I was flipping through the channels the other day and happened upon a televangelist. Televangelists are a lot like bad car wrecks . . . no matter how disastrous or wretched they are, you just cannot take your eyes off of it. Anyways, the pastor was harping on and on about the bible, culminating in his call for people to put all of their hope in the bible. Not Jesus. Not God. But the bible. Thus, I thought it would be fitting to address this illusion. There is a famous anecdote told by C.S. Lewis that after he gave a talk to the R.A.F., an old officer approached 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!
Here we encounter the same illusion that the congregation and the television audience were also dealing with. We try to substitute the bible or in C.S. Lewis’ story, our theologies in place of the Real, of God. And in doing this we are never encountering the real thing. It would be similar to a map of a country and actually traveling through the country. While the map can point out many of the nuances, landscapes, and roads of the country, it can never replace the actual experience of traveling the country. The bible and theology is the same way. They may point us to God, they may witness to God, they may teach us about how God has revealed him/herself in the past, but that’s not the real thing. It is only a picture or map of the real thing. I think we would be wise to recognize the limits of the bible and not elevate it to the thing we put all of our hope in.