Review: The knowledge of the Holy

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” So begins A.W. Tozer’s classic study of God, The knowledge of the Holy. Laying out doctrines on God’s nature and character, he is both precise and passionate. Writing thirty years ago, he identifies a malaise that still exists in churches today: an insufficient understanding and appreciation of God. Ever does man seek to reduce God. Tozer presents an antidote: Spirit-filled truth. Reading this book may help you go some way to correct this in yourself, should that be necessary.

Tozer's first assumption is the belief that what God has revealed about Himself in His word is true, and everything else must follow this point. As he puts it, “It was the attitude of Anselm… that faith must precede all effort to understand. Reflection upon revealed truth naturally follows the advent of faith, but faith comes first to the hearing ear, not to the cogitating mind.” This makes for reading that can do you great good. He presents the God of the Bible: great and gracious, transcendent yet imminent. The language, particularly the prayers with which he prefaces each chapter, may feel arcane but don’t let that put you off.

There is one risk with books like this: we can assume that simply reading them will have the desired revitalising effect in our lives. But this misses the point that Tozer is making – he wants us to gaze at God, to meditate on Him, and thus be changed. He has given us some inspiration and content to begin this process but it is only by co-operating with the Holy Spirit that such change will occur. I give this warning because I realised I was heading that way myself as I raced through the book and forgot its Subject.

As with the likes of Andrew Wilson’s Incomparable and J.I. Packer’s Knowing God, this is a great introduction to some of God’s attributes, which are to be our delight now and forever.


I read the Authentic Classics paperback edition but for those who can bear to read long documents on their computer, the text is available online in various places including here.