There’s a car in my neighborhood with this sticker on the back of it. I don’t know who drives the car, but I know that the sentiment expressed on the sticker causes me to think every time I see it.
I suspect that the phrase, “God is too big for any one religion,” is used to convey the idea that organized religion is small-minded. Certainly if God is as big as our religions claim He (or She) is, then He/She must be far too large to fit into the ever-encroaching framework of our organized religions. I would guess that there are even some “progressive Christians” (a term that I find redundant) who would revel in this idea as it indicates a perceived attack on the stuffy, small-minded, traditionalism of conservative evangelicalism.
It’s certainly an interesting idea. God is too big for our religions. How big He must be! He is overflowing the boundaries of our religions, and (if this concept is taken to its logical extreme) He is pouring into and overflowing the boundaries of all religions. This is an attractive concept. But it is one that I can not ascribe to, as I find it distinctively counter to Christ.
Some might read that last statement and make up their mind that I am just one of the small-minded individuals to whom the sticker’s sentiment is directed. And they’re free to believe so. But I would propose that the idea of God being “too big for any one religion” represents a paradigm that is not particularly constructive, and is, in Christian terms, called into question by the nature of the Gospel.
When I was younger, I worked at a hotel with a Moslem fellow who would often allow me to provoke him into theological conversation. One dialogue I recall in particular included my attempt to explain the incarnation, and his subsequent rejection of it. He said that he could not believe that God became man, because God is too big to become man; too holy to become man; too good to become man. God was “too big” for the Christian religion. I have to admit, his logic was hard to argue against. Allah had never become man, and therefore was not as small as my God, who had lowered Himself to the human form. In this instance, I engaged in the battle over whose God was bigger, and (so far as my co-worker was concerned) I lost.
Now consider Christ. Consider the way He taught. Consider the backwardness of His teachings about the nature of the Kingdom. Consider the fact that in Acts 17, his followers were described as those who “have turned the world upside down,” (ESV). And consider for a moment that in Christ, God is rejecting the ever-present bickering between religions about whose God is “bigger.” In a world where the best faith is presumably the one that can shout the loudest to prove that their god is the biggest, Christ comes to quietly cull a minority of individuals simple-minded enough to believe that God could be like them, even if for a moment in history.
While much of the world was pointing out their gods in the stars and constellations and mountain tops and the sun and moon, Jesus spoke in terms of seeds, fish, coins, bread and soil; things we can hold. Small things. Big gods exist elsewhere. Jesus exists here, making first things last and big things small.
Is God too big for any one religion? I have no idea. I don’t put much stock in religion as it exists today anyhow. But I know that I am not compelled to belief by an enormous religion-devouring God in the same way that I am compelled to belief in a God who rejects our concept of how big He ought to be so that He can be as small as we need Him to be. So allow the religions of the world to argue about whose god(s) are bigger. It’s an argument that I, by the grace of Christ, don’t find compelling.