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.

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This post was last updated: Nov. 17, 2015