August 03, 2008

Review: Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity
C.S. Lewis

"The title, Mere Christianity, indicates the intention of Lewis, an Anglican, to describe the Christian common-ground. He aims at avoiding controversies to explain those things that have defined Christianity in nearly all places and times. Lewis restates the fundamental teachings of the Christian religion, for the sake of those basically educated as well as the intellectuals of his generation, for whom the jargon of formal Christian theology did not retain its intended meaning." This is a great description of the purpose of this book taken from Wikipedia.

Not originally in written form, these lectures ran on air during WWII. Dr. Lewis was chosen to give these lectures precisely because it was not his field of study but a personal passion. He could speak to the layman as well as the educated about what it meant to be Christian. When you keep this in mind then the apparent flaws aren't so glaring. The layout is not smooth or logical for a book but is very likely to work well for a radio broadcast. That is not to say that it is not a logical book. There is a great deal of logic, it is just not set out in a clear outlined format. I felt some of the examples could have been better, especially his argument for why men ought to be the head of the household and not women. He made it sound as if women were just silly. I have no problem with the doctrine but the reason given is condescending.

I did have a few squabbles with some points in the final chapters. At one point he makes this bold statement:
"[God] said (in the Bible) that we were 'gods' and He is going to make good His

Since Lewis doesn't give any Bible references (a fault that can be understood as stemming from this originally being a radio broadcast) I have no way to check his statement. But since earlier in the book he explains the difference between our being creatures made by God as opposed to Jesus who was a son begotten of God and therefore, of the same material(a spiritual being), I believe that what is meant here is not that we will actually be made into little gods and goddesses but that we will be transformed from creatures into actual sons and daughters, transformed to be just like Jesus. But it was a bit of a shock to see it stated and not explained or even given a proper reference.

Another issue I take with Dr. Lewis is a matter that I suspected from experience with the Narnia series. This is how he explains it:
"There are people in other religions who are being led by God's secret influence
to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with
Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points."

This idea needs to be fleshed out a bit more for me. It just doesn't sound right. If the person dies a worshipper of the Buddhist religion then doesn't that make him a Buddhist and not a Christian, since a Buddhist does not believe in the divinity of Christ? Where is the Scriptural evidence for this point?

I wish there were Scripture references throughout as Dr. Lewis makes his claims about what God said or meant. And I wish that there was greater importance put on the Bible as our only means of knowing about God. But as a general reference to what it means to be a Christian it is a wonderful resource, one i will be passing along to my friends who ask what it is all about. The book did inspire me to think again on the basics and it even taught me a new way to look at a few things. I will continue to read C.S. Lewis and his works of both non-fiction and fiction. He was a great man of faith that left an indelible mark on the world.

I will leave you with a quote that I rather enjoyed for its humor and truth:
"But there is a difficulty about disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes: you could not be right and He wrong any more than a stream can rise higher that its own source. When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on."


Rhinoa said...

Sounds interesting. I hope to read The Screwtape Letter this month by CS Lewis and may look into some of his other christian writing depending on how I enjoy it. I am not a christian, but I enjoy exploring others beliefs.

shereadsbooks said...

The way I've heard that bit explained has to do with the Bible's many promises that those who seek God will find him (Deut 4:29, Prov 8:17, Jer 29:13, Matt 7:7-8, etc). Perhaps those of other faiths who diligently seek God & His truth -- but, for example, are never exposed to Christianity -- will find Him not in this life but as they enter the next.

Lewis fleshes this idea out more towards the end of The Last Battle. Have you read it?

Petunia said...

Rhinoa-I liked The Screwtape Letters. I think Lewis' imagination was immense.

She Reads Books-I have read The Last Battle. That's where I first got the inkling of Lewis' views on the topic. It was the only part of the series that struck me as off. The way you have put it makes more sense but I feel the need to pick it apart more to understand it.

J.Danger said...

You should also read The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed. Also, Till We Have Faces. I enjoyed all of them.

Anonymous said...

I'm reading the Narnia series and I made a comment on the part where Aslan is shaved, tormented and killed is similar to the story of Jesus. It was the first image in my mind, rather than a lion.

Pee Wee

PS. I found the moon btw. :)