on May 12, 2003
Lewisï¿½s Mere Christianity is an insightful and thought provoking classic work of Christian literature. This collection of World War II radio speeches retains the impact it had fifty years ago in Britain. Lewis, a layman of the Church of England, conveys issues debated by the greatest scholars and minds for centuries in a way simple enough to be understood by a young student. The quantity and quality of illustrations alone make the book worthwhile. The genius imagination of C.S. Lewis beautifully reduces difficult thoughts down to simple illustrations.
Lewis begins with topics relating to all people everywhere such as morality, the conscience, and the ideas of evolution and creationism. Primarily using anecdotal evidence, Lewis logically progresses the reader from the belief in the existence of a god to belief in the God of the Bible. Christian topics like forgiveness, hope, faith, and the Trinity are addressed at the end of the book.
The bookï¿½s goal is to present only the core and central Christian doctrines, what Lewis calls ï¿½mereï¿½ Christianity. As a result, issues relating to denominational division in the Christian church are intentionally omitted. In my opinion, however, many of the topics ignored in order to reach this mutual ï¿½mere Christianityï¿½ are far too important to be overlooked. I also believe Lewis should have used more quotations from the Bible to support his arguments.
Lewis presents the Christian perspective in a book aimed at the skeptic, the atheist, and the fellow Christian. Mere Christianity caused me to re-evaluate the beliefs I hold and the way they are applied to my life.
on November 19, 2002
Not really the best Christian apologetic Lewis ever wrote: that would be his 1960 revision of _Miracles: A Preliminary Study_, in conjunction with his much earlier _The Problem of Pain_ (which should be read after MaPS).
Still, MC is very accessible to many readers. The chapters of the first two sections were originally designed to be "Broadcast Talks" (the original title of the first publication of the first section) on BBC radio during WWII. They provide a colorful version (if somewhat oversimplified, as Lewis well knew) of the theistic Argument from Morality, which does help to introduce the principles within and around the argument; and, for section 2, a variation of what has come to be called the Lewis Trilemma (aka 'Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?').
The Trilemma is also oversimplified (keep in mind the broad target audience), and should not be considered to be Lewis' ultimate opinion on the subject; but unfortunately he never seems to have written a more technical version. (Some even more foreshortened versions can be found in other articles and essays he wrote.) In any event, although it is tempting to deride Lewis for simply presuming that the texts are sufficiently accurate to make such a judgment, any critic (pro or con) ought to know from other writings that Lewis was well aware of the benefits and limitations (and abuses) of textual criticism. Besides, the attempt to call into question the honesty of the textual authors/editors merely ends up reinstituting the Trilemma again at the next level. The Trilemma cannot easily be brushed aside: as the increasingly complex (and spurious) historical revisionism theories of the past 30 years (forms of which Lewis was already familiar with from his own day and prior) ironically testify.
This doesn't mean that the Trilemma argument is rock-solid, either, however. It isn't a substitute for preliminary philosophical argument; nor is it a substitute for historical analysis. It perhaps works best as the very tail end of one (or ideally both) of those endeavors. Dr. Gregory Boyd makes much the same point very well in _Cynic Sage or Son of God_ (an indepth analysis of the logical bona fides of various historical propositions): if Jesus was like _that_, then we have a fairly straightforward explanation for why the earliest existant texts about him are like _this_--an explanation that doesn't require (for instance) hypothesizing about what a hypothetical community did not believe based on what a hypothetical 'early strata' of a hypothetical document hypothesized to have been used by this hypothetical community does _not_ say. |g| (As Boyd pithly observes: _that_ requires faith! Lewis, who had already seen numerous similar attempts at historical revisionism in his day, even outside Jesus-studies, would agree.)
As always, careful qualification should be observed, pro or con: and it is admittedly worth noting, that due to certain restrictions in his delivery, Lewis is not as carefully qualified as he could be. (i.e., this is a necessarily truncated _introduction_ to the topic, not the final word on it.)
The AfM in Section 1, remember, is also not rigorously proposed. (Although it is more thorough than the chapter on morality in MaPS, again for a good reason in relation to the structure of that greater work.) Unfortunately, again, Lewis never wrote a rigorous (specifically theistic) AfM--possibly because he believed that no total weight would hang adequately on it (there is some indication of this in how he uses it to make a restrained and subordinate point in MaPS). _The Abolition of Man_ (and a few essays here and there which presage it) does not exactly take up the slack as a theistic AfM--although, once again, this is because Lewis didn't design it to. (See my review of TAoM.)
