Have you ever heard someone make this statement?
“You’re putting God in a box!”
I’ve watched it used in two ways. One is legitimate, the other is a deflection from a spiritual truth.
The legitimate use of it usually occurs when someone ignores what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit’s ministry, or they try to restrict it beyond what Scripture teaches.
For example, if someone says, “God always and only speaks to us through the Bible and no other way.”
Well, that person is putting God in a box because the Bible itself shows us that God speaks through many different means (even though His speaking will never contradict the Scriptures).
The same with the person who states or implies that God’s highest or most accurate revelation comes from a certain camp (Reformed/Calvinist, “The Local Church Movement,” the Pentcostals, etc.)
To believe or suggest such a thing is putting God in a box, fo sho (that being translated means “for sure.”)
But . . .
When it comes to pointing out the consistent principles upon which God works, sometimes a person will use the “You’re putting God in a box” because they don’t particularly like those principles or they are ignorant of them. So the statement becomes a deflection.
For instance, suppose someone says, “God’s way is to use human beings to bring the message of the gospel to the lost.”
Someone who doesn’t like that idea retorts with, “You’re putting God in a box! I once read a story of a left-handed albino who was living in Botswana, Africa and an angel appeared to him, preaching the gospel to him, and the ablino got saved as a result.”
The above remark is designed to overturn or call into question the consistent spiritual principle that God has chosen humans to be the normative way in which the gospel is declared and spread.
I once heard my friend Stephen Crosby give a comment to the misuse of the “You’re putting God in a box” slogan.
This isn’t an exact quote as I’ve changed it slightly.
“In times of spiritual dysfunction, the Lord will sometimes use the exceptional and the extraordinary. But those instances do not negate the normative way He does things.”
So yes, sometimes God may use an angel to preach the gospel. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the normative way of preaching the gospel via human beings because we heard a report that an angel preached the gospel once.
The truth is, there are certain lines upon which God works when it comes to the raising up of Christian workers, the founding of local ekklesias, and the sending out of workers.* These principles should never be ignored, overlooked, or minimized because they aren’t popular today or because God has worked outside of them during times of spiritual dysfunction.
So before you play the “You’re putting God in a box” card, consider whether you’re standing with Scripture or your own personal preferences.
*See Finding Organic Church where the listed principles are traced all throughout the New Testament all the way back to the communion of the triune God before time.