Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Knowledge of the Holy

Rate this book
The Knowledge of the Holy by popular evangelical author and Christian mystic A.W. Tozer illuminates God’s attributes—from wisdom, to grace, to mercy—and in doing so, attempts to restore the majesty and wonder of God in the hearts and minds of all Christians. A modern classic of Christian testimony and devotion, The Knowledge of the Holy shows us how we can rejuvenate our prayer life, meditate more reverently, understand God more deeply, and experience God’s presence in our daily lives. 

117 pages, Paperback

Published October 6, 1978

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

A.W. Tozer

447 books1,645 followers
Aiden Wilson Tozer was an American evangelical pastor, speaker, writer, and editor. After coming to Christ at the age of seventeen, Tozer found his way into the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination where he served for over forty years. In 1950, he was appointed by the denomination's General Council to be the editor of "The Alliance Witness" (now "Alliance Life").

Born into poverty in western Pennsylvania in 1897, Tozer died in May 1963 a self-educated man who had taught himself what he missed in high school and college due to his home situation. Though he wrote many books, two of them, "The Pursuit of God" and "The Knowledge of the Holy" are widely considered to be classics.

A.W. Tozer and his wife, Ada Cecelia Pfautz, had seven children, six boys and one girl.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
15,120 (59%)
4 stars
6,295 (24%)
3 stars
2,621 (10%)
2 stars
716 (2%)
1 star
511 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,149 reviews
Profile Image for Matt.
214 reviews632 followers
September 4, 2008
Having never before read A.W. Tozer, I didn't know what to expect when I started reading this book, and if I expected anything I'm not sure that this was it.

The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life is a study in the unstudiable. It is a scrutiny of that which is inherently inscrutable. It is therefore I think doomed from the start, for the knowledge that it would convey is inexpressible and the wisdom it would impart is far beyond man's understanding. In fact, the book is filled with confessions of this very sort which made me wonder why such a futile project was attempted with such earnestness.

According to the text, Tozer believed that the failure of the church in the 20th century was largely due to a failure to properly conceive God. Tozer spends about 20 short chapters discussing the attributes of God. The real God, Tozer declares, is marked by His Majesty and this majesty is evident from His infinite nature. Whether speaking of God's power, His righteousness, His faithfulness, His knowledge, or any other attribute which is part of the nature of God, the real God is in all things unlike the things of the world in being infinite. The real God, Tozer claims, had been disconnected from the name of God so that when the church spoke his name it no longer reflected the actual God of the Heavens but rather some enfeebled and unmajestic conception of man.

This is actually a subject that I as a computer scientist take a great deal of interest in. Names are fundamentally important to the study of computer science. In computer science we are made aware of the distinction between the name and the thing that is named. The name of a thing is not the thing itself, but rather only a pointer to the thing. A name is valuable only in as much as it continues to point to the right thing. A name can become misaddressed, so that it no longer points to the thing it is supposed to. And, a name can become detached completely from anything, so that when we try to dereference it we find the name empty of meaning. So it is in fact a very real worry that we might still hold on to the name, but find that the name has no power because it no longer addresses the thing that its name is supposed to associate it with. A name that doesn't point to the thing that it labels, has lost referential power and like salt without saltiness is good for nothing.

Nothing is worse than asking directions of a null pointer.

Tozer is certainly right that the name of God can become lost. If it was not so, then God would have never warned us against using the name lightly. But if the address of the namespace of God becomes lost to us, the fault is not with God. God cannot be made null. The fault lies with us, in that we have made His name null within our namespace. But the problem herein is that if Tozer is right, and that the chief problem is that we've lost the address of God and our prayers are thereby null and ineffective, clearly no effort on our part can reinitialize that pointer. God must give us his address if we are to use it.

