I was busy on Facebook, when I discovered the profile of someone I knew some time ago. In her profile I saw that her favourite book is The Shack (also see this review), and that her favourire quote is "Religion seeks to define an infinite God. By definition, it is doomed to failure."
Of course, quotes like these seem very spiritual and they have a sense of mysticism to them, in which the one who quotes it seems to say that God is greater than the boxes we try to put Him in.
Naturally this goes well with that age old saying: "Don't put God in a box!"
Now, what would happen if we discover that God was indeed in a box? Or, rather, God's revelation of Himself is the box within which He wants us to think of Him. Is God, in His person, His grandeur, His glory, His magnificence, His power, His ability, in a box? Never! How can the Infinite be cast within the finite?
Yet, this is not the issue, is it? People who quote or make quotes such as "Religion seeks to define an infinite God. By definition, it is doomed to failure," want to create a sense of greatness about their incredible knowledge about God, that He is so big, that we could not possibly define Him. They want everybody to fall into that illusion that God cannot be defined, therefore, we should not even try!
The problem with this scenario, is that it is a non-Biblical idea. The fact is, God can be defined. He defined Himself in His self-revelation to mankind in the Bible! The fact that God revealed Himself to us, in itself should tell us how important God deemed the fact that He can be defined! However, we do not do the defining of God; He defined Himself in His revelation to us!
I know it is true that "religion" cannot define God, but quotes such as the above hardly ever mean what they say on the face of it! There is usually some assumed meaning that the "quoter" is trying to convey. That is usually the meaning that has no Biblical warrant.
While it is true that religion cannot define God, this quote has that hidden transmission that tries to convey the message that we should put our doctrines aside, because they could not possibly define this infinite God! Yet, the fact is that God revealed Himself in those doctrines we hold so dear.
The problem with quotes like these is that they appear to convey the truth. It catches a lot of people off guard, and because it seems to convey the truth, they accept the message of the quote as truth.
Where will this lead us? This is a one way street that eventually leads to heresy! Since God is not defined, there can be no doctrines that limit what we believe about Him. As a result, we end up no longer believing in God, but 'god.' It is no longer god worthy of a capital letter, since it becomes a creature of our own making! This is no longer the God that revealed Himself to us in the Bible, but an image of our own making that we have carved in our own minds. This, God Himself has prohibited in the 2nd commandment: "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God." (Exo 20:4-5)
When we start making God in our own image (god), then we have an inferior god that is worthless. This is the kind of god that Elijah mocked the Baal worshippers about: "Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened."(1 Ki 18:27) That is the kind of god that is created by little quotes like those above.
That is the kind of god we end up with in books like The Shack. It is not the God revealed in the Bible, but a god made in the minds of men. This is a god that has no power or influence outside the mind of the believer. This is NOT the God of the Bible!