In the classic The Knowledge of the Holy the famous A. W. Tozer laid out seven conditions to be met if we would have the knowledge of God. By this Tozer did not have in mind some kind of special experience or knowledge for only a few but the normal experience of all of those who truly want to “know” God in Jesus Christ. These seven steps are:

Step One: Becoming a child of God requires us to forsake our sins. It is sin that keeps us from a relationship with a perfect, holy, sovereign God who is without sin. Jesus said, Blessed are the pure in hear; for they will see God (Matthew 5:8). There must be repentance and an acknowledgment of our complete inability to save ourselves. We must be “justified.” Note: Tozer links justifying faith to repentance very clearly and plainly. He never separates them since the Bible doesn’t either.

Step Two: After we have turned from our sins, there is a need to make a complete committal of our lives to Christ. This gets to the heart of the so-called Lordship debate. Tozer’s views are clearly on one side of this divide. For him a commitment to “believe in Christ” requires both a personal and spiritual attachment to the Savior as well as an active intention to obey God in all matters. Tozer is not saying that we “earn” salvation but he is saying: “We must repent!” And he is also saying, “We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Both of these are aspects widely missing in our modern context.

Step Three: We must undergo this turning from our sin to the point that we die to sin and become alive in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we must open our heart, soul, mind and strength to the Holy Spirit, who will uphold us and comfort us as we begin growing in our faith. This is the process Protestants call “sanctification.” Tozer made a distinction between justification and sanctification, as Protestants will traditionally and rightly make, but he would never separate them the way modern evangelicals have done.

In tomorrow’s post I will list four other “conditions," or steps, that Tozer laid out for knowing God, or salvation. What I would like to note today is his use of the word condition. What I think Tozer means by this word should be understood in the following way. A condition is something that must be met before we can experience something to the fullest extent. A sentence that would capture this goes like this: “Before you can know complete and final victory and success you must meet the conditions of training and preparation.” Tozer is saying that salvation is genuinely a free gift but it will cost you everything if you intend to have it and enjoy it in God’s grace and operations.

Tozer was a thorough-going evangelical Protestant but he was also using his deep reading in Catholic and mystical writers to frame his thinking. I believe he framed it correctly, at least in most instances. I have a quarrel with some aspects of his mysticism and some of his way of dealing with related matters on holiness but overall I think he was much more right than wrong in the direction of his thought. Anyone who would say the same kind of stuff today would be in even deeper trouble than Tozer was in his time. People in most of our evangelical churches could never handle such talk about “conditions.” Try it and you will see. I have and I know this first hand.

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  1. K. Darrell June 20, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Thank God for A.W. Tozer!
    His “The Old Cross and the New” got me through some difficult times and “The Knowledge of the Holy” has inspired more love and worship towards God than almost any other book I can think of. I am not sure there is a Christian alive that can say more with less words than Tozer.
    I love this reported interaction b/t Tozer and Lloyd-Jones: ‘Once’, Martyn Lloyd-Jones recalled, ‘Dr. Tozer and I shared a conference years ago, and I appreciated his ministry and his fellowship very much. One day he said to me: ‘Lloyd-Jones, you and I hold just about the same position on spiritual matters, but we have come to this position by different routes.’ ‘How do you mean?’ I asked. ‘Well,’ Tozer replied, ‘you came by way of the Puritans and I came by way of the mystics.’ And, you know,’ said Lloyd-Jones, ‘he was right.’

  2. Emil June 20, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Thanks for bringing up Tozer. In the Pursuit of God, I noted this line: “Prying into them [topics such as election] may make us theologians; it will not make us saints.” p. 68
    That was 12 years ago, your prompting leads me to read more Tozer.

  3. Henry June 20, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    I think that all that one has to do is be baptized, confess your sins and receive Christ very Body in the Word that is preached and receive his very Body and Blood in, with and under the bread and wine in the Sacarement of the Altar.

  4. Anthony June 21, 2008 at 12:14 am

    I have read Tozer and been prompted by awe to praise God, and I have read Tozer and been driven to my knees for fear that I hardly know Him. Off hand, I would say that this indicates that Tozer is a prophetic figure, as any encounter with God’s word is apt be a disorienting and reorienting experience, and Tozer has that effect.
    As far as conditions of salvation are concerned, I think it is helpful to acknowledge the distinction that systematic theologians mark between objective and subjective soteriology, wherein the former focuses on the ministry and person of Jesus Christ as the ground and embodiment of salvation, and the latter has to do with how each person appropriates the reality of salvation that is in Christ. Regarding subjective sotierology various traditions and denominations have worked out an “ordo salutis” or “an order of salvation” wherein the steps to salvation are named and arranged. In reflecting on all this, however, I find it interesting that the Catholic Church during the Seven Ecumenical Councils (the Councils prior to the split between East and West, and the manifold splits of the West) never articulated how one lays hold of the salvation that is in Jesus Christ. I know I am being speculative, but it seems to me that though we can assert that no one comes to the Father but through Jesus, we cannot establish a formula for how one genuinely comes to Jesus. The bondage of humanity to sin is universal, but how each person is broken as a result of that bondage is perhaps as unique as our thumbprint. If this is so, then maybe how we come to faith, and begin to genuinely follow Christ is just as unique.
    I know that this is perhaps too open ended, and perhaps intellectually sloppy for some, but it seems to me that mystery is an inherent part of the Christian faith, and if it is, then there will always be something we cannot give an account for in our schemas and doctrines, as helpful and important as they are.

  5. Anthony June 21, 2008 at 12:52 am

    To give a little personal context to my previous comment, there have been times in my life where I have wondered if I ever really knew the Lord, and this is exacerbated by having a degree in theology where the tendency is that the head outpaces the heart in knowledge. In the midst of processing this matter, I have often read books about genuine faith and salvation often trying to find where I plot out in the schema of that particular book. Through this, however, I began to sense the Lord saying to me that such endeavors were more about me trying to work out a formula, as opposed to genuinely trusting in him. This may be simplistic, but as I thought about this it seemed to me that genuine trust and obedience are organically related, as disobedience is what happens when we don’t really trust God’s wisdom and goodness, and thereby take a course of action according to the limits of our own understanding.

  6. Steve Scott June 21, 2008 at 3:01 am

    The “golden chain of salvation” in Romans 8 ties all aspects of salvation together, past, present and future. It is a complete package. Many Protestants – and I have been guilty of this – feel they need to be such reactionaries against Rome that they separate out certain facets of salvation – like justification – in order to understand salvation. The result can be faith in what we believe faith to be instead of faith in Christ. In short, for many, the Evangelical Reformed Protestant faith is gnostic. We have faith in our ability to know correct doctrine (as we frame it), so things like repentance take a back seat.

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