on July 17, 2004
There is the story told of a teacher instructing a martial arts class. 2 of the class mates are squaring off. The one boy doesn't have the training as the other does, although he's giving it everything he has. He's pretty much throwing every bit of technique at the advanced student as he can, and yet he still continues to get beat. The teacher finally pulls the less of the 2 students off to the the sides and says, "I know that you are as tough as nails. I know what you know. Perhaps if you went back to the basics, it might not be so difficult." The boys line up and square off. They circle each other. The lesser student finds his opening, BOOM!!! The other kid is sprawled out on the mat.
C.S. Lewis takes us through the basic points, and BOOM!! He floors us with what we thought was just going to be, "Mere Christianity." He wrote this back in the 1940's, yet he used a language that we can all understand, yet you have to take the time to comprehend what he's saying. I looked at this as a complex book on simple issues, and it constantly hit me between the eyes! There are places where you see God in a whole new light. It is like you've never seen it in such a perspective, yet now you find yourself amazed. His illustrations are very simple, yet sometimes you might want to read it again to get the full understanding of what he is saying. Then read it again, and smile, and praise God for this wonderful work! People have labeled this as "The most important book next to the Word of God." It just might be. And it is just the beginning.
C.S. Lewis used to be an atheist, and when he gave his talent to God, he became one of the most influencial writers that Christianity has ever seen! Folks, this is what happens when people might say, "God can't use that." And then God looks at what appears to be impossible and says, "Let's see what I can do!" Did people back then think that a former atheist could pull something like this off? This is just 1 of many wonderful works that Lewis has accomplished for the Kingdom of God! And it is so beautiful. Hats off to a legend!!!
on March 3, 2007
CS Lewis outlines the basics of Christianity with great understanding both on a spiritual and intellectual level. As an English literature professor at Oxford University in the UK, he converted to Christianity in his 30s after much contemplation and struggle.
He discovered the rich depths of faith that can only be uncovered by those courageous enough to honestly look at the scriptures and see who Jesus really was. He walks the reader through this journey.
He argues that meaning in this life must certainly exist. God must certainly exist. He also points out that there are far too many questions unanswered by the atheists and Lewis demands an answer. His reasoning is sharp and flawless. He understanding of the issues is as relevant today as when he first put pen to page.
He is a delight to read; he is pure genius. You will find few authors with such a keen mind and a gift for clarity. Lewis does not waste a word.
He addresses critical questions with profoundly sound logic. This book is a landmark in exploring the Christian faith through intelligent thought. I recommend it highly !!
on June 8, 2004
Lewis was a master of language. This book is written in a style that is both easy to read and beautifully constructed. He was Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge, and his works are widely recognised as masterpieces of literature.
In the book, his description and characterisation of mainstream Christianity is thorough. He covers the faith at a basic level, but it is more comprehensive and comprehensible than most non-Christians and even many Christians have ever heard before. This book taught me a lot about mainstream Christianity, not in a dogmatic sense, but in a spiritual sense. Too many authors rely on discussion of theology and dogma; Lewis covers the spiritual, and this is what sets his book apart.
His coverage of the faith is non-denominational, and he deals with the subject in a frank, conversational manner. It is an extremely easy read, but at the same time both interesting and involving.
With that said, many of his arguments lack force. While his apologetics make use of many good analogies, his logic will be unconvincing to most non-believers.
On a side note, Lewis died on the same day as Aldous Huxley and JFK. Funny how life works!
on January 23, 2003
I was an atheist who wanted to know how intelligent people (like Lewis) could believe. Lewis' Mere Christianity is at once elegant and simple, a foundation for a rational belief in God that does not require acceptance of any particular religion -- thus, one can progress in any direction from its premises. It has the additional advantage of being divided into short, highly readable chapters so that the reader can spend fifteen minutes before bedtime digesting the ideas in each chapter at an unhurried pace. Lewis' ability to capture absolutely stunning concepts through everyday analogies really helps someone not trained in reading philosophy to follow his arguments.
In the foreword it is explained that this book is not one of philosophical musings but a work of oral literature addressed to a people at war. It was originally broadcast by the BBC from 1942 to 1944, hence the gripping metaphors like the image of the earth as enemy-occupied territory. Mere Christianity is a book of plain but moving language.
In Book One: Right and Wrong As a Clue To the Meaning Of The Universe, Lewis looks at the law of human nature (inherent knowledge of right and wrong), certain objections, the reality of the law and that which lies behind the law. Here he discusses the materialist, the life-force and the religious views of life.