Which creates quite a conundrum, because how can Tozer expect to by any of his writing reinitialize the pointer to God? If Tozer is right, then all of his intellectuality and all of his logic, intelligence, and study is completely vain - even by his own account. All of the attributes of God are far beyond our understanding. Any conceptions we have of God are necessarily limited and therefore in some measure a false understanding. We cannot hope to contain the infinite within our finite understanding.

Perhaps it is for this reason that Tozer does what is I think the most fitting and valuable part of the work - he begins each chapter with prayer.

It's not so much that I think Tozer says anything that is false. I think he does a fine job reminding the reader how big God is. Or rather, I think he does as fine of job as any mere human can do speaking about the infinite to another mere mortal. This is to say, not very well at all really if the purpose is anything other than a philosopher’s game. From Tozer's writing how can we come away with a pointer to God? If the problem is really that we don't imagine God big enough and don't hold him in awe enough, then what are we to do or how could we ever have any hope of Salvation? If only those that have sufficient intellect to hold the infinite in their understanding shall be saved, then we are all doomed for there is not a one of us so bright that our own strong right brain can save us.

The truth is that we cannot be saved through the completeness of our doctrines, our studies of theology, or the correctness of our thoughts. The problem isn't so much that I disagree with Tozer; it is that I think he gets it completely backwards. The loss of the namespace of God isn't the cause of the failing of the modern church, but a symptom of it. It's not that we are not right with God because we lack a proper conception of him, but rather we have not a proper conception of God because we are not right with God. Tozer is I think trying to treat a symptom rather than a cause.

At times Tozer’s work is shockingly anti-intellectual, even to one such as myself, who can be sneeringly anti-intellectual, and yet I wonder if it doesn’t go far enough. I don’t think there is a thing here which will be convincing to anyone that needs convincing on these points. I don’t think there is anything in the text that will convince the reader of anything he is not formerly convinced of. On a purely intellectual level, I don’t think there are very many Christians who have forgotten the Majesty of God, or His infinite grace, mercy, faithfulness, or love. It’s not that we’ve forgotten how big he is when we engage in these sorts of intellectual conversations; it is that we just don’t feel it really. There is vast difference in the knowing of something in your head, and the knowing of something in your heart. The one enables you to speak eloquently on a subject, and the other empowers you to actually live as you claim to believe.

On the speaking eloquently or correctly on the subject of the unbounded matchless character of God, I think Tozer can be some help. But this is really not much help at all. What I need is some help in getting from a cold leaden too intellectual heart filled with worldly wisdom, toward really feeling the presence of God. But such an instruction manual - if anyone could provide it - never seemed to be in Tozer’s ambition. I can’t say whether or not merely thinking the right things was enough for A.W. Tozer, but it doesn’t work too well for me.

Profile Image for Sushant.
16 reviews3 followers
May 3, 2012
Great book!

There was a story I learned growing up. Five blind men who did not know what an elephant was like found an elephant. Since they could not see, they felt around to imagine what an elephant would be like. One felt the leg and said, "An elephant is like a tower!". Another felt the trunk and said, "No! it is more like a python!". Another felt the tail and said," No! An elephant is more like a rope!". Another felt the stomach and said," You are all wrong! An elephant is like a big sack!" They could never come to an agreement and quarreled the whole time.

I believe we face similar issues when we attempt the impossible task of knowing God. Much of our disagreements in Christianity come because we are like blind men, arguing that the elephant is indeed a tower, or a rope or a sack, and much of Christianity suffers because of not realizing that He is inscrutable and unknowable.

So then, how shall we know the unknowable? First, by humbly admitting that He is unknowable, then being faithful to whatever He allows us to know about Him through special revelation, namely, through the Bible. Tozer has written a book in which He attempts this very thing. So, it is not perfect. However, I believe it is a book in the right direction.

