on March 19, 2003
I read this book twice, about four years apart. While I did enjoy many points that C.S. Lewis makes, and I understand that he is a highly respected author, but I have to disagree with some of the reviewers. I feel that Mere Christianity is becoming out-dated.
Since many people may already know what the book is about, I want to focus on some areas where I feel that C. S. Lewis is becoming out-dated. I feel that Mere Christianity may have been a revolutionary book for its time and helped spark some discussion about Christianity. But as apologists have to update their arguments when new responses have been made, this book has to keep up with new developments in the discussion about Christianity.
C. S. Lewis' argument against Duality seems to fail. He writes, "Then good would not deserve to be called good." (p. 43) Lewis tries to see the eastern philosophy through a western standpoint. But people who hold the eastern viewpoint do not see any dividing line between good and evil. They would state that reality is completely "beyond" good and evil, and thus there only appears to be a distinction to our culturally conditioned minds, but in actuality, there is no distinction between good and evil, and therefore one cannot even use the words "good" and "evil."
I disagree with Lewis on the idea that everybody lives forever, on a theological basis. Even though he never uses the Bible to support his claims, he writes, "Again, Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live for ever, and this must be either true or false." (p. 74) The Bible states that God "alone has immortality." (1 Timothy 6:16) and that the wicked will be completely wiped out of existence in the last days.
Also, C. S. Lewis' watered-down approach to charity, "If our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little," (p. 86) would be an understatement for the wealthy.
I also disagree with Lewis' definition of temperance. He writes, "Temperance referred not specially to drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further." (p. 78) Temperance actually does mean abstaining from anything that is bad-alcohol, drugs, and smoking are all bad. It also means moderation in anything that is good-Yes, you can get too much of a good thing-but the Bible does not tell us to be "moderate" in our destructive behavior. The Bible calls us to abstain, to separate from evil, and to be pure. Where is Lewis' scriptural support? None, because he does not have scriptural support.
But then again, maybe this is because C. S. Lewis likes drinking alcohol. He admits, "At least I know I should be very angry if the Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine." (p. 112) Lewis also states that Christians "may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons-marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has then the wrong turning." (p. 79) I disagree because beer and marriage are not on the same level. Alcohol really is bad. It is not the same as eating meat. Discouraging others from refraining from alcohol does not necessarily mean looking down one's nose at others.
I personally feel that C. S. Lewis puts too much emphasis on social morality, and I will explain. On page 84, Lewis writes about Christian literature, Christian novelists, Christian dramatists, Christian society, Christian economists, Christian this, and Christian that. Next thing you know, we might be deciding between Christian toothpaste and non-Christian toothpaste when we shop at the grocery store. Is the point of Christianity to make society Christian or to make Christian products? Personal life-changing seems to be second priority to social change, but Christ's priority was personal life-changing. I don't think the Good News was meant to be a "social gospel."
Next, C. S. Lewis does not use any Scripture to support why the man should be the head of the household, besides just saying that it is the "Christian" way. He describes decision-making in marriage as "voting" and saying that somebody has to have the final say. What about both submitting to each other, which is actually what the Bible calls for, rather than fighting against each other? But rather, Lewis writes, "There must be something unnatural about the rule of wives over husbands, because the wives themselves are half-ashamed of it and despise the husbands of whom they rule." (p. 113) This is a culturally determined generalization, and since it is not based in logic, cannot serve as the basis of a theological reasoning.
Finally, the biggest contradiction is that C. S. Lewis is a Christian that believes in evolution. He writes, "Everyone now knows about Evolution... everyone has been told that man has evolved from lower types of life." (p. 218)
And this statement is bizarre: "There was a time before sex had appeared; development used to go on by different methods." (p. 220) This seems like it would be hard to believe for an evolutionist, but this man supposedly believes in a supernatural God.
Nevertheless, I do believe that there are some fundamental questions that can be answered in this book, such as "Why does evil exist?" or "Are there absolute truths?" Lewis nails these questions. There were some points that he brought out that affected me spiritually. One statement about pride hit home with me: "The more pride one had, the more one disliked pride in others." (p. 122) But, in my humble opinion, I felt that C. S. Lewis rambled a lot, and failed to use good logic or good illustrations for most of his book.