I’ll begin with a confession: Even though I’ve known about C. S. Lewis’ classic Mere Christianity for years and have sometimes used Lewis’ famous line about Jesus either being a lunatic, a liar, OR the Person He claims to be (the Son of God), until recently I’d never read it in its entirety.
The book actually consists of four “books” in one:
- Book 1 – “Right and Wrong as a clue to the meaning of the universe”: This section makes a case for the existence of God by observing that everyone has a conscience that convinces him of right and wrong.
- Book 2 – “What Christians Believe”: This part is an exposition of the basic tenets of Christianity. Here Lewis makes a case for Christianity being the only logical answer for the world in which we live.
- Book 3 – “Christian Behavior”: The third section is my favorite. It explores in practical and thoughtful ways what it means to live as a Christian – Christian virtues and Christian marriage. Just one example: “Do not waste your time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”
- Book 4 – “Beyond Personality or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity”: The fourth book ends with these words, “Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
I respect C. S. Lewis for being a talented writer and a deep thinker who is able to explain Christianity in a rational way to secular people. I also respect him because he doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. He admits that there are some things he hasn’t figured out, and he doesn’t deny that at times he’s struggled with certain aspects of being a Christian.
I believe Mere Christianity, given as a radio talks in the first half of the twentieth century, is geared for the “modern mind,” not the “post-modern mind,” which denies the existence of any ultimate principles and lacks the optimism of there being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth that will explain everything for everybody.
A second caveat
If you’re looking for a book that systematically lays out Christian doctrine using Bible verses to substantiate each point, this is not the book for you. There are other books for that purpose. (For example, Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology or his shorter Bible Doctrine: Essential Teaching of the Christian Faith.)
Nevertheless, I would recommend this work to the intelligent Christian who wants to understand the essentials of Christianity and know how to share the faith in a rational way. Though you won’t agree with everything Lewis writes, you will be struck by his fresh, thought-provoking look at the Christian faith.
I would also recommend Mere Christianity to the honest non-Christian who is seeking answers to life. God just might open his or her eyes through the reading of this book.
Finally, let me warn you – this book is not always easy reading. At times, under twenty-first-century standards, it may seem a bit dry. Its logical arguments are sometimes hard to follow, but in the end, reading it will absolutely be worth the effort.
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