Bible scholar, Anglican priest and translator J. B. Phillips published an excellent book quite a few years ago—1961 actually when it first came out—that was a big hit, read by many. He called it Your God is too Small. It’s an intriguing question: Just how big is God? It was written for Christian believers and sceptics, and has been applauded for its thoughts. It’s still worth reading despite its age—it’s only a small book.
In 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin returned from the first manned space flight. The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev used the event to support his regime’s policy of intolerance of religion. “Why should you clutch at God?” he asked. “Here is Gagarin who flew into space but saw no God there.” The Russian Premier scoffed at the idea of God—if he was up there in the sky somewhere, Yuri Gagarin never bumped into him!
In the introduction of his book, Phillips writes: “The trouble with many people today is that they have not found a God big enough for their current needs. While their experience of life has grown in a score of directions…their ideas of God have remained largely static.” And I think he hits the nail on the head when he writes this in the introduction: “If it is true that there is Someone in charge of the whole mystery of life and death, we can hardly expect to escape a sense of futility and frustration until we begin to see what he is like and what his purposes are.”
Why is it that we are so excited about new technology but we are not willing to keep an up-to-date view of God? It’s almost like saying: “I don’t care too much. This stuff about God is old-fashioned and stuck in the past. It’s best left to old people who like going to church”. But that’s not really a very satisfactory way of dealing with a God who loves you and me, and the Divine being who wants to share your life on a day-by-day basis.
Too often we somehow think God is as big as the church down the road. Is he asleep on the pews—and welcomes us if we attend church? No, your God is too small if you think he belongs only to a church building. Actually, that’s pretty insulting in my view. God is much bigger than that. It’s a way a little child may think if he/she hasn’t been told differently.
How People Think About God
J. B. Phillips has an interesting way of describing how some people think that God is. Let me look at a few of them for you:
God – The Resident Policeman
Some of us seem to know God primarily as the source of scolding and guilt. A divine Being out to get us with punishment—with all those rules you have to follow—to make you feel guilty all the time. I’m sure it is a mental image many have of God. It’s to do with our conscience. It’s vital we have an active conscience, but that’s not everything. God is bigger than our conscience. This God is too small.
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You see, the Bible says in 1 John 3:20, “God is greater than our hearts. He knows everything”. Your conscience may be right—or wrong. Another version of 1 John 3:20 says, “But even if we don’t feel at ease, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything”. God knows you better than you know yourself. A troubled conscience may at times be a good thing (a sign that one is deeply concerned about an injustice); it may at times be a bad thing (a sign of something done wrong), but it is not an infallible thing.
The Bible never suggests: “Let your conscience be your guide” or “To your own heart be true”. No, God is not a highway patrolman out to stop you. He can overrule your feelings or tender conscience and reassure you that you are in right relationship with God—even if it does not feel that way.