Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Unboxed God

God is so small. Not the real God, of course, but the “God of our understanding,” to use the popular Twelve Step phrase. If I can understand God, then my God is too small. True God is by definition beyond human understanding.

Over sixty years ago J.B. Phillips wrote a book entitled, “Your God is Too Small.”  He talked about "God-in-a-box." He explored common concepts of God such as "Resident Policeman," "Grand Old Man," "Meek-and-Mild," and "Managing Director."

Earlier this year Rob Bell wrote a book entitled “What We Talk About When We Talk About God.”  He is a mega-church pastor who hopped out of the mega-box. Both authors, though separated by two generations, make the same basic point: most people’s God is very small.

I will use the lower case g to refer to this god. For it is not God at all. This is the god that atheists rightly reject as nonexistent. It is the projection of our egos onto the fabric of the universe. This is the Santa Claus god, the Tooth Fairy god. It is the god that Freud described as illusory. It is rightly disbelieved.

When this small god is seen through, then God appears. Sometimes. Most people just adopt a more sophisticated “god-in-a-box.” It is just a slightly bigger or more sophisticated box. A liberal box. A politically correct box. A philosophical box. A spiritual box. But still a box.

Open the box and throw away the box. If you find any godlike objects in that box, throw them away as well. Theological idols are still idols. What remains is Spirit. “God is Spirit and those who worship God must worship in Spirit and Truth,” said Jesus.

But Spirit can also be idolized. It becomes the spirituality box. The anti-religion box. The “Eastern religion is better than Western religion” box. The “spiritual-but-not-religious” box. It is a more subtle box, and for that reason more deceptive.

When the box is removed, we see that we were the ones in the box. God could never have been boxed. We see that we were nothing more than the “box of our own understanding.” Our little self is seen through. We are not who we thought we were, any more than God was who we thought God was. Boundaries disappear. God is. Unboxed. 

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