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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mostly Good
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...
Published on July 16 2004 by lshave

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Tale of Two Reviews
Judging from earlier reviews, you'll either love this one or you'll hate it. A quick scan of the ratings reveals that Christians love it while agnostics and atheists pan it. From 129 ratings out there, only four readers provided on-the-fence "3 star" reviews. By joining this lonely (objective?) crowd, I'm hoping to convince myself that writing review number...
Published on July 8 2002 by Molon Labe


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5.0 out of 5 stars Merely wonderful, Jan. 31 2006
By 
FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
C.S. Lewis was a rare individual. One of the few non-clerics to be recognised as a theologian by the Anglican church, he put forth the case for Christianity in general in ways that many Christians beyond the Anglican world can accept, and a clear description for non-Christians of what Christian faith and practice should be. Indeed, Lewis says in his introduction that this text (or indeed, hardly any other he produced) will help in deciding between Christian denominations. While he describes himself as a 'very ordinary layman' in the Church of England, he looks to the broader picture of Christianity, particularly for those who have little or no background. The discussion of division points rarely wins a convert, Lewis observed, and so he leaves the issues of ecclesiology and high theology differences to 'experts'. Lewis is of course selling himself short in this regard, but it helps to reinforce his point.
The book looks at beliefs, both from a 'natural' standpoint as well as a scripture/tradition/reason standpoint. Lewis looks both at belief and unbelief - for example, he states that Christians do not have to see other religions of the world as thoroughly wrong; on the other hand, to be an atheist requires (in Lewis' estimation) that one view religions, all religions, as founded on a mistake. Lewis probably surprised his listeners by starting a statement, 'When I was an atheist...' Lewis is a late-comer to Christianity (most Anglicans in England were cradle-Anglicans). Thus Lewis can speak with the authority of one having deliberately chosen and found Christianity, rather than one who by accident of birth never knew any other (although the case can be made that Lewis was certainly raised in a culture dominated by Christendom).
Lewis also looks at practice - here we are not talking about liturgical niceties or even general church-y practices, but rather the broad strokes of Christian practice - issues of morality, forgiveness, charity, hope and faith. Faith actually has two chapters - one in the more common use of system of belief, but the other in a more subtle, spiritual way. Lewis states in the second chapter that should readers get lost, they should just skip the chapter - while many parts of Christianity will be accessible and intelligible to non-Christians, some things cannot be understood from the outside. This is the `leave it to God' sense of faith, that is in many ways more of a gift or grace from God than a skill to be developed.
Finally, Lewis looks at personality, not just in the sense of our individual personality, but our status as persons and of God's own personality. Lewis' conclusion that there is no true personality apart from God's is somewhat disquieting; Lewis contrasts Christianity with itself in saying that it is both easy and hard at the same time. Lewis looks for the `new man' to be a creature in complete submission and abandonment to God. This is a turn both easy and difficult.
'Mere Christianity' was originally a series of radio talks, published as three separate books - 'The Case for Christianity', 'Christian Behaviour', and 'Beyond Personality'. This book brings together all three texts. Lewis' style is witty and engaging, the kind of writing that indeed lives to be read aloud. Lewis debates whether or not it was a good idea to leave the oral-language aspects in the written text (given that the tools for emphasis in written language are different); I think the correct choice was made.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Incendiary Combination of Reason and Faith, March 4 2004
This review is from: Mere Christianity (Paperback)
"Christ never meant that we were to remain children in *intelligence*: on the contrary. He told us to be not only 'as harmless as doves', but also 'as wise as serpents'...He wants everyone to use what sense they have." This is the description of a rational person's Christianity--this is why I respect C.S. Lewis so highly. Even if he and I may not have *total* agreement (even the agreement we do have is to a shocking degree!), it is clear this is someone who has applied his intellect to the matter of Christianity, carefully constructing his arguments step by step, defining all meanings and explaining their significance. He constantly warns against arrogance (as he also does in The Screwtape Letters) even as he proposes his theories--a caveat that I strongly believe must be taken with the utmost seriousness.
