“A Passion For God” by Lyle Dorsett is a biography of A. W. Tozer. Tozer, a Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor, is probably best know for writing the classic book “The Pursuit of God” calling Christians to a more closer intimacy with God. Tozer was born in Western Pennsylvania in poverty and moved to Akron, Ohio when he was fifteen. There he heard a street preacher who challenged his listeners to call on God, saying, “Be merciful to me a sinner” from which Tozer was convicted and went home and accepted Christ as Savior. Although with no formal education he would eventually receive two honorary doctorates, reading throughout his life in a wide variety of subjects including religion, philosophy, literature and poetry.
After serving as pastor in a few small churches in West Virginia, Indiana and Ohio, in 1928 he became pastor of Southside Alliance Church in Chicago for three decades. Tozer was of slight stature and not a particurarly good speaker yet the spiritual content of his messages, along with clear presentation of ideas, consistently captivated his congregation. The church had great growth under his pastorship although he mostly limited himself to preaching and let others due the other pastoral duties such as visitations, etc. which he had no interest in. In 1950 he became the editor of Alliance Weekly, the official magazine of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. His editorials and articles gave him a nationwide platform and he became a popular speaker for evangelical Christianity. He also was a radio preacher, becoming the voice of the Moody Bible Institute, while garnering a nationwide radio audience. Tozer accepted a call to the Avenue Road Alliance Church in Toronto in 1959 where he served until his death on May 12, 1963.
Tozer had a special connection with young people, particurarly the students from Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College located in Chicago, who regularly came in large numbers to hear him speak. Interestingly, despite this connection with young people he gave relatively little attention to his seven children or wife giving his entire self to the work of Christ. He wife felt neglected and his children felt like he never gave them enough time to ever get to know him, although he was always kind to them. He himself often felt lonely and depressed feeling that there were few who understood him. He eschewed money regularly giving half of his salary back to the church and not taking royalties on some of his best selling books. This was admirable but caused his wife at times to have trouble putting food on the table for the family.
Tozer railed against the increasing worldliness and liberalism he saw steeling away the heart and soul of Evangelicalism and was always in the conservative evangelical fold. However, he was criticized by some for being fond of some of the writings of the early Church fathers, who were considered Catholic and Christian mystics. However, he never strayed away from the fundamental teachings of the Bible and simply wanted Christians to desire and obtain a greater working of the Holy Spirit in their lives and thereby a greater intimacy with God. He believed that much truth can only be discovered through the supernatural enlightenment of the Holy Spirit from the Scriptures and the Scriptures support this Truth. Tozer was nourished by what he viewed as true in these ancient writings and discarded the rest.
This is a well-written but short book about a humble man used of God, warts and all, and is really only an extended overview of his life. Perhaps the real A. W. Tozer could not be found in a typical biography as he was only fully revealed in the many hours he spent in his life, down on his knees, by himself, with his Savior.