Book Two is a discussion on what Christians believe, in terms of the aforementioned occupied territory, a coming invasion, the penitent, and the practical conclusion. This section also deals with pantheism, dualism, free will, the divinity of Christ and God's intentions with the world.
Book Three investigates Christian behaviour, in terms of the cardinal virtues, social and personal morality, morality and psychology, marriage, forgiveness, the great sin (narcissistic pride; in this regard, please also read People Of The Lie by M Scott Peck), and what charity, hope and faith really mean.
Book 4 is a captivating explanation of the doctrine of the trinity. I found this part very interesting and sometimes deeply moving. Lewis speculates on the nature of time, the nature of man and the nature of God, as the Father the source, the Son an emanation of the source and the Holy Spirit as the spirit of love between Father and Son. Lewis explains what he thinks is the process whereby the individual receives a higher nature. This change in consciousness (infusion of the Holy Spirit) leads to a transcendence of the mortal nature by transforming the individual into a child of the divine.
He argues convincingly for personalities in God and God as the ultimate personality. I found this very illuminating, also in light of having recently read the books by Deborah Whitehouse and Alan Anderson on Process New Thought, especially their view of the personhood of God and panentheism as it emerges from the work of Alfred North Whitehead.
Mere Christianity is a most memorable work that expresses ideas that are relevant to our times. It is a very refreshing expression of a personal Christian belief system that could serve as a strong antidote to the dictatorship of dogma or the staid boredom often associated with 20th century religion in the West. Deeply illuminating, I am sure Lewis' words make many people reconsider many ideas that they had taken for granted.
I am not sure how close Lewis came to the truth in every respect, but much in his vision is inspiring, noble and infused with a sense of logic and common sense. Lewis' writing has an uplifting effect on the spirit. I recommend Mere Christianity to all people of faith and those in search of meaning. One might not ultimately agree with everything, but the ideas expressed here certainly make you think.
on July 16, 2004
This book was not written in an attempt to convince the staunch non-believer. It was written for those who believe and those who doubt their non-belief. I felt that his opening chapters regarding the moral argument presented a strong point in a weak way.
Lewis used very little scripture in this book, but I do not see that as a weakness. If Christ genuinely is the Word, then his message should make perfect sense even apart from the written word.
One of the things Lewis demonstrated very well was the fact that if you look at man's dilemma as being fallen, and consider how he came to be in this dilemma, then the solution that Christianity offers makes perfect sense.
The concept of the trinity is also covered very well.
Finally, the chapter on God and Time sheds light on a few misconceptions about God's nature, and introduces a number of different ways of thinking about time that make it easier to see how God can hear everyone's prayers, or how the fact that God knows my future doesn't mean that I have no choice over the matter.
on December 19, 1996
Who is God? How do I come to know Him? Are we God's descendants?
These questions are but a few of the questions that C.S. Lewis addresses in "Mere Christianity". This book contains short chapters that can be read in under 10 minutes. However, Lewis has managed to zero in on the question and explore it in such detail that no one can walk away without fully understanding the issues and his position on them.
Lewis relies not on quoting scripture to illustrate the core principles of his beliefs, but rather on logic and the observation of humanity.
"Mere Christianity" is highly recommended for both the Christian searching to answer questions about his faith and the non-Christian who is wondering what all the fuss is about.
on March 26, 2015
What a great book. Not an easy read but very worthwhile. Reading was like talking to an old friend. Most of the things he talks about is still relevant in today's world. If you're looking for a book that has all the answers about the Christian faith this book is not for you;that however is what I liked about it. He gives you to it straight,deciding to be a Christian is not an easy path.
It also has one of my all time favourite quotes:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
It really captures the essence of Christianity,either accept Jesus for who he is the son of God or don't believe in him at all. Those are your two options.
Even though there have been thousands of apologetic books written (and I'm not knocking them as there are some great ones out there) this is my #1. It presents Christian theology is a straight forward way,it does not get weighed down by denominations. It's changeling but most definitely worth a read.
As C.S Lewis writes “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” I could not say it better myself.