The god most Christians believe in today is not the God of the Bible. The god most Christians believe in today is too frustrated, too heartbroken, too limited, too unhappy and frankly too human. That is not the LORD. Read this book and pray that God would give you intellectual humility to know a little of who God really is, and who you really are.
Profile Image for Bill.
767 reviews73 followers
December 26, 2020
Read 2012: I read this book at a rate of one chapter each morning, kind of ‘devotional theology’ to go along with regular bible reading and prayer. It was an experiment, and it was great – it may reveal more about my personality than anything else, but I find this kind of theological reading much more encouraging and practically helpful than typical devotional material that I have read in the past. The book itself is known as a classic, and deservedly so. Tozer’s intense, earnest style is perfectly suited to a book about the attributes of God. The book has a great balance between awe at how far beyond our understanding God is, and joy in the attempt to understand him none the less. He does slip into a ‘good ole days’ tone occasionally as he rails against the shallow understanding of God of his own day, but his critique has weight none the less, and I was challenged. It’s refreshing to read someone who thinks and speaks a little differently to the guys I usually read – I was broadly at home with his theology, but Tozer has a different way of stringing words together and emphasises different things to the contemporary authors I’m most familiar with.

Read again 2020 in the same way.
September 22, 2022
This book expanded my view of God and His character. Each chapter describes an attribute of God – super humbling to think about the glorious, incomprehensible nature of our God and see how His attributes apply to us! Helped me consider how certain attributes, like God’s immutability and infinitude, have an impact on my daily walk with Christ.

“The greatness of God rouses fear within us, but His goodness encourages us not to be afraid of Him. To fear and not be afraid – that is the paradox of faith.”
Profile Image for Isaiah Harris.
26 reviews
May 27, 2023
"What comes into our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us."

The Church has a heavy obligation to "purify and elevate Her concept of God," and it starts with growing our personal knowledge of Him. This book has made me all the more grateful for God's revelation of Himself through holy Scripture to unholy people.There are few other topics that are so captivating to read about than God's character!
Profile Image for Robbie Pruitt.
45 reviews14 followers
September 19, 2012
Nothing is more important than a right understanding of God, or "thinking rightly about God." In Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer states, "The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men." Tozer is addressing idol worship that many fall into by thinking wrongly about God.

It is into this reality that Tozer speaks in his book, Knowledge of the Holy, which is an excellent study of the attributes of God. Tozer describes in detail the importance of thinking rightly about God. Going so far as asserting, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." When it comes to our thinking about God, everything is at stake. We must think deeply and accurately about God if we are to know Him and worship Him rightly and truthfully.

An attribute study is a great way to come to know God more deeply and is a great way to explore the richness of the scriptures in a more non-linear approach. The book Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer, covers some essential thoughts and attributes of God, as well as doctrines, that every Christian should think about. As Tozer rightly points out, "The study of the attributes of God, far from being dull and heavy, may for the enlightened Christian be a sweet and absorbing spiritual exercise. To the soul that is athirst for God, nothing could be more delightful." As we seek God and seek to have our thirsts for Him quenched, this book, in addition to scripture, prayer, and community, is a great place to start.

A thorough reading of Knowledge of the Holy highlights so many truths about God. We are plunged into the depths of God's character and nature and are left in a state of awe and worship in the presence of an awesome God. While we will spend a lifetime and an eternity seeking to know God completely and to worship Him rightly, we can know God and worship Him now. To quote Tozer one last time, "To our questions God has provided answers; not all the answers, certainly, but enough to satisfy our intellects and ravish our hearts. These answers He has provided in nature, in the Scriptures, and in the person of His Son." How marvelous it is to wonder at His greatness and to think rightly about our God!
Profile Image for Natalie Weber.
Author 3 books58 followers
October 22, 2010
This is a brief, but classic, work that I read in preparation for a Bible study in which I was involved this fall. There are 23 chapters, each only several pages long, that expound on some of the many attributes and aspects of God’s nature. A statement in the preface encapsulates nicely why it is so critical to study God: “It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate.” In the first chapter, Tozer adds, “A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well.”