I should warn the potential reader that I may make certain statements that will invite vehement disagreement, particularly in the most conservative quarters. However, I believe they are indicative of the nature of this book--if indeed one takes *extreme* offense to what I write, Mere Christianity is probably *not* the ideal book for that person. Lewis, from my readings, is no fundamentalist; otherwise, I could not imagine him daring to set the following into writing: "Is it not frightfully unfair that this new life [given through Christ] should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know him can be saved through Him." To my mind, and perhaps to others of what I call a moderate persuasion, this statement de-fangs one of the most serious potential arguments against Christianity. For to have a world in which certain people were condemned simply by happenstance of where they were born or when in time would require a capricious God--and such is *not* the God one encounters in the Bible. I respect the opinions of others, of course. However, I do warn very seriously that if statements of this nature are going to give you problems, you ought to look elsewhere in Christian writings.
This is heavy reading--at least, in the sense of the care taken by Lewis in the construction of his arguments. While not a work of philosophy or theology, it does demand the reader's close attention. It is not at all devoid of wit--but do not expect there to be anything sensationalized about it in the way that most "popular" Christian literature on the market today is. To be blunt--expect more. And Lewis will deliver. This is nothing like the sort of thing one finds in the Left Behind series or other works of LaHaye (for which I have a very serious dislike on grounds that I personally believe it has the potential to foster damagingly exclusionary attitudes in its audience...but that is another day's rant, and I'll leave it for now). In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that the taste for Lewis' work and the taste for LaHaye's, or works of that nature, would be almost mutually exclusive. This is why I must again warn the reader to make an educated decision as to which type of literature he or she will benefit most from.
To those, especially, on the more liberal end of the spectrum, I should let you know to be prepared for a few antiquated ideas such as certain statements of his about marriage and sexuality--however, Lewis himself in the same chapters does make certain allowances for the change of social mores. Bear this also in mind when he uses terminology for groups of people that, while acceptable in the 1940s, are no longer acceptable. In my opinion this is not sufficient grounds upon which to discount the entire book.
The other reviews may have helped to give you an idea of the book's contents and style--it is my hope that this one will help you to decide if it is *appropriate* for you or not. This is why I call Mere Christianity *incendiary*. I am deadly serious in the use of this word. It will without doubt provoke either extremely passionate agreement or a vehement condemnation. As other reviewers have noted, there is almost no middle ground. With content like this, it is no wonder. And it is a reflection of a very major divide in the Christian community as a whole. I award the five stars because from my experience, if it IS appropriate for you, it will very likely be a most rewarding reading experience. If you know it will not be appropriate for you, however, I will honestly advise you to pass this over in favor of something else.
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4.0 out of 5 stars To be a Christian..., Feb. 23 2004
This review is from: Mere Christianity (Paperback)
Many people go into this book expecting C.S. Lewis to erect an impenetrable wall of logic around Christianity and its theology. Aside from being impossible, such a feat would be wearisome and pointless. Besides, Lewis is not a theologian or philosopher (something that probably makes the book all the more enjoyable!), but a professor of literature. As such, his genius lies in a causal (yet convincing) discussion of what would otherwise be a group of very complicated ideas.
Some complain that the book begins weakly, for it is here that Lewis attempts a refutation of other theologies and philosophies in order to demonstrate the credibility of Christianity. Of course, we all know (as did Lewis, I am sure) that you cannot substantiate one position on the basis of the refutation of another (when there exist countless positions). But to claim that the book is therefore fallacy-ridden would be misguided because it is quite evident that Lewis was not after rigor. Rather, the book is designed to be a causal discussion of basic Christian principles, morals, and beliefs. And we must remember that it was originally given as a radio address in the early '40s. That being the case, I find the result fairly impressive even today.
