In Mere Christianity, Lewis quoted an old army officer who said to him, “… I’m a religious man too. I know there’s a God. I’ve felt him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that’s why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal” (119).
Lewis answered the old officer by saying that religious doctrines are like maps, and they are indeed like “turning from something real to something less real” (119). And yet, explained Lewis, a map is “based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found” rather than being based on a “single isolated glimpse” (119-120).
Because everyone’s spiritual journey is, in some ways, “single” and “isolated,” many people today might identify with the thinking of the old man. They believe in God and readily embrace their spirituality, but institutional religion, and sometimes the Bible itself, appears to be unnecessary for them. Even regular church goers might at times ask, what does all of this out-of-date stuff have to do with how I feel about God?
The reality, though, is that spontaneous and inspiring moments alone with God don’t happen all that often. So, if Christians hope to mature spiritually, to move beyond just a fleeting assurance that God exists, they’re going to need a map, as Lewis said. And that’s what the Bible offers. (Living Large, chapter 33)