What to Believe about God and His Doctrines?

I am quite baffled by something. The other day I had Bible study. About 20 or so of us women are going through the Beth Moore study Believing God, and today Beth talked about God, and who he is. And the climax of her talk was about the fact that we can’t put God in a box, that His mystery is part of the sovereignty of who He is. Here’s the quote that I wrote down about what she said:

“All attempts to define God cannot help but minimize him. If in our pursuit of greater knowledge God seems to have gotten smaller, we have been deceived. When we do this, we take the wonder, mystery, and wildness out of our conception of God.”

As Beth said these words, I saw heads around the room nodding in vigorous agreement. The women’s faces all said, “Yes! God is so huge! He is bigger than my dreams and and so much bigger than every box I could ever try to stuff him into!” They were totally buying it.

So here’s what baffles me. If God is really that big, WHY are we as a church so dogmatically determined to define Him with doctrine?! Because isn’t that what we’re doing, when we say, “THIS belief is God’s almighty, immutable Word; it says so in the Bible and any interpretations to the contrary are false and born of the devil!!!” I’ve heard language like that over and over. But when Beth was talking about how God is so huge and mysterious and impossible to define, all these ladies were nodding their heads in agreement, as if their God’s character is indefinable, but what they ought to believe about his doctrines are set in immutable stone!!

Well, I, for one, believe that you can’t separate God from his doctrines. If certainty about the nature of God himself is beyond human comprehension, then so is certainty about his doctrines. Of course, we can get a picture of God from his Word, and discern bits and pieces of his character and his ways and his laws and what he desires us to believe about him. But at the end of the day any claim to know with absolute emphatic certainty that THIS way is the only right way, THIS belief about this particular issue is the only right belief, and anything to the contrary is absolute trash, is also a claim that you know God.

So. There are precious few doctrines that I claim as my own (and a lot more that I’m still working through figuring out). The belief that gay relationships are equal to straight ones is one of them. But right now, in this moment, I surrender that belief to God. I’m not turning away from that belief, because I still think it’s the one that makes sense within my understanding of the Bible. But I surrender my certainty about it to God, and declare that he is bigger than this doctrine too, and that my small human mind may be wrong about his design for marriage.

It was so difficult to admit that, but I’ve worked so hard to shatter the box I put God in, and the last thing I want to do is stuff him into another box—especially since a box like that would be of my own design, and not my religion’s.

And I offer this challenge to you as well: don’t limit God to the doctrines you believe about him. Stretch yourself. Acknowledge the profoundly mysterious quality he possesses, and the incomprehensible nature of his holiness. Be willing to be wrong, and be willing to engage in healthy conversation with those with whom you disagree. Because you never know, God just might be working through that person to teach you something new.


Posted on September 19, 2013, in Belief, Doctrine, God. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Yes it is huge and all eternity is needed to wrap our minds around the fact of who God is. And yes it is diffiicult to put God in a box……so difficult that man cannot do it so gess who did put God in a box………God Himself. And how did God put Himself in a box? Through two mediums….becoming a Man in the body of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the written word and the Holy Spirit within us.. It fascinates me that God has entrusted a fallen race with a fallen mental and psychological thinking process to read, understand and apply His word. What box did God make for Himself so we could begin to relate with Him? First, He says He is love. Then He says so much more like…This is life eternal to know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. In these two verses the cornerstone of the box begins. He later goes on to define certain behaviors by man as acceptable and unacceptable in His eyes. Unacceptable behavior includes adultery, murder, pre-marital sex, stealing, and yes homosexual behavior as well as a few other things we give little attention to like gossip, back biting, hard heartedness toward those in need, etc. The box God created for Himself includes the path to salvation,…..through Jesus Christ alone…..Jesus words not mine : Broad is the path that leads to destruction, Narrow is the path that leads to life, few there be that find it…and I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me. In the box is Jesus Christ as the only way to know God and outside of the box lies Bhudda, Mohammed and all the rest. If we abandon the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, we are left to our designs about who we are where we came from and where we are going, with our fallen nature to guide us. As we see in America today, anarchy ensues…..as a passing note define doctrine in your understanding of the word…for in my understanding, doctrine is a codified system of what we believe about God….and yes that means I do know God….thats what the redemption plan and the Holy Spirit are all about….conforming us into the restored image of God…finally yes I am open to being wrong but there are core issues that are not open to debate…yes my mind is closed on these issues….The Godhood of Jesus Christ, the Bible as the source of faith and practice, the Trinity, salvation coming by the Lord Jesus Christ, certain behavior defined as sin, the love and Holiness of the eternal God and a few others….right now it is 4:35 am and am back to bed….

  2. There are a good handful of things that I could say in response to this, so I’ll try to break it down by each point you wrote that I think requires a second look:

    God did not by any means put himself in a box by revealing himself to us through Jesus, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit. When I read through the Gospels, and especially through Jesus’ treatment of doctrinal questions that the disciples asked him, I am fascinated to discover that he almost always answered them cryptically, and only very rarely gave an easy, black-and-white answer that can only be interpreted one way. I think he did this on purpose, to stretch his disciples’ thinking, and inspire them to abandon the letter of the law and prepare them for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which isn’t always easy to discern or nail down.

    “If we abandon the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, we are left to our designs about who we are where we came from and where we are going, with our fallen nature to guide us.” Really? So Scripture alone is to be our guide? What about the Holy Spirit? Shouldn’t the Holy Spirit, who is revealed to us not just through Scripture reading but also through prayer and living in obedient submission to God (which is, in its simplest form, living out the Golden Rule) also play a very big role in deepening our relationship with the Father and making us more Christ-like?
    Have a look at this article, which seems to me to be a much more respectful treatment of the Bible than the one that most Evangelicals give it, and the one you describe in your sentence at the beginning of this paragraph: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/article-1210736874

    Your list of core issues begs a very important question: what on earth IS open to debate if these things are set in stone? Nothing at all, it would seem. And even each of those things you mention have hundreds of nuanced and perspective that really cloud the black and white picture that you seem to find so easy to see – especially the “certain behaviors defined as sin”. Sin is a lot more complicated that we give it credit for.

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