the God in my box

these are unstable thoughts. these are not steady conclusions or solid declarations, but rather inquiries into the nature of God and His relations with us.

i feel like i have been struggling for quite some time with the cliche dilemma of keeping God in a box.
and my box was this:

i'm still kind of in process with this, so i want to apologize to those who who would object that i haven't examined all the angles yet. i am looking at possibilities. i am keeping the conversation going. please don't think i am being flippant.

that said, there are a lot of things about my upbringing as a fundamentalist christian that i have been glancing at with a critical eye lately. i've started to wonder why i was so dead certain of so many things that many people rightly struggle with. the absolute inerrancy of the bible is one of those things.

maybe i look at my former belief in the inerrancy of the bible as a faux-faith alternative. i mean...
if God's a person, a living, breathing interacting person...
then anything we could read or write about him would be kind of irrelevant, wouldn't it? it wouldn't matter what we canonized; He would stand outside of it.

i realize that this is a profoundly dangerous thing to say if God truly has truly given us the protestant bible as the only manifestation of His commandments and instructions. however, that's not what i have faith in at all. i have a working faith in God as a person who truly interacts with people who are willing to get to know Him. so i can also develop a trust in Him to show where i'm wrong. if the bible is inerrant, i hope he'll make that clear to me. and soon. but let's digress for a moment:

ok, i'll admit it. i am a cookie fiend. i am at every moment grasping for that buttery, sugary, chocolate-chippity goodness to saturate my taste and fill my existence with happiness. my friend aubrianne brought over cookies yesterday and we ate and ate until our teeth were cavity-prone and our bellies were full of such wonderful delicacies as could only come from a friend's kitchen.

i believe in these cookies and very much love them. i believed contingently in their absolute goodness, and, now that i'm not sick from them, i think that was a good leap of faith. i trust their goodness from the look, smell, touch and taste. but i don't trust them to save my soul, and i don't put my belief in their inerrancy. in fact, i would seriously doubt that the person who gave me those cookies would encourage me to take them as a complete and prefect representation of her.

these cookies serve a purpose - filling our bellies and making us smile. and they do indeed accurately describe the person who made them: aubrianne is good and lovely and wants my roommates and i to be full. however, she is not buttery or sugary and she is certainly not chocolate-chippity! aubrianne is not a cookie and neither is God.

God, cerca 325 a.d.
(flickr @tharrin)

i think the point is that i chose not to trust in the cookies above the person who made them. i wouldn't want to believe things about the creation that the creator never intended. God may have intended the bible, but did He want us to use it in the manner we have been using it? without reservation i can say that the bible is a poor substitute for the Creator of the known and the unknown, the deep and the up-high, the large and the too-small, the is and the has-been and the will-be.

there's just too much God to limit Him to a book. even within the bible Paul is quoted as saying, "the God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man..." (here's the quote in context) two other biblical instances of the presentation of this concept are linked in context here and here.

in light of all that, i'm not quite so sure why for so long i expected God to be defined by a collection of writings written by people, no matter how historically accurate they may be. maybe God is so much bigger, so much more amazing than all that...

i hope so. the biblical texts are insightful, informative and sometimes downright poetic, but they are not God. maybe they are not our only access to Him either; maybe, the word really did become flesh. these are just some things i've been thinking about.

as ever,


p.s. thanks to andrew for help with editing and research on this post.


  1. I very much like where you're going with this. I was just talking to Pedro about the very same thing last Monday! Praise God for personal salvation transcending literacy. Praise Christ for revealing Himself in a myriad of ways, like the Bible, and dreams, and real live people! :)

  2. What about the bible don't you like Joel? I must confess I find some of the stuff in there pretty weird. but over all I like the book. It seems alright to me, I know God is to big to understand everything about him, so I just do the best I can. I really don't agree with a lot of peoples interpretations on the bible, but I figure thats true for me and any book. Maybe I just think differently then the rest of the world idk. There is just to much going for the bible for me to just ignore it. Any way love and miss you just thought I would chime in
    Abigail Ferrier

  3. Thanks for your thoughts Joel. I've actually been thinking about this lately as well. A God who designed galaxies, cells, love, music, words themselves, and every living thing is so beyond anything we could anything that could be merely defined in words or put in a box. It can be easy for Christians to think they know so much about God, when the truth is that even the person with the most intimate relationship with him on earth cannot possibly have a clue as to how great or complex he is. More important than how much knowledge we gain about God, is our humility of heart to keep seeking him with the truth we do know. He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. (LJ)

  4. @jonathan: love what you're saying.

    @abi: wow, thanks for commenting! maybe its not about whether i like it or not. i'm more concerned about whether its absolutely true or not.

    @lj: thank you so much for the encouragement! i feel like i'm at the mercy of the character of God. maybe searching for the truth helps me keep my intentions pure towards Him (and life!).

  5. Love you Joel