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Saturday, March 08, 2014

Thinking Outside The Box


This is a sentiment that I hear from time to time.  It sounds good.  It has the ring of innovation and sophistication to it.  It would seem to indicate that one is broadminded and modern.  But there is always something a little unsettling about the idea.  I seem to always get a twinge of uncertainty about where this will end.  I know I'm paranoid.  I enter the plea of the Apostle Paul, "For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: . . . ."  Am I the only one, if so that's OK but sometimes I wonder if some things just sound so urbane that one does not want to challenge it lest they be considered uncultured?

Or could it be that there is some merit to my twinge of uncertainty about thinking out of the box?

Let's take the issue of reaching people with the gospel.  We need to be thinking out of the box when it comes to reaching people with the gospel.  Sounds smart and visionary!  So we do and we come up with an innovative tactic for reaching people with the gospel. I have discovered that this usually means becoming more accomodating for goats, but I digress.  Now we have this new tactic in place that is a result of thinking out of the box.  It seems to me that at some point in the future that new tactic is transformed into a box, and there is a renewed need to think outside of the box.  I guess my fear is that if you think outside enough boxes you may actually end up thinking outside of the Bible and never know it for it was incrementally justified.  The danger seems to be that we may end up expanding the application of the Bible to accomodate a box of our own making!

I suppose it could be argued that the prophets thought outside the box.

Isaiah walked naked prophesying for three years.
Ezekiel ate barley cakes baked with cow dung.
Hosea took a wife of harlotry.

Were they thinking out of the box?  Not really.  They were thinking in the context of the revealed word of God to them.

When Aaron had the people bring their gold and fashioned the calf he might have been able to say he was thinking outside the box.

When Saul saved Agag and the best of the livestock alive he might have been able to say he was thinking outside the box.

When Jeroboam set up calves in Dan and Bethel he might have been able to say he was thinking outside the box.

Had they said that it would have been true but they also would have been thinking outside the word of God.

I know the lure to seem sophisticated can be strong.  The desire to be innovative can be captivating.  However I never hear the phrase in question without thinking about the words of Solomon, My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:"  Changing religious and political practices should be considered with a great deal of caution.  Consider it in the political arena.  Most of us would agree that the political contract we have in the United States has been changed dramatically.  But it did not happen over night, it has been through incrementally drifting away.  It makes one wonder how many high level meetings over the years have had someone present who said, "we need to think outside the box"  which when put into practice was really thinking outside the Constitution?  It is easy to see in the political arena but we are not as open minded about that possibility in our churches.  In fact it causes one to wonder, at least it does me, if the idea of thinking outside the box is a political model, or a business model, or a biblical model.  Where did it originate?

This becomes increasingly important when we realize how much importance the bible places on the old paths, and walking in the ways of our fathers, and holding the traditions.

I think a better philosophy is to be thinking in the Bible and not outside the box.  The real issue is we need to be in the right box and then, it seems, there ceases to be a need to think outside the box.

My box measures 7 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 1 1/2 and is black!  I think I will just keep praying for grace and wisdom to keep thinking in my box!
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