A Reader’s Opinion of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis May 31, 2012Posted by #4 in Everything but the kitchen sink, I read books.
Tags: BBC, Christ, Christianity, CS Lewis, God, Jesus, Lewis, Mere Christianity
As a voracious reader (which is relative – I know) I usually only write my opinions on works of fiction; I read more novels than anything, but I do like to spice up my library with works of non-fiction. These range in topic from politics, to wood working. I have books on nature, books on plumbing and electrical, books on poetry, children’s picture books and books on Christian apologetics (this is by no means the extent of subjects in my collection). I read a lot where Christianity is concerned, because, after all, I am a Christian: a believer in the crucifixion, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, God come in the flesh, who sacrificed his own life for our sins, effectively bridging the gap between fallen man and Holy God. A topic very dear to my heart.
Among all my books on Christian apologetics I have several by C.S. Lewis and I have them because nearly everyone who comments on the faith proclaim Lewis as one of the greatest minds ever to “hold forth” on the subject. So naturally I had to have them. I have had them for years and never read them. Is that a classic case of procrastination or what?
Many may only know of C.S. Lewis because of the popular Chronicles of Narnia books, but he has written extensively on Christianity and one of the more cherished works is Mere Christianity, the subject of this blog post. I approached Mere Christianity with a little apprehension. I am a little on the dense side when it comes to higher thought and philosophy and usually have difficulty wrapping my brain around complex reasoning and I assumed that I would have a great amount of trouble following the book. Thankfully I was wrong.
Lewis writes, or I should say speaks (Mere Christianity is a collection of radio “talks” given by Lewis during WWII) for the common man, or layperson. He was asked by the BBC to give these talks on Christianity while his countrymen were experiencing low moral during the war. So there is, for me at least, plenty of “dumbing down” his subject. I must say that I am very grateful for this. I am also grateful that these radio addresses occurred in the era they did; I daresay that given similar circumstances today, Christianity would be the very last topic allowed to be discussed on air, if at all, such is the downward spiral into humanism and socialism by our modern societies, and this book may never have existed.
Lewis starts out by not even jumping on the God bandwagon. He starts with the universal beliefs in good and bad and why people are even concerned by these concepts. Lewis also draws heavily on his past as an atheist and the questions and arguments he held during those years. In the process he flays alive those arguments of we are nothing more than products of the random accidents called Evolution. He ends the debate with “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word with no meaning.” In other words (mine) people who cling to Evolution as the catalyst for all known life in the universe, based upon their very own definitions of the theory, should never have thought of the concept in the first place; that people are even able to develop this theory exposes the lie of their reasoning while exposing the obvious existence of a higher intelligence that enabled them to think about it.
The book progresses along, unfolding slowly, just as it did so long ago on the radio. Lewis first develops the base of reasoning that supports everything else in the book and then walks the reader through concepts that have for generations puzzled people, effectively turning on the light bulb of understanding . He talks about what Christians believe, how Christians behave and why the world doesn’t get it. He eventually tackles the concept of the three person God and why this makes sense.
I did not need to read Mere Christianity to understand my faith in Christ Jesus. I didn’t even need to read it to understand creation and how God operates. but I did need to read it to understand how better to present the Gospel to those who need it most: those lost in sin. Anyone who has never heard the Gospel story or maybe has never heard of God (as hard as that is to believe) can pick up this book and come away with a clear understanding of what makes them tick and who they answer to. And it is presented in the most gentle manner. Lewis doesn’t beat anyone over the head with his reasoning. It’s as easy as sipping tea in a porch swing. There is nothing threatening in his manner and no demands for agreement. It is strictly left up to the reader to determine if they agree with his arguments.
Mere Christianity removes the veil of misunderstanding concerning why Christians believe the way they do and why that makes them different. Any person who closes this book after reading the whole thing, and still hates Christianity and those who claim Christianity as their faith, is a person who has (first) conscientiously rejected God and (second) refuses to believe no matter how compelling the argument or evidence. They are willfully and woefully blind. It is they who need it the most.
In presenting Christianity to those who were not followers of Christ, Lewis made sure the listener comes away with a full understanding of what it means to “follow” Christ. It isn’t some social club. It isn’t just an every Sunday thing or even a once a month thing. It is an all-out thing. He sums it up nicely with these words: “The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says ‘Give me ALL. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want YOU. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked -the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: My own will shall become yours.’”
With these words, C.S. Lewis, in a way, contradicts his own concept of mere Christianity. Because when you get right down to it, what it means to follow Jesus Christ is the most radical concept ever presented in the course of history. No man-made religion has ever come close to it. Christ wasn’t just a good teacher, a gentle shepherd, nor even a prophet – He is God come to man to redeem mankind back to himself.
There is nothing mere about it.