I found each chapter to be insightful, uplifting, and thought-provoking. The far-reaching implications of learning more about God – through the combined study of this book and Scripture – compel me to think that one would do well to engage solely in the study of God for the remainder of this life. It is, of course, an inexhaustible study. And I have personally experienced the rich transformation that has been effected in my life as a result of what I have learned thus far. Another word from Tozer toward this end, “For the Scriptures not only teach truth, they show also its uses for mankind. The inspired writers were men of like passion with us, dwelling in the midst of life. What they learned about God became to them a sword, a shield, a hammer; it became their life motivation, their good hope, and their confident expectation. From the objective facts of theology their hearts made how many thousand joyous deductions and personal applications!”
Profile Image for Ayden Tilton.
209 reviews5 followers
May 2, 2022
This book is amazing and I would recommend it to every Christian our there! It’s extremely important to know who our Lord is, and this book covered that so well! It can be a bit of a hard read, but when you figure out what he’s saying, you not only feel super smart because you know what he’s talking about, but you also learn so much! It’s very well written, and a very important read.

Tozer doesn’t waste time beating his points to death. He says what is needed about the topic, and moves on. It’s how he was able to condense so much about the character of God into one small, but dense book.
Profile Image for Michael.
1 review5 followers
August 3, 2013
A.W. Tozer begins chapter one saying, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." This is more or less an agreeable statement, however, the view Tozer takes of God is in many ways an antithesis of who God is. The most profound offence is his neglect of the love of God. While for Tozer everything else such as God's Justice and Omnipotence is a scriptural certitude but when it comes to the sentence "God is love," suddenly Tozer becomes a 19th century Bill Clinton debating the meaning of the word is! Not only is this not literal in his eyes but not authoritative on God's character. God's love is, rather than his essential nature revealed in Christ, one attribute of God of equal, and dare I say contingent, importance to Tozer's own concepts of justice, omnipotence and sovereignty. While repeatedly expressing the unknowability of God's infinitude the book is replete with instances of defining these supposed essential and unknowable characteristics of God. God has his own standards but THIS is what real justice is! God's sovereignty doesn't just mean he is ultimately all powerful! No, he has to know everything or be less than glorious... at least in Tozer's view of glory.

Furthermore, and this gets into the nitty-gritty of some of Tozer's argumentation, Tozer at one point actually seems to discourage doubt and encourage a blind faith. His argumentation often comes from faulty human logic with choosy scriptural backing and following from this doesn't seem to make much sense of obvious questions of contradiction. How is mercy related to justice? How is calvinist sovereignty not mutually exclusive of love? While these topics are whole books in and of themselves we, the readers, deserve to be let in on the fact that these are massive and ultimately "disputable" topics. We deserve to be treated not as if our questions and doubt are some heresy but rather a sincere and earnest searching for the knowledge of the holy a knowledge distinctly lacking from this book.
Profile Image for Nina.
79 reviews
April 7, 2015
Another of Tozer ' s gems. A description of a selection of God's attributes. It is popular now to talk of God in terms of being a god of love. This diminishes Him by making him into a god of one dimension. God operates with an infinite number of attributes ( many we are most likely unaware of) and all simultaneously and equally. By limiting Him we reduce his influence on the world and our lives.
16 reviews
January 22, 2023
In this book Tozer explains “why we must think rightly about God” then proceeds to demonstrate the supremacy God by exploring many of His attributes. Gary and I both appreciate this book
Profile Image for Autumn Beck.
194 reviews21 followers
April 12, 2021
Always a privilege to learn more about God. Super quick read and great intro to the attributes of God for anyone.
Profile Image for Avery Hawkins.
2 reviews
May 22, 2023
So sweet to learn all about the character of God, and the author had so many good quotes to reflect on throughout the book. My favorite being “To believe in him adds nothing to his perfection; to doubt in him takes nothing away.” Such a good encouragement before I head into this summer!!!!
Profile Image for Emily Gean.
59 reviews
September 12, 2022
This book reviews God’s character, ultimately emphasizing how anything we can compare to him falls short, but we often try. Tozer discusses how he remains consistent, present, and loving despite humanity’s constant pursuit of their flesh and sin and modern Christiany’s skewed view of God. Showed the importance of a true pursuit of God that should change the way we view the world and people around us, while also changing our actions.
Grateful for the reminder of who God was and continues to be throughout all of time.