Where do I even start. I haven't read any of Lewis' non-fiction before though I've wanted to for ages. I'm so glad I chose this as my first one. Basically I don't have the words to do the book justice. It is terribly profound. It is logical and oh, so simply deep. At first I found the writing as if I was being talked to like a child but I did have to realise the book was first written in the 1940s and I got used to the style along with realizing that I am a child, a child of God. As I said I do not have the words to do the book justice and that is how I felt throughout reading the whole book. His explanations of why there must be a God ... the God ... Our Father are so simplkistically logical that I was literally stunned and wished I could have thought have that. He goes on to describe the whole Christian religion, from the standpoint of an atheist who converted because it was the only sensible answer to his searching. As a Christian, Catholic, myself I didn't need the proof but I found it utterly enlightening the way he explained things so simply. He covers all the points most non-believers raise as he raised them himself on his journey and C.S. Lewis is one of our great modern thinkers. It took me a while to read the book as after I had read 1, sometimes 2, chapters I just had to stop because I wanted to remember, muse upon and discuss the next day with my coffee group, the way he had made me look at things from a different angle. This is "the" book to read for those looking, searching and trying to find God, even before you decide upon a denomination. Lewis even talks about this. The book is completely Christian without denominational influence. He was Church of England (Anglican/Episcopal) but he talks of how one should find their own denomination without bias. Now that I've read the book, this is one I'm going to keep by my bedside and read a chapter from now and then to learn his phraseology and allegory to help myself when speaking with non-believers. Truly a classic of the 20th century that should be read by all because even if the book doesn't convert you it will give you the true meaning of Christianity and let you know why these Christians you meet aren't perfect.
on August 19, 2013
C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity is a consideration of Christian belief. Borrowing from Acts 11:26, Lewis broadly defines a Christian as a person who follows the teaching of the apostles. Lewis wants to explain the essence of such following. Hence, Mere Christianity. Lewis' explanation of mere Christianity requires four steps (each each presented in an individual book that comprise the entirety of Mere Christianity). It begins with an attempt to establish facts that allow Christianity to make sense. Lewis then places Christian doctrine into dialogue with these facts to see if it addresses the needs such facts create, followed by an exploration of how such doctrine affects morality. Lewis concludes with a discussion of who the Christian God is and what this God is turning people into.
Mere Christianity is what comes about when a brilliant and creative mind explains theology. This book, particularly the first chapter of Book IV, is among the best descriptions I have read about my religion. As I read, I often found myself thinking that Lewis was directly answering questions that I posed to him. Whether you share Lewis' faith or not, I sincerely hope that you read this book. It has the potential to inspire, but if nothing else, it will provide a thorough and clear description of one of the world's major belief systems.
This is not to say that the book is perfect. Lewis holds to hierarchical gender relationships, which he acknowledges to be unpopular**. Certainly The Bible does include similar teaching at points (which is undoubtedly where Lewis gathers his ideas from), but at this point enough theology and biblical study exists to convince me that such hierarchy is a cultural injunction for a particular time and place rather than a universal rule. I also wonder if Lewis was too assumptive surrounding the cardinal virtues when stating that all "civilized people recognize" them. I wonder if most people still (or ever did) agree that the cardinal virtues in particular - prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude - are all good or even whether a universal morality in general is even possible to agree about.
The critiques I have of Lewis have little to do with the general direction of the book. In fact, I can even more easily highlight particular points where I agree with Lewis. Chapter 3.6 concludes by noting that Lewis wouldn't want another religion legislating its entire ethic through parliament, so he should not want to impose his entire ethic legislatively. Lewis also strikes what I see as a perfect balance between giving to charity and working for a just society in parallel (Chapter 3.3).
I did a Christian apologetics class at seminary and one of the things I learned was that apologetics are important descriptors of the faith not only for people who are not Christians, but also for people who are. Why I think Mere Christianity is so important comes from how it presents belief to me, an Evangelical Christian who experiences a bit of scepticism. I thought it was interesting that Lewis did not start with what one would typically call an explanation of what Christianity is. Instead, by starting with areas of common humanity - namely whether morality exists and how to define it if it does - and then testing whether Christian teaching is able to speak to these areas, Lewis makes some of the harder to grasp aspects of my faith easier to encounter. Even when disagreeing with Lewis, I was able at least to see that his ideas were thoughtful and considered. Similar can be said about how Lewis periodically notes that not every step he takes his readers on indicates that Christianity is a viable faith choice. Some steps lead in this direction but are not the entire journey.
I expect you will find this book valuable.
*I hope you will forgive my gender exclusive language. Using it makes me uncomfortable, but the plural is grammatically unwieldy here. I used "Man" because that is what Lewis did and because Jesus was incarnate as a male.
**See Chapter 3.3 regarding obedience, as an example.