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Is God Bigger than Doctrine?



Editorial by David Kowalski

DoctrineI sometimes hear "God is bigger than doctrine" spoken as a way of dodging the issue of whether a teaching is true or false. It has also become faddish to say that God is bigger than Christianity (enabling the speaker to advocate inclusive, religious pluralism). We are told we should not disagree with another religion or any heresy because "God is bigger than doctrine."

In one sense "God is bigger than doctrine" can be spoken truly. Our doctrinal descriptions of God and His salvation do not exhaustively tell us everything about God or what He has done. God is bigger than our understanding can grasp.

The way this phrase is most commonly used, however, is problematic. It is generally used to mean something like, "Doctrine is too restricting for God and is the equivalent of putting him in a box. He is too big for doctrine." Problems arise at this point, because we have shifted from comparing size to size to comparing size to truth. While there are aspects of God we cannot comprehend, it is a confusion of categories to compare the size of who God is to the veracity of His revelation (that is not measured by size).

If we believe God has revealed truth to us in His Word, we must believe what He has revealed and disbelieve anything to the contrary. Since God has revealed Himself as one God we must reject polytheism. God is neither bigger nor smaller than the doctrine of monotheism which is evaluated by its truthfulness.

In themselves, doctrines are neither big nor little. They are either true or false. God is neither bigger nor smaller than the doctrine of the Trinity which describes Him accurately. He is also neither bigger nor smaller than modalism (Sabellianism) which does not accurately describe Him. God is who He is and the doctrine is either true or false.

For what I think is a useful comparison, consider one dictionary's definition of "mankind": "The human race : the totality of human beings." Is mankind bigger or smaller than "the human race: the totality of human beings?" Of course, the two do not compare in size. The one is and the other defines. The definition has no size by which it can be measured. We evaluate it by its accuracy alone.

God is and doctrine defines. Beings and concepts/definitions are different categories. When someone says, "God is bigger than doctrine" it might be good to ask them if they believe dogs are bigger than canine.

When I say that my name is David, it is not valid for anyone to say I am bigger than my name and may thus be called Jim instead. This is a similar confusion of categories that opens the door for falsehood if accepted.

When someone tells you, "God is bigger than doctrine," it is a good indicator that they are about to assert something that contradicts His truth.

© Copyright 2013, David Kowalski. All rights reserved. Links to this post are encouraged. Do not repost or republish without permission.

Written by David Kowalski

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4 Responses to “Is God Bigger than Doctrine?”

  1. Hi,

    I Agree very much with what you just said. I say the same many times, as it's growing in many churches around the world to say GOD is so much Bigger then The Bible -- so even though GOD said sin is wrong and not Allowed HE Loves you and has Already Forgiven you so you don't have to stop your many sins. It's okay; your saved.

    Rev.Mark Alan Pendergraft
    Servant of GOD

    [I hope Mark does not mind that I edited the grammar, punctuation, and spelling in his comment a bit for the sake of clarity -- DK]

  2. David Kowalski says:

    Mark:

    Thank you so much for your comment that has substantially added important content to what I said in the article. Whereas my emphasis was on doctrine, you have rightly pointed out that the similar phrase "God is bigger than the Bible" is being used to lightly treat sin that the Bible speaks against in very strong terms. For example, I have spoken to one homosexual man who follows the teachings of Joseph Prince that insisted that even though the Bible clearly spoke against his sin, the God of grace was not really concerned with the commands He had given in the New Testament.

    God is bigger than the Bible in the sense that the Bible does not tell us all there is to know about God. Still, the Bible has told us all we need to know about God and the God of grace is not different from the God of the Bible.

    "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;" ( 1 Thess 4:3-5 ESV)

    "For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." (Eph 5:5 ESV)

    "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Co 6:9-10 ESV)

    The kind of people you speak of, Mark, are Antinomians who make light of God's moral commands. They will say that verses such as the ones I just quoted are law designed to lead us to grace. The law we have been set free from and which leads us to grace, however, is the Mosaic Law with all of its regulations. We are still expected to obey God in the New Covenant. See my article at http://www.apologeticsindex.org/2788-the-law-and-legalism.

    David

  3. Spiritual Plgrim says:

    You are sowing division and not love. I pray that you repent and do not injure the body you are trying to be a part of anymore.

  4. David Kowalski says:

    All I have actually suggested in this article is that we faithfully follow the teachings of the Bible (correct, essential doctrine) and you seem to consider that a bad thing. Yours in not a biblical posture, and as an Evangelical Christian I consider biblical teaching important. Biblical unity is built on the foundation of biblical essentials. Paul tells us that those who divide the church are those who would move us off of this truth foundation for biblical unity.

    “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.” (Romans 16:17 NASB)

    "The Bible commands Christians to divide themselves from false teachers or heretics on the basis of doctrinal factors (Rom. 16:17; 2 John 9-11). In doing so, they are to stand together in unity against heresy (Eph. 4:12-13). Thus, taking a stand against heresy can promote genuine Christian unity." – Robert M. Bowman Jr.

    Biblical unity is said to be unity "in the faith” – a faith that believes biblical teaching and disbelieves contrary teachings.

    “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” (Ephesians 4:13-14 NASB)

    We should not quarrel over non-essential teachings such as pre, mid, or post trib rapture. Still when it comes to essential elements of the gospel we must not sell out to the enemy every time he invades the camp in an effort to deceive. This is neither love nor unity as the Bible define them.

    Love for God, His Word, and those who need to hear His true message demands that we keep the gospel true to His revelation in Scripture. Those who do not love God’s redeeming truth that the world needs to hear enough to preserve it in its essentials need to repent of their apathy and compromise with the deceiver.

    "A unity based solely on love is neither unity nor love. It is an affront to the concept of Christian unity to ignore or rationalize distortions of the truth that have destroyed numerous lives and deceived innumerable more and to call such profane sentimentality 'love.' A unity that cannot bear the truth has nothing to do with love." – D. R. McConnell

    "True unity is not possible apart from unity in the truth....All doctrine divides those who believe it from those who do not....if anyone should be called divisive for drawing clear doctrinal lines, then it should be the one who denies the orthodox, biblical position, not the one who affirms it....The time has come to put the shoe on the right foot. If anyone is to be called divisive for their doctrinal beliefs, then it should be those who deny the orthodox doctrines, not those who affirm them." – Norman Geisler

    "Peace if possible, but truth at any rate." – Martin Luther

    I pray that those who harm the church through deception and false teaching repent and stop injuring the body they have invaded. May God give us more believers who love Him and His Word above the approval of those who smuggle in destructive heresies. I pray that He gives us people with a backbone who stand tall and shine the light in the darkness rather than surrendering to it -- who preach the truth that unites us rather than the false teachings that divide us. May God deliver us from people who think the truth in His Word is "divisive" and who demand that we compromise with Satan. I do not plan to "repent" of obedience to God's command to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 1:3).

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This post was last updated: Jul. 10, 2013