Am I Putting God in a Box?
Over the last several posts I have tried to answer several of the most common questions people ask about my view of God’s will and Christian decision. In this last post on this topic (for a while anyway) I want to tackle one final question that is almost always asked about my view on this subject: “Aren’t you putting God in a box?”
This question goes well beyond the boundaries of this series, as it is commonly asked of anyone who questions a “new movement of the Spirit,” such as the Toronto Blessing; which many Christians, myself included, had grave doubts about. In this way, it is often not so much used as a question but a device to shut down inquiries and doubts regarding a given “spiritual” event.
I find this question somewhat illegitimate, although many who ask it are undoubtedly sincere, for one reason: It can be used to justify anything. A number of years ago, Greg Koukl (who, you may figured out by my frequent citations of him, is one of the most influential Christian teachers in my life) responded to this question this way:
What if I told you that you should come with me to a church that has a brand new work of the Spirit? You say, what is it? I say, when the Spirit moves us, we stand in a circle and urinate into a big tub. We pee in a pot. We call it "whizzing in the Spirit." You say, Koukl, that's bizarre. I say, there are no verses against it. Find a verse against it. In fact, I've got a proof text: "From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water." There it is! Works for me! After all, you can't put God in a box, can you? God can do whatever He wants, can't He? So who are you to judge Him?
This is, of course, a humorous example, but it gets at the heart of the problem with the question (or statement), “Aren’t you putting God in a box?”
Whenever we teach about God and what it means to follow Him, we must be exceedingly careful to only teach what is Biblical. Is it possible that God could speak to you through your inner feelings and intuitions? Yes it is. Is it possible that God, if He so chose, could speak to you from a garden gnome under your bed? Yes it is, God certainly could do that if He wanted to. Am I, or you, or anyone else, allowed to teach that God does things in this way? No. The reason is simple: The Bible itself does not teach that God works in these ways. As teachers (all of us are in some capacity or another), the only things we can teach about God and His ways with any authority, or any surety, are the things taught to us first in the Bible.
Series Conclusion (for now, anyway):
Am I saying that I don’t believe that the Holy Spirit interacts with us on a sometimes unconscious level to influence or to assist in bringing to mind some wisdom that we didn’t know we possessed? Not at all, I do believe that God interacts with Christians in such a way. However, the danger begins when we start claiming that our “inward nudges” are instructions from God. Such claims give divine authority to our passing whims and thus shut down the possibility of wise counsel from other Christians who might advocate a different course of action. After all, if God really told you to do X, who are they to say not to?
Whether you have read all my posts on this subject, or only this one, the thing that I want everyone to understand is this: Our inner impressions, the thoughts and “nudges” that we feel from time may be from God, our own mind, or even from the Devil, but we don’t to agonize over the source of their origin as so many Christians do. What I understand to be the Biblical response, is to evaluate every potential course of action in light of God’s moral will and of wisdom. If we follow this Biblical prescription, we will never be far wrong. We will weed out the suggestions of the Devil and our own bad ideas, and (for the most part) follow through on our good ideas and the things of God.
It may be that there are things, many things perhaps, that we attempt that don’t meet with perfect success. That is the nature of life. The thing that counts for the most in the end is not whether our efforts meet with brilliant success at every turn but whether we consistently sought to honor and glorify God with our life through wise and Godly decisions and actions. It is in this way that we will find ourselves in the center of God’s will for our life.