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C.S. Lewis on Theology

January 11, 2011

So last week we plunged into where it seems God would take us with The Esther Project – into the wonderful world of theology.

And I admit I’m nervous. I’m completely unqualified, except, perhaps, in zeal, to do this. And I have no system – just a more focused vision. So I’m wondering how this is going to go, and preparing myself for the worst.

Then, a day or so ago, I picked up Mere Christianity from my nightstand. It’s one of those I feel like I should have read, but I always start it and leave it when something more intriguing comes along.

But the bookmark always remains.

So I opened it again, to the beginning of Book Four, and smiled as Lewis put better words to my same feeling:

“Everyone has warned me not to tell you what I am going to tell you in this last book. They all say ‘the ordinary reader does not want Theology; give him plain practical religion’. I have rejected their advice. I do not think the ordinary reader is such a fool. Theology means ‘the science of God’, and I think any man who wants to think about God at all would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about Him which are available. You are not children: why should you be treated like children?”

Lewis then goes on to tell a story about a man he met who experienced God, and then found theology/religion to be nothing but “petty” and “unreal” in comparison. Lewis continues,

“Now in a sense I quite agree with that man. I think he had probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real.

“In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real: turning from real waves to a bit of coloured paper. But here comes the point.

“The map is admittedly only coloured paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together.

“In the second place, 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.”

He goes on to compare Theology to that map, and concludes thusly:

“In other words, Theology is practical: especially now. In the old days, when there was less education and discussion, perhaps it was possible to get on with a very few simple ideas about God. But it is not so now. Everyone reads, everyone hears things discussed.

“Consequently, if you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones – bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. 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.”

*Fist bump* to Clive.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2011 10:32 pm

    I love C.S. Lewis! I wholeheartedly agree that we need Theology as Christians – we need the meat of the Word to grow and mature and to ensure that our ideas about God are accurate and true. While at times Theology may seem difficult to understand or irrelevant, I think we would be surprised to discover that there are deep insights into the heart of God that we are missing out on that could give great life to our hearts as we behold Him more clearly.

  2. Jacob permalink
    January 12, 2011 1:44 pm

    So very true, I will not try to add to Mr. Lewis that would just be simly foolish but just a simple thought. Over the years I’ve grown more and more into a ‘love’ of theology and knowing the bible, and not simply to know all the answers–because that is imposible–but to know God. The more I study the more area’s I can worship him in, if I don’t realize that he is always there for us, then I might fear following him. If I don’t realize what type of Father he truly is, or how ‘amazing’ grace really is then I will never be able to worship him in the same way. To me theology is a way to grow in how to worship God, to have a whole view so you can worship him in new ways.

    • Lex permalink
      January 12, 2011 3:25 pm

      “To me theology is a way to grow in how to worship God, to have a whole view so you can worship him in new ways.”

      That’s awesome. :)

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