.'”

“In daily life Tozer’s sense of God enveloped him in reverence and adoration.
His preoccupation was to practice the presence of God—to borrow
a phrase popularized by mystic Brother Lawrence whom Tozer delighted to read…

“It is not possible to understand Tozer’s life and ministry apart from his
pursuit of God…

“‘Worship,’ he wrote, ‘is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe, astonished wonder
and overpowering love in the presence of that most ancient Mystery,
that Majesty which philosophers call the First Cause but which
we call Our Father in Heaven…'”

“Tozer’s hunger for God led him to study the Christian mystics. Their knowledge of God and absorbing love for Him profoundly attracted Tozer. They were spirits kindred to his own.

‘These people know God,’ he would say, ‘and I want to know
what they know about God and how they came to know it.’
He so identified with their struggles and triumphs that people
began referring to him, also, as a mystic, a designation to
which he never objected.

“Tozer’s list of these ‘friends of God’ grew with the years, and nothing delighted him more than to uncover a long forgotten devotional writer. He eagerly introduced these newly discovered mystics to his friends, bringing many of them into public awareness.”

At least two of the books that Tozer wrote are regarded as Christian classics:
The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy.

Tozer’s response to being called a mystic

    “Some of my friends good-humoredly—and some a little bit severely—have called me a ‘mystic.’ Well I’d like to say this about any mysticism I may suppose to have. If an archangel from heaven were to come, and were to start giving me, telling me, teaching me, and giving me instruction, I’d ask him for the text. I’d say, ‘Where’s it say that in the Bible? I want to know.’ And I would insist that it was according to the scriptures, because I do not believe in any extra-scriptural teachings, nor any anti-scriptural teachings, or any sub-scriptural teachings.

    I think we ought to put the emphasis where God puts it, and continue to put it there, and to expound the scriptures, and stay by the scriptures. I wouldn’t—no matter if I saw a light above the light of the sun, I’d keep my mouth shut about it ’til I’d checked with Daniel and Revelation and the rest of the scriptures to see if it had any basis in truth. And if it didn’t, I’d think I’d just eaten something I shouldn’t, and I wouldn’t say anything about it. Because I don’t believe in anything that is unscriptural or that is anti-scripture.”—What Difference Does the Holy Spirit Make?, by A. W. Tozer

The Mystic Spirituality of A. W. Tozer,
a Twentieth-Century Protestant
E. Lynn Harris, 1992
Though much work has been done in the fields of Catholic and Oriental spirituality, Protestant spirituality has been neglected. After a brief biography
of Tozer, this study compares Tozer’s mysticism to thirty-five mystical classics
he recommended, such as John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, etc.

The focus is on the nature of contemporary Protestant mysticism and the examination of a twentieth-century figure operating within a very conservative section of Protestantism who was influenced by mystical prayer. The position which Tozer reached may be of value to others also having to cope with the pressures of contemporary life in a metropolitan environment.


Lamps on the Candelabrum: Five Evangelical Mystics
by David, A J. Seargent MA PhD FRAS
This eBook gives a brief account of the lives and basic teachings of five Christian teachers who could be described as “evangelical mystics”. They are A. W. Tozer, Watchman Nee, the Indian “Christian mystic” Sadhu Sundar Singh, Pakistani visionary, Gulshan Esther, and Welsh evangelist, Selwyn Hughes.

Related Posts on Just the BOOK
Conclusion of the Carmelite Order Posts or Why I am Writing about A W Tozer
A. W. Tozer, the Mystic, Part 1
Tozer the Mystic, Part 2, What is wrong with Pursuing God?
A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God and Augustine
A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, von Hugel, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Cloud of Unknowing
A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, the Chinese sage, Laotze, and Faber, the Catholic Hymnwriter
A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, Thomas a Kempis, and Nicholas of Cusa
Unbiblical and/or mystical phrases, in The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer
What is so appealing about the The Pursuit of God by Tozer?
JTB series: Scripture compared with some phrases in The Pursuit of God

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One response to “Was A. W. Tozer a Mystic?

  1. A comment was left by “Paul (Continue in His Word)” and I have posted a major excerpt of it on my http://justthebook.wordpress.com site: http://justthebook.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/revisiting-a-w-tozer-mystic/

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