“What peace it brings to the Christian’s heart to realize that our Heavenly Father never differs from Himself. Incoming to Him at any time we need not wonder whether we shall find Him in a receptive mood. He is always receptive to misery and need, as well as to love and faith. He does not keep office hours nor set aside periods when He will see no one. Neither does He change His mind about anything. Today, this moment, He feels toward His creatures, toward babies, toward the sick, the fallen, the sinful, exactly as He did when He sent His only-begotten Son into the world to die for mankind. God never changes moods or cools off in His affections or loses enthusiasm. His attitude toward sin is now the same as it was when He drove out the sinful man from the eastward garden, and His attitude toward the sinner the same as when He stretched forth His hands and cried, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

“Christians today appear to know Christ only after the flesh. They try to achieve communion with Him by divesting Him of His burning holiness and unapproachable majesty, the very attributes He veiled while on earth but assumed in fullness of glory upon His ascension to the Father’s right hand. The Christ of popular Christianity has a weak smile and a halo. He has become Someone-up-There who likes people, at least some people, and these are grateful but not too impressed. If they need Him, He also needs them.”
Profile Image for Michael Locklear.
194 reviews8 followers
April 2, 2015
"The Knowledge of the Holy" is a wonderful classic by A. W. Tozer, where he deals with the Divine Attributes of God, such as:
The self-existence of God
The self-sufficiency of God
The immutability of God
The eternity of God
The wisdom of God
And more... His faithfulness, love, mercy, grace, holiness, sovereignty, that He is all-knowing (omniscience), all-powerful (omnipotent) and ever-present (omnipresence).
This is a marvelous little classic worth reading and meditating over. Add it to your library!
Profile Image for Grace.
50 reviews
June 12, 2018
This was a great book. I loved the whole premise of keeping God exalted above all, and our main concern. When you get focused enough and in love enough with just who God is and what he’s done for you, you become truly satisfied. We as humans could definitely use that reminder of God more often. Just forgetting the world and following Christ with everything you are. Hard to keep in mind constantly.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
309 reviews
July 17, 2022
Even though this is a small book, it is packed with a lot of stuff. It is all about God and His attributes, His holiness, His righteousness and each chapter covers a new attribute.
It is very heavy but well worth a read.
Profile Image for Katie T.
1,020 reviews89 followers
November 20, 2021
Dnf 57% bc I'm never realistically going to finish this.
Profile Image for Valerie.
31 reviews
June 30, 2021
Took me something like seven years to finish this book. I’ve changed a lot in that time; my theology has changed a lot in that time. Tozer would say it doesn’t matter because the Holy has not.

I think this is a good little book to let seep in slowly. I think it’s an important one to have read if you find yourself in pews. I think the aphorism Tozer is most famous for it true, I think his teachings are venerable, and I don’t think reverence can be argued logically, yet he’s done it well.

The first chapters set my adolescent mind blazing and made me feel alive, dissecting each sentence and connecting dots. Years later, the final chapters struck me as harsh and too sure. These reactions tell me more about myself than about God, or Tozer’s God. I think the way we react to books like these matters more than our analyses of what they say.
Profile Image for Beth.
79 reviews
December 6, 2021
The Westminster Shorter Catechism, used to teach children the basics of Christian faith, asks:

"What is the cheif end of man?
Man's cheif end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever"

and also
"How can you glorify God?"
By loving him and doing what he commands."

And can one love and enjoy a complete stranger? Is it possible to fully trust and follow the commands of a person one knows only in part?

Not only does God call us to love, obey, glorify, and enjoy him, but He makes himself known to us so that we can do all he has called us to do, in full confidence of all He has shown us He is. We are never blindly following a stranger.

