And He Dwelt Among Us: The Origins
A. W. Tozer (1897-1963) is probably best known among diverse Christian circles for works such as The Knowledge of the Holy or The Pursuit of God which were both originally published within his lifetime. However, due to the editorial prowess of James L. Snyder, not only are existing fans of Tozer allowed another drink from the well, but entirely new generations now have the opportunity to be introduced to this great thinker by means of a series of sermons preached from the Gospel of John. The result of this editorial work is the subject of this review, And He Dwelt Among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John published some 36 years after Tozer’s death.
In order to both do justice to the work reviewed and be of use to the reader it is necessary that this critique be presented in an orderly manner. Therefore, what is to follow will be arranged accordingly; first a summary of book will be provided covering each of the literary units into which it is divided from introduction through each chapter. Secondly, an analysis of the work will be undertaken to identify any weaknesses and strengths. Finally, a conclusion will be offered which will include opportunity for recommendations or reservations concerning the tome and its use within the local church especially as a Bible Study aid.
The organization of this work follows that of most like it. The book contains an Introduction followed by thirteen logically ordered chapters which cover 218 pages. The goal will not be to necessarily interact with the content of these pages as much as it will be to provide an overview of the same. Thus, each section will be accorded some level of treatment, after which an analysis will be undertaken pointing out areas of weakness, strength, agreement and disagreement.
The Introduction of the book allows the editor, James L. Snyder, to speak directly to the reader. Snyder takes time to provide a bit of context for the chapters which follow by describing the physical location of the preaching from which the chapters flow, Tozer’s view of the Gospel of John as a pastor, and Tozer’s concern for the church which he believed these sermons from John’s Gospel would address (pp. 7-11).
Chapters 1 through 5 of the work are all derived from what is known as the Prologue of John’s Gospel (John 1:1-18). Each of these chapters takes up an aspect or attribute of God found in Christ which would be at home in any volume of systematic theology.
Chapter 1 speaks of the eternal nature of God and the longing for eternity which is found in man.
Chapter 2 picks up the theme and moves it forward by not merely addressing the infinitude of God, but also how it is that man might have fellowship with the same.
Chapter 3 reminds the reader that God Almighty is the Creator of all things and that Christ is not to be separated from that creative work which brought each one of us into being although the ‘world’ is divided concerning Him.
Chapters 4 and 5 discuss the Incarnation in terms of tragedy and mystery. The tragedy of Chapter 4 is explained as the rejection of Christ by His own (cf. John 1:11), while Chapter 5 addresses the “most profound mystery of human thought – how deity could cross the gulf separating what is God from what is not God” (p. 78).
In the following chapters which comprise the remainder of the book, Tozer focuses on a broader swath of John’s Gospel including passages from chapters 1, 3, 5, 6, and 14. Chapter 6 serves as a bridge between the chapters from the Prologue and the chapters which will follow by connecting the theme of the Messiah found throughout Scripture with the pronouncement of John the Baptist in 1:29-37.
No book on the Gospel of John would be complete without at least one chapter on John 3:16 and this one is no different. Chapter 7 connects the reader with what might be a new idea to some, the care that God has for individual human beings as presented in the salvation message of John 3:16. The theme of Chapter 8 continues this thought as it addresses the very next verse of John 3, by specifically explaining the mission of Christ at His first advent.
Chapter 9 makes a leap forward from John 3 to John 5; however, it thematically covers similar ground. In this chapter Tozer points not to the mystery of the Incarnation found in Chapter 5, but to the mystery of the Trinity. Chapter 10 then takes up the task of not necessarily presenting the Trinity in Its unity, but the roles of Its Members as it presents Christ as both Saviour and Judge.
Chapter 11 presents a treatment of the longest section of Scripture addressed as a whole within the book (John 6:1-13). In this chapter Tozer brings out the various manners which men align themselves with God and the singular manner which God accepts. Chapter 12 might seem a regression of sorts as this section returns to John 5 for its source material. However, it carries on with the concept of duality as it discusses the reality of the Christian life being lived both in the fallen world and with an eye toward the Kingdom of God in which true citizenship is held.
