September 9th, 2010
Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. New York: HarperCollins, 2000. 232 pp. $12.95. Purchase at Westminster.
Narrated by Geoffrey Howard. Esconido: christianaudio. 5.9 hours. Download – $16.98.
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) is perhaps best known for his Chronicles of Narnia series. He has, however, written numerous volumes that are still widely read today. Some may not know this, but he died on the same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated–22 November 1963. He was primarily an English professor at various higher institutions of learning. Mere Christianity is perhaps the most influential work insofar as an introduction to the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
The book was more an outgrowing of some radio addresses given by C.S. Lewis in the 1940′s.
Divided into four books, Lewis moves from a general understanding of the reality of God to what Christians believe and how they (should) behave. He concludes in book four with an exposition on how the doctrine of the Trinity applies to us today.
Book one looks at the reality of the moral law and how it applies to all people at all times regardless of personal beliefs. He then argues that if their is a moral law that transcends humanity, there must be a Giver of the law. From there he moves into the Christian’s understanding of this Law Giver.
The second book looks specifically at the Christian’s understanding of God. It is here where Lewis draws the line in the sand so to speak. To put it quite succinctly, if you believe in anything but the God of the Christian Bible, then you are wrong. The rest of the book is a basic apologetic (defense) of the Christian claims to Truth and the demands made on one’s life.
Perhaps the most famous section of Mere Christianity is book 3 on Christian behavior. Here, Lewis delineates between the Cardinal Virtues (those that are followed by all people) and the Theological Virtues (those that are specific to Christianity). The four cardinal virtues are prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. The final ten chapters of this section explain the theological virtues.
Lewis concludes with a look at the importance of the Trinity in the Christian’s life. At its core, we find here a power that supersedes anything this world has to offer. Here, we learn of the sanctification of the believer.
What can be said in favor of or against C.S. Lewis that has not been said already? By keeping the topic of Christianity at such a general level, Lewis has penned perhaps the most important book regarding the basic beliefs that must be held by a Christian if they are to call Christ their Lord and Savior.
Unfortunately, because of his views on evolution (he assumes it as true) many today hold that one’s view of the Biblical account of creation is not important. This is not so. If Genesis one is not true, then John 3:16 is not true. If God did not create from nothing, then Christ need not come and die for our sins. I realize this is an oversimplification of the point, but it is nonetheless true.
There are a few other areas in which I disagree with Lewis, but that is the beauty of Mere Christianity, one can disagree and still find the common ground in Christ that brings us all together. Aside from his evolutionary take on origins, I appreciated his candor in handling the fundamental beliefs of Christianity.
His chapter on sexual morality ought to be read by every Christian in the church today. His understanding of sinful man becoming new creatures in Christ is still another chapter that should be read. There are many in the church today who say that unless you have been radically changed (generally the assumption is “as I have been”) then you are not a true Christian. Lewis puts that misnomer to bed and exhorts all to look to Christ and find the power in Him to worry about yourself rather than others.
If you have never read this book, you are wrong! Even with his views of evolution throughout, this book demands to be read. For so many Christians today, we want to divide over secondary and tertiary doctrinal issues. It saddens me that a Presbyterian and a Southern Baptist cannot get along because they have differing views on baptism when neither is saying that one’s baptism will save from sin.
Mere Christianity helps to bring the conversation back to the basics and often times that is where we need to not only start, but remain.