Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The danger of "Let's not put God in a box" thinking

I'm tired of that old chestnut, "think outside the box," aren't you? Good ole Wikipedia defines thinking outside the box as "to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel or creative thinking. This is related to the process of lateral thought. The catchphrase, or cliché, has become widely used in business environments, especially by management consultants and executive coaches, and has spawned a number of advertising slogans. To think outside the box is to look further and to try not thinking of the obvious things, but to try thinking beyond them."

Here is the proverbial box:
Here is the proverbial task: "The "nine dots" puzzle. The goal of the puzzle is to link all 9 dots using four straight lines or fewer, without lifting the pen and without tracing the same line more than once. One solution appears below."

Here is one of the solutions:
Here is the solution described: "One of many solutions to the puzzle at the beginning of this article is to go beyond the boundaries to link all dots in 4 straight lines."

See? The pencil drew lines outside of where the mind had applied a limit beyond the dot.

Jesus told the disciples to beware the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducee. (Matthew 16:16). Leaven is yeast, and it only needs a little bit to permeate through the whole loaf. Now, the Pharisees and Sadducees were polar opposites. The Pharisees were the traditionalists, legalists, and conservatives of the day. They were popular, and often were the famous men in town who ran things. The Sadducees were the liberals, free-thinkers, rationalists. They were not as popular but were still part of the Sanhedrin. Caiaphas was a Sadducee.

Pharisees applied extra traditions above the Law as delivered to Moses via God. These traditions strangled faith. The Sadducees were on the other end of the spectrum, questioning everything. They doubted the resurrection, angels, Spirit... They were asking questions all the time, and were never on firm, dogmatic ground. They seemed to be extra-intellectual but also appeared humble when asking their questions. All they were really doing was instilling doubt. They were the ones who asked Jesus who the woman with 7 husbands will be married to in heaven. (Matthew 22:23-30).

Why did Jesus say to beware the leaven of these two groups, if He knew that both groups would cease to exist within 70 years? Because these two groups are still around. Today, Rob Bell would be a Sadducee. Here is one example of a Sadducee questioning tactic: "Bell “articulates his ‘questions’ using rhetorical flourishes that seem purposefully designed to twist truths he knows to be communicated in scripture and that hold those truths up for public ridicule.” As in this example: “Will only a few select people make it to heaven and will billions of people burn forever in hell?” (source)

Yes. The bible clearly teaches that. Satan said to Eve, "Hath God said...?" (Genesis 3:1)

Any Prosperity Gospel teacher, like Jentezen Franklin for example, would be a Pharisee. You have to fast to get a blessing, you have to give seed money, you have to, you got to, do this, do that.

So all these centuries later, we must still heed the warning to beware the leaven of the Sadducees and Pharisees. Men's hearts do not change and these false yeasts are still here too. Jesus said to beware and so we must. (Source for the above, JC Ryle " Warnings to the Church")

Now to the box. I agree that God is majestic. I know His thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways are not my ways. I know He is so much higher than I am. (Isaiah 55:8-9). I know He cannot be contained in a box and He is outside it. Sort of.

People say "Let's not put God in a box." I disagree with this, or, at least, in part. What they are really saying when they say that is "Let's release God from the box so that I can have my own free-thinking ways." While God is above the box, what He revealed to us for our own edification, teaching, and reproof in His word is IN the box!

God gave us the box and that is His word. Going outside it, as demonstrated in the dots puzzle, means going outside His authority.

I mentioned above that Sadducees appeared to be intellectual but humble because they posed their heresies in the form of a question. This tactic today is encapsulated in a false doctrine MacArthur calls "The Hermeneutics of Humility. This approach maintains that because God is SO high, we cannot with any certainty or clarity make any dogmatic statements about what He said in His word. Interpreting His word must be approached with a humble, seeking questioning attitude. Instead of "Thus saith the LORD," the Sadducees claim, "Hath God said? Let's have a conversation about it. My puny brain is too humble to say for sure. Making a certain claim would be too arrogant."

MacArthur explains it this way: "A new movement is now arising in evangelical circles. Apparently, the main object of attack will be the perspicuity [clarity] of Scripture. Influenced by postmodern notions about language, meaning, subjectivity, and truth, many younger evangelicals are questioning whether the Word of God is clear enough to justify certainty or dogmatism on points of doctrine."

The warning is: As long as I am not clear and don't speak in any absolutes, then I am not under the authority of what it says. If we can't interpret it fully then we can't obey it fully.

Not that asking questions about scripture is bad. I ask questions all the time. 'Ye must be salt and light'. I ask, OK, why salt? Why not pepper? What is it about salt that Jesus used that word He wanted to know and apply? How will this edify me? I don't ask, "Did God really say salt? Is salt the only seasoning? Can I use pepper?"

You see one set of questions affirms scriptural truth while seeking to go deeper within its box, and the other set seeks to tear down the cardboard walls that exist to keep us within His authority to wander outside it.

Let's change what Satan asked Eve. If he had approached it this way: "God said not to touch the fruit. So are you going to touch the fruit?" It would have been easy for Eve to say, "No." The box's walls are clear, and going outside would have been a deliberate disobedience.

So satan went about it this way "Hath God said?" This causes a person to examine and re-examine what was said and subtly at the same time undermines it by the very fact that it CAN be questioned.

When I was approaching the cross in advance of my salvation, I knew a person who used this approach. I am not talking of scriptural truth, because I wasn't saved yet. But I was an investigative reporter and I had to question everything, but also in good conscience, at the same time I had to examine everything to sort wheat from chaff, before reporting on it. What is solidly true and what is not? This guy used to ask constant questions, always sending me off on rabbit trails, dead ends, and clouding my mind with extraneous information. Just as I arrived at a conclusion, he would ask another set of questions and I'd go off again. It was exhausting. In my journal I wrote, "I am tired of this guy making me doubt what I know."

One thing I know is that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. He said so very clearly. "Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6)

Yet in this Sadducee way of thinking of 'Let's take God out of the box', we now have the Wider Mercy doctrine. This is a doctrine in which people may indeed go to heaven not having known Jesus nor having heard the Gospel. Because, you know, God is not in a box. He just might surprise us and apply salvation to some faithful in deepest Africa who are pretty sincere. He could do that, you know, goes the outside the box thinking.

God CAN do anything. God WILL not contradict His word. He made promises and one of them was to send His son to die for our sins. Therefore Jesus is the only way. If God went around Jesus, the universe would collapse, because it is through Him that all things hold together. (Col 1:17).

God is not in a box. But we are. Let's stay there.

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