Bret James Stewart's Reviews > Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
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really liked it

I am reviewing the 1980 edition of this book. When I bought it online, I did not realize it was a revised edition with segments from other books. This is a shame because I always prefer the complete edition of any book. Getting the wrong edition, however, was entirely my fault, so I will not dock the book's rating for my error.

I have long been curious as to the title, Mere Chrisitianity. What could it mean? Well, it can mean a lot of things, but what it does mean is "Simple" Christianity. Lewis is writing to connect with the everyday reader in order to describe the faith in layman's terms anyone can theoretically understand. I think he has succeeded in this task. He uses many commonplace analogies in the book that allow the reader to relate to his proposals.

This edition is broken up into four sections. The first is entitled "Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe." In it, he uses examples from the general revelation such as the universality of moral codes as an argument for the existence of God. The second section, "What Christians Believe," deals with the basic ideas of the faith such as the problem of evil (a result of free will, broadly speaking). The third section, "Christian Behaviour," addresses model Christian attributes and actions, dealing with things such as virtue and morals. There is some correlation with this portion and the first section, but it is not a mere (!) rehash of the latter. The fourth section, "Beyond Personality: Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity," as the title implies, deals with the attributes and distinctions of the three facets of the Holy Trinity. This section is a little harder to understand, at least from my perspective, but Lewis does a good job explaining this difficult element of the religion.

My favourite and least favourite chapters/arguments of the book were the first and last. In the first chapter, “The Law of Human Nature,”Lewis uses the general revelation to appeal to people. I feel this is appropriate and a good place to start since it is an experience with which everyone is familiar (which is not the same as saying everyone’s view of it is identical). This provides common ground and a great jumping off point for arguing God exists. Lewis mentions everyday examples such as arguing over [train?] seats and the similarity of moral teachings throughout the history of civilized nations, among other things, as evidence that all people share the same basic impulses regardless of the society in which they live and, more importantly, as grounds for proving there is some sort of moral standard present in the universe. I think appeals to the general revelation are effective for open-minded people. They are also, in the sense of shared experience, easier for the non-Christian to understand.

In the last chapter, “The New Men,” Lewis uses evolution as a springboard for describing the “evolution” of men from the regular sort of people we have now to Christians, who would be the evolved form of the “superman.” Although I do not think this analogy is necessarily wrong, I do think it to be rather ineffective. First, evolution, from the scientific standpoint, is greatly opposed to Christianity, at least in practice. I do acknowledge this oppositional stance between the concepts may have been less distinct in Lewis’ day, but I do think bringing in two opposing viewpoints makes it harder for a non-Christian to sift through the arguments of the systems. Also, I think the concept of comparison fails at the fundamental level as salvation is very unlike evolution. The Christian is transformed into a “new creature” as II Corinthians 5:17 states. If becoming Christian was a result of or evidence for evolution, one would expect the process to take a long time and be a natural result of living. I do not fault Lewis for using the example—perhaps he is writing specifically for those who believe in evolution—rather, I simply think it the least effective argument present.

This is a great book. I highly recommend it to anyone who is seeking to learn more about the faith in an easy to understand formatte. Lewis' book is clear and mostly simple. Of course, the same sort of book could benefit anyone needing a refresher composed in a concise way without theology and jargon cluttering up the text. Further, I think this book, used properly, could serve as an evangelistic tool providing the basics of the faith without any denominational slant. Lastly, for those of you like me, you'll just want to read it because C.S. Lewis wrote it. In honour of the man, I smoked my pipe while I read.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
February 20, 2014 – Shelved

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