So what did I get out of the book? Although interesting, the philosophy is not Lewis' strong point. His real strength comes in showing us the kind of life that Christianity offers, and how that life is so amazingly true on a mythological level. For example, in discussing the idea of repentance Lewis explains: "repentance...is not something God demands of you before He will take you back...it is simply a description of what going back to Him is like." But we need God's help in order to repent, for "no man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good." And when we do try to be good, we find that we are utterly incapable. So we turn to God for help. But how can a God which has never suffered help us in our own suffering? Such a God is too impersonal. And this is where Christianity comes in. We must die to our own pride and independence of God, and God must help us with this metaphorical death. But "we cannot share God's dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man." This is the vision of Christianity: we are not alone in our suffering. Theologically, it is difficult to imagine anything more brilliant or true. However, those who look logically and with disdain upon what they perceive to be an elaborate and unlikely substitute for science, pronouncing religion nothing more than superstition, do not see these truths.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Response to orpington, Feb. 21 2004
By 
Richard Magee "Wish Ewe Were Hear" (Abingdon, Maryland USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Mere Christianity (Paperback)
As another reviewer pointed out, Christians seem to rate this book highly while atheists and agnostics tend to give it low ratings. Assuming that orpington is not an atheist or agnostic (from his objections that Lewis does not tow the Scripture line as he would demand of such a work), I guess fundamentalists (at least this one in particular) are not impressed with this work from Lewis either. THE BIBLE may say that once a person is saved they are never lost, but Lewis points out that giving our lives to God is a decision, and who among us hasn't seen someone make that decision and then change it?
As for the idea that people could come to Christ from other traditions, I can attest to this myself. I was raised in the Methodist denomination and then pursued the Bahai faith and Buddhism seeking to determine if I really believed in Christianity or followed it merely from conditioning in childhood. Lewis has helped bring me back into the Christian fold, with a much clearer idea of what I believe and why. As Mike Scott of The Waterboys wrote in one of his songs, it's "been a long way to the Light." Who is to judge how we get there, so long as we answer God's call?
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another of C.S. Lewis' Excellent Books, Feb. 16 2004
By 
This review is from: Mere Christianity (Paperback)
This is a great book for those who want to take their belief in Christ to a higher level. This book is laid out in three parts: Right and Wrong, What Christians Believe, and Christian Behaviour. In the third part--Christian Behaviour--Mr. Lewis eloquently portrays what it means to accept Christ.
Mr. Lewis understood very well the true principle: one of the things that will make heaven indeed heaven is the way people treat each other and deal with each other. Those who accept Christ will find themselves yearning to live as he lived, and do as he did. By doing so, they will ultimately build the kind of character it takes to be "heavenly."
Mr. Lewis also points out some of the characteristics that prevent us from developing such character -- such as pride. "Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man." Mr. Lewis points out that pride is one of the many qualities, which (if unbridled) keeps so many people away from true discipleship in Christ. The competitive nature of pride compels us to squander away our limited time on earth in a competitive pursuit of worldly treasures and success, which (for most of us) is at the expense of more important things. And, if my life has been spent without performing the Christ like acts of service and love -- necessary to build "heavenly character," can I actually expect heaven to be a place where I will comfortably fit in?
I highly recommend this book and I find it a valuable addition to my library.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Merely wonderful..., Feb. 7 2004
By 
FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Mere Christianity (Paperback)
C.S. Lewis was a rare individual. One of the few non-clerics to be recognised as a theologian by the Anglican church, he put forth the case for Christianity in general in ways that many Christians beyond the Anglican world can accept, and a clear description for non-Christians of what Christian faith and practice should be. Indeed, Lewis says in his introduction that this text (or indeed, hardly any other he produced) will help in deciding between Christian denominations. While he describes himself as a 'very ordinary layman' in the Church of England, he looks to the broader picture of Christianity, particularly for those who have little or no background. The discussion of division points rarely wins a convert, Lewis observed, and so he leaves the issues of ecclesiology and high theology differences to 'experts'. Lewis is of course selling himself short in this regard, but it helps to reinforce his point.
