9. The Era of an Absentee God

The “Church” Paradigm (a la Tozer)

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Gen. 6:5 π Mt. 7:23 π Mt. 24:12 π Lk. 17:26 π Lk. 17:27 π Lk. 17:28-29 π Jn. 10:27 π Jn. 15:5 π Rom. 8:7 π 1 Cor. 3:3-4 π 2 Ths. 2:3 π 1 Tim. 4:1

All quotes from A.W. Tozer are from his book, God Tells the Man Who Cares unless otherwise specified.

Tozer wrote:

One advantage gained from thinking of God as being absent is that we may assume that He is pleased with whatever we may be trying to do, as long as it is not downright wicked. There would seem to be no other way to account for the vast amount of religious nonsense being carried on these days in the name of the Lord. (“The Era of an Absentee God,” p. 78)

Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice.” ( Jn. 10:27; top ) The “church” makes it possible, even necessary, that one hear all the words one wants to about Jesus and the Bible without once ever hearing the voice of Jesus for one’s self. This inability or unwillingness to personally hear the voice of Jesus – being replaced with trusting the “pastor’s” voice or being tricked into hearing some demon’s voice – has the same effect as believing God to be absent (except in the case of the demonic voice where the victim is led to progressively rely on the demonic imitation of the Savior’s voice): one progressively does whatever is right in one’s own eyes. And as Tozer says so well, “we may assume that He is pleased with whatever we may be trying to do, as long as it is not downright wicked.”

Too many people seem to believe that Jesus said, “Depart from me, you who practice wickedness.” In part, this comes from the KJV’s usage of the word “iniquity” in that verse. Instead, Jesus did say, “Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” ( Mt. 7:23 - emphasis added; top) Lawlessness is the absence of an objective, absolute standard – it is doing what is right in one’s own eyes. It is believing (or not caring) that God may be pleased with whatever we may be trying to do, as long as it is not too bad or wicked. Wickedness – rampant, outright evil – is not totally absent from the picture Jesus presented of the end of the age but it is not the main aspect to which He is pointing.

Jesus said, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man.” ( Lk. 17:26 ) Genesis records, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” ( Gen. 6:5; top ) So, yes, evil and wickedness will be a major characteristic of the last days. But it is not the blatant evil that “Christians” refuse to commit that will be the cause of their dismissal from His presence.

When Jesus continues, He says, “They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” ( Lk. 17:27; top ) Jesus here does not describe murders, thefts, violence or even idolatry (the worship of demons and false gods) as being the essence of the wickedness of the days of Noah. Eating, drinking and marriage were the essence of the days of Noah that Jesus is referring to here.

Jesus continues by pointing to the days of Lot: “They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.” ( Lk. 17:28-29; top ) Jesus doesn’t refer to the gross sins of Sodom here but to the normal, everyday dealings of the people. It is in our everyday actions wherein we incorporate or exclude God into or from our lives. If we exclude God, then shortly, as it was in the days of Noah, then every intent of our heart will be continuously evil – not because the activities we engage in are particularly evil but because we, in our self and in our flesh, are evil. Our nature taints the activities we engage in – not the other way around.

It is in this light that our assumption that God is pleased with anything we choose to do that is apart from a close-knit partnership with Him (and ourselves as the lesser partner!) is ludicrous. “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” ( Jn. 15:5 - emphasis added) We may spend all our resources, energy and lives and be entirely exhausted when we are done but in the eyes of God it is nothing – or worse, enmity against Him.

“The carnal mind,” Paul wrote, “is enmity against God.” ( Rom. 8:7 ) The carnal mind is that which operates in us apart from the new life of the Spirit of God within us. The carnal mind is in operation when we attach ourselves to men who claim to be (or even genuinely are!) something in Christ. ( 1 Cor. 3:3-4; top ) “I belong to Pastor Smith’s church” is a confession of our carnality – though few see this as even a sin! “I’m a Luther-an” (or Wesley-an or Calvin-ite or Menno-nite or whomever-ite) is equally a confession of our carnality – but very few see this as enmity against God. And these are the very building blocks of the present-day “church”!

There can be no other spiritually rational conclusion: we think of God as being absent from our lives. Therefore, as Tozer rightly concludes, “There would seem to be no other way to account for the vast amount of religious nonsense being carried on these days in the name of the Lord.” Writing around 1960, Tozer gives evidence yet again that the “church” was engaged in a “vast amount of religious nonsense.” The ensuing decades since he made this observation have not improved upon that verdict as now hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of sects divide the people who claim to belong to Christ, radio and television put forth every kind of teaching (true, false, mixed) about Christ and everyone who claims to follow Christ practices whatever portion or flavor of “Christianity” he prefers or likes. This is the lawlessness that abounds. ( Mt. 24:12 ) This is the great falling away from the faith, the apostasy. ( 2 Ths. 2:3 ; 1 Tim. 4:1; top )

There simply is no other way to account for the vast amount of division, confusion, error, greed and power-mongering that is the present-day “church.”

8. We Must Be Still to Know π 10. Perils of the Preacher (Part 1)
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