Living as Citizens of Heaven on Earth-A review on Tozer’s “Culture”

“Someday the Church can relax her guard, call her watchmen down from the wall, and live in safety and peace; but not yet, not yet.” A.W. Tozer penned these words over sixty years ago, yet they are as relevant today as ever. Within these pages are reflections on the true nature of the church, the cost of following Jesus, and the blessed hope of the heaven-bound (from the back cover). The necessity of these truths for today cannot be overstated. 

This book is approximately 164 pages in length. In Culture, Tozer covers various topics from the truth, the meaning of the church, the truthfulness of Scripture, and how the church thrives as citizens of Heaven. In this book, Tozer pulls no punches. Culture was simultaneously convicting, challenging, and encouraging. 

Christ, not society, becomes the pattern of the Christian life

One of the chapters that stuck out to me the most was the chapter titled “The Great Test: Modifying the Truth.” In this chapter, Tozer argues that every denomination, Christian, organization, pastor, or church member will need to answer a specific question. “The question is this: shall we modify the truth in doctrine or practice to gain more adherents? Or shall we preserve the truth in doctrine and practice and take the consequences (39)?” 

According to Tozer, five consequences result from modifying the truth. First, a spirit of worship in the church is absent. 2nd, spiritual desire is lacking. Third, coldness of heart. Fourth is a lack of the spirit of prayer. Fifth, there is no sense of God’s presence in the average church (pp 41-43). 

How did evangelicals get to this place? According to Tozer, “in their zeal to make converts and adherents, they oversimplified the Christian faith. That is our difficulty today. We oversimplify it, and yet we never get simple. Isn’t that odd? We oversimplify the truth, and yet we have the most complex, mixed-up beliefs (45). 

While human governments (“the powers that be”) are ordained of God, it does not follow that the rulers or officials of a given country are therefore always just and wise. They can and do err in their judgments and often impose ordinances that are anything but judicious and levy taxes unreasonably high

However, Tozer doesn’t just go after the “evangelicals,” he also sets his eyes towards the world. According to Tozer, “the world seems to possess a real genius for being wrong, even the educated world (75).” Truth is a “fluid” concept. He writes, “whatever people happen to be interested in at the moment must be accepted as normal, and any nonconformity on the part of anyone is bad for the individual and harmful to everybody (76).” Tozer may as well have said that today in 2022. Is this not the world we live in today? 

Christians face the temptation to integrate into society, to adapt to cultural norms. Sadly, many do. But, as one sees in Scripture, the church is different from the world. Tozer says, “modern Christians hope to save the world by being like it, but it will never work (77).” 

If adaptation isn’t the answer, what is? Tozer offers many solutions, but one that struck me was the need for courage with moderation. He writes, “to sit back for the sake of peace and allow the enemy to carry off the sacred vessels from the temple is never the part of a true man of God. Moderation to the point of surrender where holy things are concerned is certainly not a virtue; but pugnacity never yet won when the battle was a heavenly one (87).” 

In a world where Christ is hated, Christians often despair. Living a faithful, Christian life is challenging. Frequently, it seems as if Christians are in a losing battle. Culture ends with an encouraging note. Tozer, speaking of communism, says, “I don’t think communism is the great danger to Christianity. I don’t believe that communism can ever destroy Christianity, if Christians will really live like Christians (159).” 

When will Christians learn that to love righteousness it is necessary to hate sin? that to accept Christ it is necessary to reject self? That to follow the good way we must flee from evil? That a friend of the world is an enemy of God? That God allows no twilight zone between two altogethers where the fearful and the doubting may take refuge at once from hell to come and the rigors of present discipline?

He goes on to say, “neither do I believe that all of the liberals and modernists put together can kill Christianity. They’re trying—but they can’t succeed (159)!” Tozer wasn’t naïve. He understood the danger of communism and liberalism. He wrote that communism was from hell. However, “hell can’t destroy the church (160).” As Jesus said in Matthew’s gospel, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18).” For Tozer, “the tree that is blown down in the storm is rotten in its heart or it wouldn’t be blown down. And the church that falls because of persecution is a church that was dead before it fell (161).” 

Do you agree or disagree? Culture is challenging, convicting, and encouraging. Although I didn’t agree with every conclusion of Tozer, I found the book exciting. The reader can almost hear the passion and zeal from the words on the pages. Although you may not agree with everything, I think you would agree that this is a timely read. Enjoy! 

**Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Josh Chambers

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