It is clear there is a problem in the church today. Some remark the source is the consumer mindset of the culture. Others state the blame is on the church for allowing the culture to come in. Certainly these matters may contribute to the problem but they do not hit at the heart of what is the issue. So, what is the issues? According to A.W. Tozer, the problem is the church has ignored the Holy Spirit and has attempted to do God’s work without God’s Spirit. Although Tozer has been gone for half a century, James L. Snyder has compiled and edited the writings of A.W. Tozer on the person of the Holy Spirit in the book Alive in the Spirit: Experiencing the Presence and Power of God. This work is as applicable today as it was in Tozer’s day.
From the outset, Tozer makes clear the focus of his writing on this subject is for the individual. He says this is the case because these truths must first impact the individual and then flow over to the local congregation. In eighteen chapters, Tozer seeks to expose the problem the church faces and calls it to heed warnings while also pointing to Scripture for the church to see what experiencing the Holy Spirit looks like. Each chapter ends with reflection points and questions for further consideration.
There is much to commend on this work of Tozer compiled by James Snyder. It is clear Tozer’s emphasis on understanding and experiencing the Holy Spirit must be laid by the foundation of Scripture. In chapters 4 and 5, foundations and emphases are laid to make the point Scripture is the guide. As well, Tozer repeatedly warns the church about neglecting the Holy Spirit and, likewise, warns Christians of going to extremes. His purpose is to bring about a proper perspective of the Holy Spirit instead of going to extremes. His critique of the church ignoring the Holy Spirit is summed up when he says, “when we get these people in the church by using the world’s methods, we need to continue using the world’s methods to keep them” (Tozer 44). In other words, Tozer condemns the church for the using the method of the world. To be sure, he does not state the problem without providing a solution. Chapter 9 paints a portrait of what the Spirit-filled church looks like. It is a church which not only knows about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit but a church which experiences the person and power of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the book, A.W. Tozer points to Scripture for knowing about the Holy Spirit and showing the application of Scripture is experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit.
The highlights of book do not come without a few critiques. The warnings A.W. Tozer gives to Christians in the church are sometimes made too general and can be seen as too strong in areas. This may partly be due to the time of his writing since this was originally written years ago. Still, in this work of Tozer’s, some sections come across as confusing. This occurs in a few areas but one will suffice for this review. In describing his conversion, Tozer is not clear as to when he believes he was saved. It seems he talks about two different times when he shares about his conversion and being baptized in the Spirit (Tozer 19). The confusion here may be due to the lack of defining what is meant by “being filled with the Holy Spirit”.
In conclusion, Alive in the Spirit by A.W. Tozer is a decent work. Tozer accomplishes the purpose of sharing spiritual truth for application to life, learning about the Holy Spirit to experience the Holy Spirit. That said, this book is one among many on the subject. You will be challenged with this book but it may not be the most fruitful book you will read on the Holy Spirit.
I received this book for free from Bethany House for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.