I was in Ovoca Manor a few weeks ago and came across a little collection of second-hand books that some kind person had put out on a table, free for the taking. I gladly took one, A.W Tozer: In Pursuit of God. It’s a fascinating book, by turns erratic and deeply insightful – maybe not unlike Tozer himself.
A surprise for me was his breadth of reading. Tozer said, “Never read a ‘good book.’ There are many good books being published every year. The majority of them merely rehash what someone else has written. Go back to the classics and learn from them”.
James Snyder, his biographer, says that Tozer prescribed, “John Bunyan for simplicity; Joseph Addison for clarity and elegance; John Milton for nobility and consistent elevation of thought; Charles Dickens for sprightliness (“start with A Christmas Carol”); Francis Bacon for conciseness and dignity. In addition, Tozer recommended Robert Louis Stevenson, John Ruskin, Thomas Carlyle, Nathaniel Hawthorne and the poetry of Wordsworth, Bryant, Blake, Keats and Shelly” – and all that from someone who left school at 14.
He once raised some eyebrows during a sermon by referring to Julian of Norwich as “my girlfriend”, later explaining to questioners that “anyone who has been dead for 500 years is safe to be called a girlfriend”. He was an enthusiastic admirer of the seventeenth-century French saint Francois de Salignac de la Mothe Fenelon. Just between ourselves, I’d never heard of him.
Then I ran across a copy of C.S. Lewis Letters to Children and was astounded to discover that Lewis wrote hundreds of letters (by hand with an ink pen) to children all over the world, answering their many questions, often about Narnia but also about literature, faith and philosophy. He wrote to them right until the month he died (November 1963), even apologising if he was late in replying to them.
In one such case he writes, “I have a sick (v. sick) wife to visit daily in hospital. At home I had to look after a sick brother, 2 schoolboy stepsons, one dog, one cat, four geese, umpteen hens, two stoves, three pipes in danger of freezing; so I was pretty busy and pretty tired. Well, all good wishes to all of you and here’s a new-year’s gift. With Love, C.S. Lewis”.
Pam gave me a copy of A More Perfect Heaven at Christmas. This account of the life and work of Copernicus also includes commentary by Galileo on the purpose of the Bible e.g. “I believe that the intention of Holy Writ was to persuade men of the truths necessary for salvation.”
At this point I am just tired of the old chestnut being dragged out so regularly by journalists implying that Galileo was some kind of agnostic who was contradicted by a Bible-believing Vatican. In fact the one who had done his thorough exegetical homework on the Old Testament was Galileo. Indeed, Copernicus and Kepler also had a lot to say about the relevant passages in Ecclesiastes, Psalms and Joshua because of their respect for the Word and their enjoyment of the sky as a creation of God.
The next time you hear the worn-out story about Galileo just say, “Leave it out! Check the books – remember books?