From time to time my wife will think outside the box in the kitchen. Usually this ends up somewhere between ho-hum and disaster. One such occasion occurred on January 1, 2000 when she served pancakes for breakfast. The first bite—which was also my last—had the wrong texture and taste. Whatever it was, it was no pancake. I asked her what was going on. She sheepishly replied that she hadn’t wanted to waste some overripe bananas, so she decided to make banana pancakes. Well, I like a good banana bread, and a banana split is awesome, and a peanut butter and banana sandwich is pretty good too, but bananas don’t belong in pancakes, at least not in my book. I shoved the plate aside and said, “If I had known that Y2K was going to be this bad, I would have been more prepared.” To this day we still laugh about the Y2K disaster.
But it is not just in the kitchen—or in the business world—that men think outside the box. I have observed a growing tendency among believers to apply the world’s axiom “think outside the box” to their Christianity. They seem to think that this is a self-evident truth that doesn’t need justification or clarification. Armed with this idea, they boldly go where no previous generation of believers has gone before, showing an indifference to doctrine and a carelessness about the teaching of the Bible. And they get irritated when other believers challenge this mentality. Watching believers who take this path has convinced me that “thinking outside the box” is dangerous if not carefully guarded and qualified.
For one thing, believers—indeed all mankind—have an obligation to think inside the box of the Word of God. It is never right to stray from the revealed mind, heart, and will of God. It is never right to question or doubt a plain statement of Scripture. Let God be true and every man a liar.
For another thing, believers have an obligation to operate inside the box of biblical theology. God is a God of order, not a God of disorder. He has revealed, in the Bible, a body of teaching about himself, his redemption, and his will for believers that is knowable and meshes together into a harmonious systematic theology. When men grasp after “Christian” morality or doctrine outside the box of this systematizable body of teaching, that is a recipe for disaster. They are guaranteed to stray from God’s revealed will.
Is there a time and place for questioning the box that we are in? Absolutely. We should compare our doctrinal box to the doctrinal box insisted upon by the Bible. We should compare our morality box to the morality box insisted upon by the Bible. And if this examination indicates that we need to change our box, then by all means we must change it. But never, never, never allow yourself to be influenced by the idea that Christians should think outside the box—that box not being qualified. Our goal is not to free ourselves from the constraints of any and all boxes. Our goal is to free ourselves from the constraints of every box but the biblical box.
May you have an amazing week in the service of our amazing Saviour.
“Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire.”
Lee W. Brainard