The following is my own processing and paraphrasing of an illustration given by C.S. Lewis in his work, “Mere Christianity.” If it doesn’t make sense to you, then I probably botched it. Read the real thing.
I run into many Christians who can’t be bothered with Theology and Doctrine. I used to be like them. The trend today is experiential religion. I have had many religious and spiritual experiences. These experiences, however, do not give one a complete understanding of the Divine.
Several years ago while visiting my grandparents I walked to the shore and stood out on the rocks as the ocean waves crashed about me. It wasn’t the safest thing I’ve ever done, but it was breathtaking. I used to live in a beach town and worked within walking distance of the ocean. On several occasions I took my lunch on the beach, watching the waves, birds, ships etc. I played in the water with students and my own children. These experiences are much more real than the various maps I have of the Pacific Ocean. But the experiences are incomplete. The benefit of the map, dry and two dimensional though it may be, is that it contains the knowledge of others before me who also experienced the Pacific Ocean in ways I never will. Their real experiences helped make the map what it is. If I should one day decide to sail from L.A. to Hawaii, all my walks and romps on the beach, my real experiences with the ocean, wouldn’t do me a bit of good. I would need to study accurate charts and maps to get there safely.
Theology is to life what a good map is to navigation. If you want to get through life, you need to study theology. Not everyone is going to sail the world. Not everyone is going to become a theology professor. But who hasn’t used Google Maps or Mapquest to figure out how to get from point A to point B?
To navigate life successfully, you need to know what you believe and why.