The remaining two sections (also originally published separately) form the majority of the book. The 3rd section, on 'Christian Morality', is again a useful and enjoyable (if very basic) introduction to the subject, both at a theological and historical level, in the sense of: 'This is the consistency of the subject in relation to Christian philosophy, and this is (a very basic) overview of how Christian thinkers have tended to most cogently consider the matter.'
The final section, on the doctrine of the Trinity, is the best popular introduction to the subject I know.
Both last sections (3 and 4) can work well at helping readers, both believer and sceptic, to clear away some misconceptions concerning those two topics (the generally-Christian moral code, and the trinitarian doctrine). Unfortunately, theories on those topics are widespread and different enough, that confusion may result if these are taken to be _the_ foundational base of understanding for future reading; especially in the case of the Trinity. Still, as aids to practical application of the relevant doctrines, they make excellent introductions.
on May 26, 2002
C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity" doesn't really break new ground in original Christian thought as much as simplifies some observations of Christian strictures. It's not a guide to prescriptive living as much of an insight to what a rationally minded Christian intellectual thinks about his religion. I suppose I approached this book with minor expectations of life altering thought. That's not what I got out of it, but instead was reminded and reaffirmed of some beliefs that lay dormant but still deeply entrenched. Lewis's observations are simplistic but deep. For that fact, Lewis earns quite a bit of admiration for turning the complex into easily digestible reading is a daunting task.
I found the book getting interesting about mid-way through. The first half was almost too simplistic. Lewis has some perceptive observations of society's obsession with sex (without being prudish), forgiveness being difficult to put into practice, and the ability of God to change a person but sometimes not in ways that person would expect or be comfortable with. Of particular note is Lewis' observation of when a person is brought closer to God. It is not when everything is going right in life and church visits are consistent, but rather when one is brought to question and search on their own, when life is challenging and belief is challenging. There is a lot of truth to Lewis' writing but some of it rings through clearer than others.
Life altering book...not so much. A Good reminder of God...yes.
on February 19, 2002
First of all, let me say that I find the argument that "it is appalling that C.S. Lewis is writing as if Christianity were the ttruth" hilarious. The book "Mere Christianity" is written to explain what Christians believe, and, just like the Muslims and the Jews and the Hindus, we believe that our religion is true. Therefore I cannot fathom why someone would be surprised that the sentence "Christianity is true" would be in there. In fact, if I were reading a book about the beliefs of Islam from a devout Muslim and did NOT perceive that he believed "Islam is true" I would be a little worried about why that would not be stressed in the religion. Did that make any sense? I tend to babble.
And many people have had complaints about the first part of his book, where he argues why there must be a deity, etc. As I discovered later, he is not giving an absolute, but simply letting the reader follow the path that he took in transitioning from an athiest to a Christian. First of all, let me just say it was incredibly more logical than anything I went through, but of course it is not pure logic. In any sort of decision anyone comes to (c'mon, I think even Spock admits to this on Star Trek), there is never nothing but pure logic. There is a bit of pure instinct involved, something beyond logic, which cannot be accounted for in words. So when there seem to be random jumps in his explanations or holes in his logic, I think that is the reason.
Oookay. Anyway. I came into this book having my only other C.S. Lewis experience be "The Chronicles of Narnia" and naivly assumed that was simply how he wrote. So let me just say first off that I was knocked on the floor by the complexity and the thoughtfulness that went into his writing.
There are, of course, flaws, like there are in any book; fiction, non-fiction, religious, secular, etc. As a rather modern teenage girl with a rather modern outlook on life and an innate hatred for the "glass ceiling" let me say that when I read his comments on the woman's place I had a distinct urge to go back in time, hurl feminist pamphlets at him, and burst into the song "You Don't Own Me" in the manner of the 3 women of "The First Wives Club."
But in some other instances I found him remarkably insightful. My favorite parts of the book were the ones where I would basically see him saying the exact opposite as those TV evangelists and ultra-conservative fundamentalist Christians I (and, I belive most people) have begun to get seriously sick of. In places where I was extremely afraid he would fall into the old super conservative, narrow minded view like so many of his contemporaries, I found him incredibly refreshing and even a bit liberal and open minded in his opinions.
For the athiest, agnostic, and people of other religions considering this book: While it isn't an evangelical book bent on getting you hooked on Christianity if it's the last thing he does, it IS written from a Christian pov and explains the basics of what Christians believe under the assumption that Christianity is true. Please do not be thrown off balance by this. If you were writing something about what you believed, I would hope you would consider it to be true first.
on May 20, 2001
Some statements: @ the time of writing this short review there are nearly 80 reviews, and rarely do I usually think that I have something to add when so many have already given their opinion. Still, I think I have some important statements for readers out there who have not yet encountered this book.