The book looks at beliefs, both from a 'natural' standpoint as well as a scripture/tradition/reason standpoint. Lewis looks both at belief and unbelief - for example, he states that Christians do not have to see other religions of the world as thoroughly wrong; on the other hand, to be an atheist requires (in Lewis' estimation) that one view religions, all religions, as founded on a mistake. Lewis probably surprised his listeners by starting a statement, 'When I was an atheist...' Lewis is a late-comer to Christianity (most Anglicans in England were cradle-Anglicans). Thus Lewis can speak with the authority of one having deliberately chosen and found Christianity, rather than one who by accident of birth never knew any other (although the case can be made that Lewis was certainly raised in a culture dominated by Christendom).
Lewis also looks at practice - here we are not talking about liturgical niceties or even general church-y practices, but rather the broad strokes of Christian practice - issues of morality, forgiveness, charity, hope and faith. Faith actually has two chapters - one in the more common use of system of belief, but the other in a more subtle, spiritual way. Lewis states in the second chapter that should readers get lost, they should just skip the chapter - while many parts of Christianity will be accessible and intelligible to non-Christians, some things cannot be understood from the outside. This is the 'leave it to God' sense of faith, that is in many ways more of a gift or grace from God than a skill to be developed.
Finally, Lewis looks at personality, not just in the sense of our individual personality, but our status as persons and of God's own personality. Lewis' conclusion that there is no true personality apart from God's is somewhat disquieting; Lewis contrasts Christianity with itself in saying that it is both easy and hard at the same time. Lewis looks for the 'new man' to be a creature in complete submission and abandonment to God. This is a turn both easy and difficult.
'Mere Christianity' was originally a series of radio talks, published as three separate books - 'The Case for Christianity', 'Christian Behaviour', and 'Beyond Personality'. This book brings together all three texts. Lewis' style is witty and engaging, the kind of writing that indeed lives to be read aloud. Lewis debates whether or not it was a good idea to leave the oral-language aspects in the written text (given that the tools for emphasis in written language are different); I think the correct choice was made.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic work but there other stars in the universe..., Jan. 26 2004
By 
Gregory J. R. Bourke (New Zealand) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Mere Christianity (Paperback)
Firstly, ask yourself, "are you satisified with the current philosophical world view?" Do you think Postmodernism protects your human rights? Does it criticise violence such as Sept 11 or the encroachments of Ashcroft? Why not? Can it say with confidence that GE food, famine, war, or globilasation are beneficial or not? Does it really beleive in itself? Modern philosophy is failing to provide a framework to the world we live in. If you think otherwise you should read more Derrida and Lacan to clear your head... now there is a contradiction!
If the pomo assertion that truth is false is itself falsified, is found to be a deadend, then we are forced to look back at where we erred...
Mere Christianity is an introductory work and as said below it is a complilation of talks given on radio, thus, the language is occasionally unnuanced and the arguments not as solid as could be.
Nonetheless, CS Lewis has given us a classic, a thought provoking piece that gave me some new perspectives and concepts to address old issues with. It is a wonderful read.
The biggest problem with the book though is the idea of "Mere-ism". I feel too many people read this work and use it as a licence for undefined nebulous Christianity, which is what Lewis warned against when he said that people must move out of the corridor of the house and choose a room. Choosing a church group that prides itself on faith in the corridor is not choosing a room.
On the other hand, to the agnositics and others out there who might have been dissapointed with Mere Christianity, do not conclude that this is the pinnacle of Christian thought. It is an attractive primer but not all that there is to be said...
Christianity has suffienct depth as you are prepared to explore.
Two coversion stories of academics that spring to mind are:
Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton (Communist to monk)
Apologia pro vita sua by John Henry Newman

Rebuilding a Lost Faith by John L. Stoddard is very good.
If you want some modern philosophy to supplement the atheist humanists you are fed at college try the Cambridge don:
Elizabeth Anscombe (Modern Moral Philosophy)
You could also read David Hume and see if you really do agree with his atheist conclusions!
Or you could try the highly amusing GK Chesteron (Everlasting Man, Heretics, Orthodoxy, The Thing), Oscar Wilde, Evelyn Waugh, Gordon Greene, or Tolkien.
