“Vague religion–all about feeling God in nature and so on–is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work: like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to [the New World from England] by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply ‘feeling the presence of God in flowers or music.’ Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map…
“If you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America. Theology is like the map.
“For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today are simply the ones which real theologians tried centuries ago and rejected. To believe the popular religion of [our modern day] is retrogression–like believing the earth is flat.”
–C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”
We love our toes in the sand and the ocean breeze in our face while we stand and look out from the shore at the great beyond, but THAT’S ONLY ONE LITTLE PART OF THE OVERALL EXPERIENCE…the overall Truth of what’s going on. Those toes in the sand and the wind in our hair don’t get us to the other side of the ocean or connect us to all of the unbelievable life that teems in the worlds beyond and waters below what we can see from that one fixed point.
As a pastor, I get a lot of opportunities to hear many people describe their views of God, philosophies of life, opinions about religion and such. And for most in my personal experience, Lewis’ description perfectly fits so many folks’ attempts to articulate how they see the world, eternity, faith, religion, etc. Yet, we hardly remember that we are describing the ocean and the worlds in it and beyond it from one fixed point, legs spread wide, toes dug down in the sand–on one small beach.
People want to talk about the ocean of Faith as if they understand it generally, but don’t want to have to respond to the harder questions:
- How does your fixed-point view fit onto and jive with THE LARGER MAP?
- What do you ACTUALLY believe and how does what you believe work? In other words…
- …how do your important definitions and descriptions of reality and the eternity beyond (theology) not only coherently fit together BUT GET US ALL SOMEWHERE BETTER THAN HERE?
Friends, we all love playing at the beach. But, there are schools of beautiful unknown fish yet to be discovered and belugas and their babies and the depths of Mariana Trenches…plus the New World on the other side. We all love the wind in our hair at the ocean and pondering horizons that have no end…but there’s more that can be known. While we temporally satisfy ourselves with building sand castles on our beach, there is a larger world to be known. Our castles will wash-out and tumble, but Reality won’t. There is a world beyond our beach to which we need to go. And we don’t get there theorizing about it, denying it’s true, ignoring it, or being satisfied with wind, sand, and sand castles.
There is a map. (Why we live in a world that increasingly disapproves of wanting maps like this is a curiosity and a growing sadness for me.) But, inside each one of us sits an explorer. An explorer who longs for the New World. An explorer unafraid of the dangers of the ocean’s waves. An explorer who knows deep down that we need a map for something as big as this.
This explorer knows that all the best of my beach is only infinitely bettered in the world beyond my beach. I don’t sacrifice anything searching for the map, trying to understand it once I get my hands on it, heading out to sea while still figuring it out, or believing that there is a new world (even while it is only an unknown to me except for on that map).
There is nothing lost letting that explorer do what God designed Him to do when He planted him in me when He made me. Don’t imprison or kill your Columbus because he’s all you’ve got to realize that there’s more than your beach.
Exploring begins now.