There is just something about Lewis that makes you love him--probably several somethings: his genius for metaphor, his humility, his passion for Chris...moreThere is just something about Lewis that makes you love him--probably several somethings: his genius for metaphor, his humility, his passion for Christ, his creativity, and the list may go on. It would be very difficult to hit all the points that were meaningful to me in this book, and it would be equally difficult to hit all the points of doctrine where he and I disagree (or at least, disagree at this early point in his Christian life). I had the absolute blessing and benefit of sitting in a discussion group of this book with a literature professor who had done her master's thesis on Lewis' space trilogy, and was a wealth of knowledge on his life and works. She (and my learned mother, who was also there) helped me to understand the context of this book in a way that I had not had the time or opportunity to understand yet, and context is everything when understanding Mere Christianity. First, no matter how philosophical and academic Lewis seems to me, the academians of his time hated everything he stood for. They, the "realists," spent much of their time saying how people are "mere" groupings of atoms, how oceans are "mere" gatherings of water droplets, and the like. Mere Christianity is a rebuttal to this idea, and when you read the book you see that there is nothing "mere" about it. Secondly, I, as someone who has grown up in a Christian environment and am still largely surrounded by believers, have had very little experience talking to athiests, and can benefit from the apologetic viewpoint. On the one hand, apologetics are not the Gospel. On the other hand, they can help someone who sees Christianity as ridiculous to recognize that it is reasonable, and maybe even consider picking up a Bible. The audience Lewis spoke to was an unbelieving one, in terror of WWII and in utter rejection of biblical Christianity--most of them products of their postmodern society. His argument is meant to help these people see a glimpse or glimmer of what may await them in Christ. As for the message of the book itself, it is incredibly orderly and covers everything from the Moral Argument for the existence of God to the way a Christian believer may realize his full potential. Lewis uses his gift for metaphor to animate many difficult ideas in beautiful ways. He makes many strong and amazing statments based firmly in biblical truth. There are, as I mentioned, a couple of tendencies toward error in the subjects of free will and evolution that chafed a bit, but I noticed in Surprised by Joy (which was written later) that Lewis pays due honor to God's sovereignty in salvation, and I am assured by my professor friend that his views on evolution changed also. And, in the end, none of us understands God perfectly until we meet him face to face. In the mean time, this book was very beneficial and a real blessing. I look forward to reading about his later life in Letters to an American Lady, and getting to know the everyday C.S. Lewis better. (less)
Some books should be able to have a higher plane for ratings than ordinary books. For example, the Bible should get "infinity" stars. It's not even on...moreSome books should be able to have a higher plane for ratings than ordinary books. For example, the Bible should get "infinity" stars. It's not even on a continuum with other literature. And this book, while not in the same realm as the Bible, is so firmly grounded in Truth as to be more powerful than any other devotional work I have encountered. I will never stop reading it as a part of my own devotional times--it is immensely rich with an intermingling of solid, deep doctrine and heartfelt emotion which so clearly reflects the faith of the Apostles and church fathers. This collection is a blessing. (less)
My initial purpose for reading this book was to get a better perspective of the man who wrote Mere Christianity. What had been the factors in his life...moreMy initial purpose for reading this book was to get a better perspective of the man who wrote Mere Christianity. What had been the factors in his life that had made him the man he was, and who indeed was he? I had no idea from the simple language and many metaphors of Mere Christianity that the man Lewis was so cerebral and INTIMIDATINGLY well-read. In fact, if I were to write my own subtitle for this book, for humorous purposes only, it would be "You Can Never Read as Much as C.S. Lewis." But that would be only part of the point. ;) I say "part of the point" because Lewis' reading really did play a key role in the intellectual and spiritual journey that brought him to Christ. What gave him the feeling of longing he described as Joy? Reading. What helped to convince him that atheism was unreasonable (in addition to key friendhips)? Reading. And on, and on, through his journey, the reflections of God's truth that he recognized as Joy came to him through the written word (in addition to rhetorical banter with a few good friends), and also through nature. The lessons he learned through his reading and also through his experiences with nature were to "close his mouth, open his eyes and ears, and take in what there is." This lesson was much harder for him to learn in his philosophy of life, but the book shows how God's faithful hand guided him to that final point of submission, when he finally realized the futility and shame of resisting the call of Christ. I'm not going to lie--this book is quite heady. There were pages I had to read three times before I even thought I'd assimilated it. But the book reflected Lewis at each stage of his journey, and in the end his philosophical musings took a back seat to the truth that Joy is simply a guidepost--a reflected glory of the One behind it--and the business of journeying heavenward must be his new occupation. P.S. I also got a few more books for my "to-read" list out of the deal, which had been of great influence in Lewis' life. :)(less)