The Encyclical on Faith and Reason (Fides et Ratio) is worth looking at also.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and Not Overbearing, Jan. 26 2004
By 
This review is from: Mere Christianity (Paperback)
C.S. Lewis originally captivated me with his "Chronicles of Narnia". I didn't learn of his Christianity until later - which has no bearing on my personal, spiritual choices. I just want to point out that he wove some of his theories into the "Chronicles" without being at all preachy or overbearing. It is a great series.
"Mere Christianity" steps outside of that fictional setting. The first half of the book is Lewis' persuasion on the possibility of an existence of God. He lays his points politely and respectfully. This is his demeanor throughout the book's entirety. I feel he makes great points and explanations, all while taking his reader into consideration.
I don't think this is the type of book that will convert a die-hard atheist. I believe that it gives thoughtful answers (that are much better than "It's in the Bible, that's why!" or, worse, "Because that's what God wants!") If the reader isn't swayed, at the very least, I think they can walk away, content with a mutual agreement to disagree.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Simply clearing somthing up., Jan. 1 2004
This review is from: Mere Christianity (Paperback)
"Reality is something you could not have guessed. This is one of the reasons I believe in Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed."
Mr. Lewis is not saying anything about and odd twist in reality and he certainly isnt saying that since the universe is complex and since Christianity is capable of explaning it, it therefore has to be complex and true.
All that he is saying here is much like reality, Christinity is not a faith that can be conceptualized by a human mind. If reality did not exist, and we somehow did (which is impossible to say the least), we would not be able to come up with such an idea. Therefore Mr.Lewis'logic is as follows.
1- Reality is not something that a mere human mind can come up with.
2- Christianity is not something that a mere humand mind can come up with.
3- Then just as reality is REAL so is Christianity.
The argument contains no circulatory logic and it certainly isnt self defeating.
P.S: there is no point in attempting to come up with examples to disprove this statement, because that in its essence would be self defeating. Because by giving any example,that would disqualify your statement because it was somthing that was imaginabled by the human mind.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Apology, Dec 29 2003
This review is from: Mere Christianity (Hardcover)
Religious or athiest (which, one could argue, is a religion itself), all will agree that Lewis was a master of his craft. Few men possess the talent to strip an issue down to its core, exposing its true (or the author's view of the truth) value. Other apologists, like Chesterton, get bogged down and easily lose the reader. Lewis, on the other hand, has a knack for making the most complex appear trivially simple.
For those who reject Christianity, Lewis offers at the very least an exercise in logic and reasoning. He'll begin an argument with simple reasoning, akin to "you agree that two plus two equals 4, corrct?", and then before you know it, he'll trap you in a logical parlor trick, forcing you to either accept his reasoning, or argue that two plus two does not equal four.
It takes a few readings of some passages to discover some errors (as I percieve them)in his assumptions. He writes with such lucidity and confidence that you'll find yourself mesmerized and nodding along with him. But he lost me at the pivotal point, where he argues for Christ's divinity.
Lewis warns us of those who would look to Jesus as a moral teacher, and not as the Son of God, saying that they then are placing their trust at what would be, by their denial of Christ as Savior, in the hands of a lunatic. If Christ is not God, than he was insane; for only an insane man would argue that he was the Son of God. Thus, you must completely dismiss Jesus as a relevant moral teacher, or accept his divinity. I believe Lewis is on shaky ground here.
A popular example to argue the contrary is the story of John Nash, popularized by the movie A Beautiful Mind. Nash was insane - certifiably so - yet that doesn't preclude mathemeticians from accepting his mathematical ideas as correct. Granted mathematics and religion are not the same (but probably closer than most would like to believe), but I think the point is still valid - "insanity" does not preclude someone from the validity of their work. I am not arguing that Christ was insane, I'm just trying to illustrate that the pivotal argument of the apology is on very shaky ground. I can accept his arguments regarding the internal moral law and such, but I expected a much better argument for the most important issue an apologist can address - the divinity of Jesus Christ.
But it is still worth 4 stars for the greatness of his writing, and its excellent treatise on "What Christians Believe". At the very least, this book will force you to think - a dying art itself.
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