The culminating chapter of the book (Chapter 13) takes a massive leap from John 5 and 6 all the way to John 14. The book is brought to a close with an examination of how each of the concepts put forth is lived out in the lives of people throughout time and space. In other words, this final chapter connects all of humanity with the fact that what each person believes about God has an effect on how they deal with the rest of humanity as a corporate entity (p. 205).
Summary of the Content
In this short summary of Tozer’s work the task has been to provide a broad overview of the themes, topics, and issues he addresses sans interpretation of the same. Now attention will be turned to providing an analysis of what has been covered thus far.
An analysis of any particular object should take time to identify possible weakness, strengths, and in the case of books, agreements and disagreements. Likewise, if one is to be honest in these assessments then support for the same should be forthcoming. Therefore, it will be the intention of this section to provide a balanced presentation of information falling into each of the four preceding categories.
Strengths and Weaknesses
In the assessment of this reviewer, the book under consideration has very few weaknesses, if any at all. However, in the interest of not being labeled as biased the following is presented for the reader’s consideration. As this book is actually a series of sermons which have been edited into the current format there is a great deal of information presented which lacks citation. This is not to imply plagiarism on the part of Tozer or Snyder, but rather it does present as a limitation for those readers who may desire to extend their personal study by sifting through all that Tozer utilized in his sermon preparation.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from weaknesses are strengths. The primary strength of this book is the deep well from which Tozer draws which resulted in the sermons from which the book is then in turn drawn.
Examples of this are the various poems, hymns, and Scriptural cross references included in his exposition of the text (examples may be found on pp. 48, 63, and 134-135). A second strength is the fact that these individual chapters are indeed expositions of the text provided as a reference at the start of each chapter. What is meant by this is that Tozer’s self-prescribed task is to explain the text from which he has drawn the message.
This does not necessarily mean nor require that he address each word, phrase, or idea found within the verse in his sermon from the same. Rather, it means that he has addressed what he understands to be the big idea of the passage under consideration and this he does brilliantly. This particular strength is what makes the work beneficial as a companion to Bible Study, in the opinion of the reviewer.
A third strength, and the final one to be presented here, is the context from which this book was birthed. It would seem that Tozer may have never considered the future existence of this book, but instead sought to preach the Word of God to the People of God for His glory and their edification. This is a strength as the message is presented in a manner which the average person can easily understand, even if the fullness of the message may be the source of meditation for years to come. It is the proper presentation of the timeless message of Scripture in time and space.
As a reader of this work the reviewer found nothing with which to disagree. Having had an opportunity to do exegetical studies of twelve of the thirteen passages presented in the book for the purposes of preaching to a local church the reviewer can only conclude, he wishes he was aware of this work prior to the first sermon from John 1:1!
In the area of agreements, they are too numerous to mention. Therefore, in place of agreements one admiration will be presented. Throughout this series of sermons, Tozer is unashamed of the message he has been entrusted to preach even when that message runs up against public and popular opinion (p. 88). This is the attitude of a man who places his full trust in Christ and then fears no other, an attitude to be honored and emulated.
It has been the thrust of this critique to provide at a minimum a summary and analysis of A. W. Tozer’s And He Dwelt Among Us. This task has resulted in a chapter by chapter summary of the work as well as a broad analysis of the same. Therefore, it now remains to present any recommendations or reservations regarding this present tome.
This is a book which joins (or should join) previously mentioned Tozer classics on the shelves of Christians everywhere. It is useful to the local church pastor in preparing for preaching through John’s Gospel in order to entice him to think more deeply upon the passages he encounters. Likewise, the aged and mature believer will be reminded of the beauty of the One who has purchased their soul. And for the new believer, it can be used as a discipling tool to further develop their understanding of Christ.
In short, this book is recommended for members of the local church at every level of maturity, without reservation, especially as a companion to any Bible reading or study plan which takes one through The Fourth Gospel. And just for the sake of full disclosure, it has been recommended thusly to the Saints of Stansbury Park Baptist Church whom the reviewer serves as Pastor and Teacher.