John MacArthur is truly an annointed preacher and commentator. I have been studying 1 Corinthians for the past couple of months during my devotional t...moreJohn MacArthur is truly an annointed preacher and commentator. I have been studying 1 Corinthians for the past couple of months during my devotional times, and I was using this and one other very respected commentary to help me understand context issues. This one really surpassed the other because of MacArthur's amazing attention to historical context as well as Scriptural context. After reading many of his comments, I see that this important book of the Bible really must be understood with lots of attention to historical and cultural details, or it will likely be misunderstood. The amount of study that obviously went into this commentary is astounding, and I highly recommend it. I am excited about looking into others of this series too. (less)
(Note--this book really hangs somewhere on the under-side of three stars for me. Also, this review is written from an orthodox Christian standpoint--I...more(Note--this book really hangs somewhere on the under-side of three stars for me. Also, this review is written from an orthodox Christian standpoint--I'm not qualified to offer any other.) "If God is good, why does he cause or allow us to experience painful circumstances? Perhaps he is not good. Or, perhaps he just isn't powerful enough to protect his creatures from pain." These are the difficult questions, natural to many of us, that C.S. Lewis attempts to address in this book. It is one of his earliest works as a Christian, predating Mere Christianity by three years. Because of this, and because he takes a mostly-apologetic stance rather than simply addressing what the Bible has to say about pain, a significant number of his ideas reflect his secular academic background imposing itself upon the supernatural. But I will start with the positives first: The chapter entitled "Divine Goodness" is truly excellent. It addresses the idea that God's goodness and the fact that He perfects his children through trials go hand-in-hand. It brings into perspective our cultural tendency to assume that God must be a "senile grandfather-type" who just wants everyone to have a good time. His arguments are intellectually and scripturally sound, and I believe this chapter can stand alone for many believers struggling with trials of various sorts. Secondly, I appreciated the times when Lewis qualified his views as "simply opinion," "a layman's ignorant perspective," "subject to correction by real theologians," etc. This is a message he sent often in Mere Christianity as well, and it shows a measure of humility that (from what I learned in Surprised by Joy) did not come naturally to him. On the other hand, in this early book, the places where Lewis so qualifies his opinions are rather few, and he presents some things as fact which most Christian theologians and a respectable number of scientists deny. Most prevalently, his belief in the Theory of Evolution permeates two chapters of this book--"The Fall of Man," and "Animal Pain." In the first, Lewis treats the Biblical account of Adam and Eve as a doctrine rather than a narrative, and posits that somewhere in the evolution of the species, mankind (in whatever number) were given souls and became "Paradisal Man." At some point, by some means, Paradisal Men fell. The tragic result of Lewis' false assumption is that he consequently has no understanding of the Scriptural concept of a federal head--"as 'in' Adam all died, so 'in' Christ we can be made alive together with Him." If Adam is just the mythical name for "Paradisal Man," that "in" really doesn't make any sense, and the word "in" is admittedly mysterious to Lewis. The second chapter (on "Animal Pain") argues that the animal species cannot have experienced its first pangs at the fall of man, since the evolutionary record shows us that carnivorous behavior in animals predates humanity. He posits that perhaps Satan, who seems to have fallen before the creation of mankind, might have corrupted creation first, and mankind second. Again, this completely ignores the narrative of biblical creation, which bears no trademarks of a parable or myth as far as Scripture goes. I realize it was not Lewis' intention to be cavalier about Scripture, and indeed many of us in modern Christendom have at one time or another been deceived by compromising doctrines that claim to be intellectually superior to orthodox Christianity. However, Lewis' belief in Evolution was not the only area this type of deception occurred. He also posited that, because Christ lived in a human body, with a human brain of an average size, He may well have spoken historical or scientific error without impugning his Deity. In this context, Lewis mentions that we might take as truth Jesus' teachings about the Devil because they don't contradict any verified scientific findings, only our cultural beliefs. Truly, it is a great mystery that Jesus "grew in wisdom" as well as in stature, and we know He was not always or perhaps ever omniscient in the body before being glorified at His resurrection, but we also know that He possessed knowledge well outside the reaches of the human intellect (many places in Scripture tell us that he knew people's thoughts), and I cannot easily count the number of references to the Christ as "perfect." Add to that the fact that Scripture declares itself to be perfect (2 Timothy 3:16), and it becomes clear that the idea of Jesus' having spoken error at all, and that error then being recorded forever to misdirect us in the infallible Word of God, is quite contrary to the precepts of our Faith. These compromises with the secular climate in which Lewis lived were disheartening, and at times as I read I actually felt sick to my stomach. The chapters that were neither excellent nor nauseating seemed at times beneficial and at times self-indulgent. I don't believe I would have felt so strongly if I didn't so respect the man God made Lewis as he continued his Christian life. I'm so thankful that his reliance on Scripture certainly grew as he matured in his walk, and his likeness to the world around him lessened. I reassert the value of the chapter entitled "Divine Goodness," but urge extreme caution and a discerning eye when reading the rest.