Are there any known conflicts between the teachings of A.W. Tozer and those of Reformed Theology?

My concern is sparked by his relation to the Christian "mystics", which sound potentially heretical. This question arose from finding numerous books related to the Holy Spirit written by Tozer when browsing Amazon.

Note this question is NOT "Is A.W. Tozer a Christian?".

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    Tozer wasn't Reformed so of course there will be differences. In spite of that his schollarship is still well regarded, I don't think he's usually branded as a heretic even by people that disagree with him on some points. Do you have a reference for his "relation to Christian mystics"? – Caleb Aug 10 '12 at 10:27

Although not a Tozer ‘fan’ per se, I would not label him as a mystic, although he does falsely appear that way a bit, in that he highly emphasised the Spirit and was also a poetic sort. A.W. Tozer is an interesting person to compare with the reformers. On one hand he was more like them than most who claim to be like them and on the other hand he certainly felt in some areas he had a better understanding then them, but so do many in one way or another.

What makes Tozer most different from reformers is simply that he did not believe in the cessation of those highly miraculous gifts of the Spirit, but rather urged that we should pray for them now. This does not make him a mystic it simply makes him a modern day charismatic. Among charismatics I would say Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones and Tozer are among the best. From my memory of some of his audio sermons that fed me spiritually quite a bit as a young believer, I would say Tozer had a very clear sense of the cross and an in-depth knowledge of early church father theology as well as reformed theology and generally preached accordingly. I would say that Tozer was closer to Calvinistic in his view of the atonement rather than anything else.

Where I would criticize Tozer to some degree is where he personally found it most humorous. I remember him making fun of one of his critics by calling him a ‘spiritual perfectionists’ and as funny as it sounds I think this label fits to some degree. If you ever read Tozer and notice to what degree he expected a Christian to be sanctified and holy, inwardly truly following Christ, it is almost as though the Apostle Peter would have come way to short for him! Paul may have just made it! This is really what Tozer was about he was a unique charismatic holiness preacher. He seemed to be a man of prayer and very serious in his reverence for God’s word. He would have not approved of Christian rock music for example (something I like a lot). In some ways my criticism seems like a compliment and it is, but at some point it just starts to rub the wrong way and I do not think Tozer books on their own create a balanced diet. Tozer is possibly a good supplement to a balanced diet. One needs to put him in perspective during a generation that was influenced by the charismatic movement and holiness movements.

In the end, I still have to say I like Tozer as a person, he was so very genuine and honest. I would not place him among the ‘bad guys’ or ‘mystics’ but let him sit over with ‘the good guys’. I would not recommend his books on the Spirit (if you are Charismatic I would read Lloyd-Jones). I would highly recommend his book on the ‘Attributes of God’ as possibly the best on the subject. This is merely my opinion on having read several Tozer books and much more reformed books.

Maybe the best compliment I can give Tozer in how he was received by those most reformed is, by quoting J.I. Packer, who seems to like Tozer even more than I do:

“Through all of Tozer’s books and articles there shines a passion for God that puts our shallowness to shame. Reading him is like drinking at an oasis in the desert.” (J.I. Packer)

  • I'm weak on theological terms. Can "cessation of spiritual gifts" be interpreted to mean "modern believers no longer perform miracles like the apostles did"? – user1694 Aug 10 '12 at 4:58
  • @user1311390 - yes, more or less. I do not know alot about the two you often mention Piper and Macarthur but I think the two of them may be very similiar and both good, but as far as I know Piper does not believe in cessation (that much), so he would be more like Tozer, and Macarthur does, so Macarthur would be more reformed in that sense. BTW - I posted a response to the subject of cessation here: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/8343/… – Mike Aug 10 '12 at 5:29
  • thanks for the cessation question. This is very interesting; cessation vs charismitics has been pushed to queue of things to read. – user1694 Aug 10 '12 at 5:49
  • why do you not suggest the books by Tozer on the holy spirit? It seems like his views would be among the best to understand for one extreme of the views. – user1694 Aug 10 '12 at 5:49
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    @user1311390 - You could read them for that purpose but Lloyd-Jones is really the best if you want a charismatic view, Tozer does not really get into the deep theology of the question he just assumes it and is more of a preacher than teacher on the subject. Lloyd Jones is a teacher and get's right into all the issues. But ya Tozer would also be good to read from that standpoint. His sermons on audio are better than his books. He has a very likeable personality that gets removed a bit when published. – Mike Aug 10 '12 at 6:12

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