The title, Mere Christiantiy, is really key. While many conservative evangelicals, who often lack a real encounter with the deeper Christian theological tradition present in works by such men as Niebuhr, Tillich & Barth, may present this book to you as THE definitive argument for Christianity, he/she would be in error. Indeed, this is not the author's intent whatsoever. Rather, this book is to serve as a mere cursory introduction to what he sees as Christian orthodoxy, or gestalt if you will ---being the elements present and preserved throughout the faith's history. In some way, he fails @ this task showing that he himself was not immmune to the prejudices of his time (e.g., passages that present the man as 'head of the household').
Also, Lewis was neither too liberal nor too conservative, though he was certainly traditional. He certainly was NOT fundamentalist or evangelical (e.g., he did not adhere to the plenary, verbal inspiration of Scripture). Thus, to read him as being an adherent to this flavor of Christianity is to MISread him.
Of course, this book has its apologetic elements, and of course, it is not exhaustive. Lewis is not trying to subjugate all of our doubts to the mastery of his arguments. He rarely was so arrogant. One must read this with his attention in mind--- to explain mere Christianity will simultaneously showing it to be reasonable. And, he attempts to soften some of what to outsiders may seem as rough edges and succeeds quite often with amazing fecundity.
Despite the impression some may get from the strong recommendations given for this book (and it is indeed a classic), it is best not to assume that this will be the end all to searching. Mere Christianity serves best to introduce an ignorant person of the beliefs of Christianity when knowledge is lacking and to aid the believer in understanding his own faith. For those who would want to encounter more developed, firm arguments and/or have travelled further down the path of intellectual development, this book can't harm, but there is much more to be sought out. For a strong apologetic work, which is more contemporary yet still becoming dated itself, I recommend Hans Küng's ON BEING A CHRISTIAN. This work is rather large, so for a smaller volume, try Keith Ward's GOD, FAITH & THE NEW MILLENIUM.
on March 30, 2003
If you're looking for an in depth apologetic for the Christian faith, this is not it. If you are looking for a book which will finally convince you that there is a God, I doubt this book will do it either. Do not look for an iron-clad argument for Christ, for this was not the intent of the book, i.e. the title MERE Christianity. It is an introduction, and towards that goal, it surpasses all others.
It achieves this through the clarity and power of the prose, the elegance of the analogy, and the refreshing angles on suppositional questions. For these reasons, this book is a must read for those exploring faith, and especially those looking for a framework on which to hang their Christian faith.
As an agnostic undergratuate twenty years ago, this book served to rock my world view. Two decades later, a re-read emphasizes the elegant answers Christiantiy offers to the major questions of life.
on March 6, 2003
Lewis's prose is always easy on the brain. This is not to say that it's language for simpletons; it's simply easy to read. He handles complex subjects deftly through well-crafted example and analogy. Mere Christianity is, very roughly, his explanation of what Christians believe and why they believe it.
While I enjoyed the book quite a bit, and came away with some new and helpful ways of thinking about old ideas, Lewis's arguments lack robustness. Often, I think they have enough to do the job of simple explanation, but when it comes to the most important doctrine, that of Incarnation, he accepts it with a handwave that had me scribbling in the margins and knitting my brow.
I can't imagine reading this book and being converted. Despite that, I'm happy for having read it, and would recommend it to those who aren't seeking a robust proof or a converting experience.
on January 12, 2014
Some will want more detailed and for some, more intellectually stimulating thoughts about God and Christianity BUT if you want to open your mind and start here, you will be enlightened and surprised.
When you think that this was written by a well educated,former atheist for the common BBC listener in the 1940's, you will be amazed how his insights then, still apply to today.
If want to learn about what all this fuss about God and real Christianity is about start here.
Read his "Surprised by Joy" to find how God reached him.
on May 21, 2003
This book is an excellent read. Lewis manages to speak intelligently on a subject which is mostly surrounded by bluster and dogma. His logic is ultimately incorrect, however, and he makes numerous uses of the Extended Analogy fallacy. Still, it was an enjoyable read and it got me thinking. Though I do not agree with Lewis's conclusions, I enjoyed the road he takes to get there.
on June 1, 1997
An interesting examination of why Christians believe as they do. Yet, although compelling reading, it did not convince me of the validity of Christianity