"I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my guide." -Martin Luther

There is so much richness, depth, and beauty in who God is, and this short, earnest, and enthralling book does not disappoint in its attempts to make his attributes known. I read this book slowly, one chapter daily, treating it somewhat like a theological devotional. It was a sweet time that Im sad is over. Would likely re-read and highly recommend.
Profile Image for Michael.
67 reviews
November 11, 2009
In this work, Tozer tackles arguably the most important question in life—Who is God? He correctly ascertains that so as we think about God, so as life goes. And in his attempt to tell what God is like, he succeeds in at least outlining the major characteristics of God as held by classical, orthodox Christianity.
I’d venture to guess that concepts of God’s unity, simplicity, and being aren’t being discussed, much less understood, outside of a few seminaries, and most of them Catholic. The format in which Tozer takes up this discussion is easily negotiated (short chapters and only 23 in total), but the nature of his writing is at times distracting. He writes as if he’s reached a certain mystical plateau from which he’s never descended. Though capable of stringing together some beautiful lines, Tozer’s preponderant use of poetic language leaves the text at times, distractingly viscous.
The great flaw in Tozer’s arguments is his constant casting aside of reason. Tozer is more than eager to have Reason sit outside while the Heart enters into the Holy of Holies. “We might be wise to follow the insight of the enraptured heart rather than the mere cautious reasonings of the theological mind,” he says (Is this statement “reasoned” or “enraptured” I wonder?). In another place he adds, “Any faith that must be supported by the evidence of the senses is not real faith.” Here Tozer mischaracterizes faith as that which must not keep company with reason. Though never to be equated, the two shouldn’t be kept from working in tandem. Reason may well be faith’s catalyst, especially when it comes to embracing many of the concepts Tozer so wishes the Church to embrace.
Profile Image for Noah Hosking.
20 reviews
January 16, 2022
A. W. Tozer writes the book in response to the lost perception of God’s majesty in the modern (1950s) western church. He correctly addresses this low view of God by teaching His readers about who God is. It deals systematically with incommunicable and communicable traits. I was certainly left in awe of the amazing God I worship, and the beauty in both simplicity and complexity of His attributes, those things which He declares to be true of Himself.

I wish I could give this 4.5 stars. Oh well.
Profile Image for Clare Picker.
26 reviews1 follower
April 10, 2022
Absolutely inspiring. I highlighted a ridiculous number of passages and it took me four months to read this 138 page book because I wanted to really absorb what he had to say. God is absolutely, infinitely, amazingly holy and we cannot do anything upon recognition of that except fall down in worship. This book made me grow in both fear and love for God in His awesomeness and I cannot think of a better reason to recommend it.
Profile Image for Logan.
211 reviews14 followers
February 6, 2016
An exceptional book that serves as a condensed systematic theology. Very simple and easy-to-read, with brief but deep chapters. Each chapter covers an aspect of God and is continuously pointing to how majestic God truly is. This is not meant to be a "one-stop-shop" for your theology but it's a fantastic starting point for beginning a study.
Profile Image for Yari.
295 reviews11 followers
June 23, 2020
A great classic to read and have available on your bookshelf. The language and message is rich - despite the short book, it took me some time to really meditate and think through. I disagreed with a few concepts but these are minor in comparison with the wisdom and sound theology throughout. Worth the read.
Profile Image for Amanda.
150 reviews
July 8, 2019
"Almost every heresy that has afflicted the church has arisen from believing about God things that are not true or from overemphasizing certain true things to overshadow others that are equally true." A wonderful exploration into the truths of God and the importance of recognizing that all of these attributes are present all of the time, without contradiction.

Tozer doesn't leave the book without challenging us to put that knowledge into action as "there is a glorified Man on the right hand of the Majesty in heaven faithfully representing us there. We are left for a season among men, let us faithfully represent Him here." Definitely a book I see myself rereading in the future!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,149 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.