Usually when someone uses the phrase “putting God in a box,” it is used in a negative manner. As in, “Don’t put God in a box. You can’t figure out God.”
For the most part I don’t disagree with such a statement. Can I fully figure out how the Trinity works? Or the virgin birth? Or what it means to have no beginning and no end, but self-sufficiently exist?
No. I can never fully comprehend and wrap my mind around such mysteries because I am finite, mortal, and human. Those things about God are things I have never experienced and never could experience because of my nature. And that’s ok. If I could fully understand and comprehend everything about God, He would not be God, would He?
I can barely figure other humans out, let alone God. This is why David says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6).
WORDS ARE NOT ENOUGH
But here’s the problem with the phrase, “putting God in a box.” It is not normally used to describe the profound nature of an all-powerful, everlasting, triune being, but is instead used to discredit any sort of categorization or description of God.
So if I were to say, “God’s character demands that He judge those who sin,” the other person would respond, “Don’t put God in a box, Kyle. God is so much bigger than your understanding. You can’t reduce God to mere descriptions with words.”
I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with any of the things that person said, but I would disagree with how it was said. Yes God is bigger than anyone’s understanding, but is using words to describe God, reducing Him to something less? How else am I supposed to communicate about God—interpretive dance?
No. Words are good. Words are powerful. This is why God chose to use words to reveal Himself to us through His Word. We can confidently say, “God is _____” because God has chosen to describe Himself in such a way. Yet at the same time I do somewhat agree, all of our words cannot do full justice to the majesty of God. This is because it is human words being received by human brains.
FIND THE RIGHT BOX
But here’s the funny thing. I think in some ways, putting God in a box is a good thing because boxes have boundaries. Things are either inside the box or they are not. The Bible doesn’t just tell us who and what God is but it also tells us who and what He is not.
- “God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one” (James 1:12).
- “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
- “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:16).
God is wholly against sin and that is a definite box He is inside.
And so I think the issue ultimately comes down to what kind of a box you are putting God in. Let’s be honest, even the “don’t put God in a box” people are putting Him in one—it’s the box of their mind, which is a far smaller box than the Bible. Some put Him in the philosophy box. Some put Him in the consumer Christian box. Some put Him in the social gospel box. Some put Him in their own personal box of their making—custom découpage and all.
Instead, let us allow Scripture to be the box. Not because God can be fully explained or described through words, but because the Bible is how He has chosen to reveal Himself. And we must trust that His Word is more than sufficient to give us a deep relationship with Him.