Thursday, December 14, 2006

GOD IN A BOX

Are you "putting God in a box"? That question usually arises when when people are debating over what God does and does not do. You could be making the Biblical point that God only saves those who believe in Christ. And someone will say, "You can't put God in a box!" You might be teaching that the unbaptized are not yet washed in the blood. And someone will says, "Are you trying to put God in a box?" This is a tactic to put you on the defensive, as if you are trying to limit the power or sovereignty of God. If you are unprepared, you might back down since nobody wants to "put God in a box."

No one wants to sound as if they are "limiting" God. One person writes:
"Can we all agree to never use this sentence again? It's an unproductive ad hominem thrown into a potentially productive conversation about understanding God."1
How do we respond to a fallacious argument that implies that there are no limits to what God can or won't do? How do we respond to a fallacy that ignores the limitations that God places on Himself? God cannot or won't do anything if it is outside of His nature or will. That's really what the debate is over, not whether we have put Him "in a box". If through study of the Scritpure we discern that something is contrary to His nature or will, we are not "putting God in a box" to acknowledge the truth He has revealed about Himself.

What God cannot do. God will not save those who disbelieve in Jesus and disobey His Gospel. We can say with 100% accuracy that God will not save those who do not obey the Gospel of Jesus. The person who responds with the ad hominem "aren't we putting God in a box?" is ignorant of God's own nature.

God says He will punish forever those who do not know Him and do not obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 1:6-9). God's Words isn't putting Him in a box as much as it is telling what God's will is. We are not "putting God in a box" to say that everyone must repent in order to be saved? That's what God says (Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19; 20:28).
"Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." - Acts 17:30,31


Is it "putting God in a box" to say that He can't lie? No because it's not God's nature to lie. God can't lie. Is it "putting God in a box" to say that He HAS to or MUST tell the truth, be just, and be righteous? No because God can't go against His nature. He is the just and righteous God. He is known by His nature that doesn't change (Rom. 1:20; Heb. 13:8). It's called the "immutability" of God: He is unchanging. God can't change His nature and we don't "put Him in a box" to say so.

God can't tempt because it's not God's nature to tempt us to sin (James 1:13). If we recognize and teach from Scripture what God is and does, we are not limiting God.

To use the analogy of God being in a box is a poor analogy. Failing to recognize the defined limitations of the nature and will of the all-knowing, all-powerful, and ever-present God is to believe in a God who is arbitrary and impossible to really know. The person who uses the "don't put God in a box" argument might just as well argue with God Himself about His nature.
"But God, if you can't lie or tempt or change your nature, aren't you putting yourself in a box? God, if you can't save unbelievers and unrepentant, aren't you limiting youself?"
The "God in a box" analogy doesn't further our knowledge in the real issues at hand. God is who He is and it is up to us to understand Him as He defines Himself. Let's continue to study God's Word and see what He says about Himself.
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1. Don't put God in a box.

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