It occurred to me in writing yesterday's post, that in this discussion of The Apostles' Creed, we might be missing the most important thing, namely, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is one thing to know the teachings of the Church about Jesus; it is quite another thing to know Jesus and follow him in a personal way.
C. S. Lewis was sensitive to this important distinction. That is why he wrote at the beginning of the fourth book in Mere Christianity....
In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the R.A.F., an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, "I've no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, 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 just 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!"
Now in a sense I quite agreed 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 isolated 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.Theology, such as we find in The Apostles' Creed, is like a map, a guide. It is no substitute for knowing the Jesus that the map points to, but then again, we would not even know about Jesus without maps like the Creeds, Scripture, the Church, all pointing us to Christ. We need to know about and we need to know. We need to learn all we can from others' experiences of Jesus down through the ages, and we need to try to get to know Jesus ourselves, which is something that generally happens as we read the Gospels and pray in the fellowship of other saints and as we try to live out what Jesus has told us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
"And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." John 17:3