AW Tozer is considered by many to an excellent theologian. He was a self taught individual who would best be described as a “pull your self up by your bootstraps” type of guy. He was ordained by the Christian Missionary and Alliance church. But he made a serious judgement gaff when he attempted to describe the Alliance founder, AB Simpson, regarding the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. He attempted to state that AB Simpson’s position was “seek not forbid not.”
But Alliance historians have retracted that position as highly inaccurate because the writings of AB Simpson clearly show that he sought after all the gifts of the Spirit, with all passion, even if not received by himself personally. Beleive or not, the Alliance in its early days had garnered they same type of questionability and controversy as being to way out of line that we tend to throw at newer movements such as the Calvary Chapel, Vineyard, Hillsong, and Bethel. They were considered to be cutting edge / borderline of their day. But kudos to the the Alliance for sticking up for historical accuracy and recognizing the need to be sensitive to the move of the Holy Spirit. While the Alliance may be considered quaint by today’s standards, I have spoken with many Alliance pastors and leaders who have a burning desire to be used by God in all the gifts.
But Tozer’s position of “seek not forbid not” did not fall in line with any teaching in scripture, not just Alliance theology. Can you picture Christ saying, “forbid not seek not” regarding holiness, love, forgiveness, or giving? That mindset clearly runs contrary to pursuit of a deeper relationship with God.
Tozer was also known for his famous statement of worship is the “missing jewel” of the church. But no where have I ever read that the connection between “seek not forbid not” with worship as the “missing jewel.” Yet I would contend the two statements are inextricably linked. By not pursuing all of the Holy Spirit one misses out on worship.
Say what you want about Calvary Chapel, Vineyard, Hillsong and Bethel, about their sometimes messy theology, but one thing you can not deny is that these movements have transformed Christianity with their worship. The unspoken theology is that great doctrine alone makes for great worship. Worship has been described as expressing “worthship.” If so then, great love is what makes for great worship. (Should doctrine be an essential part of worship, yes but that is a post for another time.)
The need for playing it safe is never described as spiritual attribute. In fact Jesus would label it as quite the opposite. Consider his rebuke in the parable of talents for the one who buries his talent in the ground to only give back what was given with no risk:
- Matthew 25:26-30 NASB – 26 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no [seed.] 27 ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my [money] back with interest. 28 ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ 29 “For to everyone who has, [more] shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Not willing to not lay it all on the line does not express “worthship” but exposes us as “worthless.” Those strong words are not mine but the Lord’s. Unfortunately, Tozer’s words were the prevailing opinion of many evangelicals of his day. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were just too messy for their well organized churches. But in expressing such a view, he and they unwittingly cut themselves and the church off from worship. Worship was not just the missing jewel, it was the forbidden jewel.
We need to be reminded though we may may see immaturity in the church, we must never cease to love extravagantly and yearn for all God has. God can make up for our inaccuracies, and we can grow into maturity, but Jesus not can not make up for our lack of love. So I truly strongly encourage each one of us, as we walk on, to press on to maturity, but to also love much my friends, lest we too find ourselves on the wrong side of history.
**** Editors Note **** After some reflection regarding the need for doctrine and love, I edited my unspoken theology for the day to reflect the need for both.