Have you ever come across a statement like this in a blog post, article, or book? Sometimes it will be worded as “God is bigger than the Bible.” Or possibly it will be “Jesus is bigger than the Bible.”
I must admit, I must confess, every time I read this or hear someone say it, my immediate reaction is something like this:
God is bigger than the Bible? Oh! Oh! I am so glad you told me! All these years I have been going blithely along under the delusion that the Bible was bigger than God. I knew that God was bigger than the universe. I knew that the heaven of heavens could not contain God. I knew that God looks down on the earth, and that all the earth’s people are like grasshoppers before him. I knew that he looks at the nations and considers them all to be nothing more than a drop in the bucket. I knew that he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. I knew that before him all the nations are before him as nothing, even less than nothing. I knew that there was nothing in all creation that was bigger or stronger or greater than God. But I had absolutely no idea that he was bigger than the Bible. Thank you so much for rescuing me from my huge misconception. How silly could I have been?!
Now if the person trotting out this truism, “God is bigger than the Bible,” or “Jesus is bigger than the Bible”—if all they really meant was that the Bible is something that God inspired, that the Bible falls into the category of “created things,” and that a book as small as the Bible could not possibly capture everything that is true about God—if that was all they meant, then my question, less sarcastically, would simply be, “So what?” But that is exactly where the problem lies. These people never mean just that.
What they really mean is this:
God is bigger than the Bible.
That is, the Bible actually gets some things wrong about God.
When the Bible describes God in certain ways, such as “angry” or “wrathful” or “punishing” or “intolerant of certain sins” or in any way which I would prefer not to think of as a way to envision God—well, the God I worship is bigger than that. The God I serve is . . . well . . . more like me.
The Bible is deficient. Not only does it not tell us everything about God, but it is also deficient in the way it understands who God is.
And I, somehow, perhaps intuitively, or perhaps by the use of my reason, or perhaps because I have the spiritual gift of discernment, can determine where those places are in the Bible where it gets God wrong.
So, whenever someone says, “God is bigger than the Bible,” what they really mean is this: “I am bigger than the Bible.”
God has nothing good to say, absolutely nothing, about those who would try to worship some other God than the one whom he himself has revealed himself to be. In Psalm 50, he rails against those who thought that God was exactly like them (Ps 50:21). God has extremely harsh words for those who construct their images of God out of the “illusions” or “delusions” of their own minds (e.g., Isa 30:9-11; Jer 14:14-15; 23:16, 21, 25-32, 36-38; 27:14-15; 29:8; Ezek 13:2). And God has especially harsh things to say to those who either downplay or deny God as a God of wrath who will execute punishment against his enemies (Amos 9:10; Isa 5:18-20; Mic 2:7; Zeph 1:12).
Those who keep touting, “God is bigger than the Bible,” are simply locked into a reciprocally confirming relationship with a contemporary society that doesn’t want to hear about a God who is different than themselves:
For these are rebellious people, deceitful children,
children unwilling to listen to the LORD’s instruction.
They say to the seers,
“See no more visions!”
and to the prophets,
“Give us no more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things,
Leave this way,
get off this path,
and stop confronting us
with the Holy One of Israel!” (Isa 30:9-11)
“Stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel.” The ironic thing about this whole phenomenon is that those who are continually referring to how God is bigger than the Bible actually end up with a God who is smaller than the one described in the Bible. He is something less than the “Holy One of Israel.”
God is bigger than the Bible. Of course he is! God is obviously bigger than his self-revelation which he, in his great condescension, in his marvelous stooping down to our level, has given to us in the pages of the Bible. But, at the same time, he is not less. And he has been truthful in that revelation. He is who he says he is.
So, here you go. Two propositions:
(1) God is bigger than the Bible.
(2) God is not less than what he has revealed about himself in the Bible.
And let me assure you, the person who cannot affirm the second, doesn’t really believe the first one either.
January 25, 2016