C. S. Lewis lived from 1898 to 1963. During his lifetime, he wrote over thirty books. One of his most popular books is Mere Christianity. Mere Christianity is broken up into four books ranging from twenty-five to seventy-five pages. Content for each of the books came from a series of radio broadcasts between 1942 and 1944. They read like a conversation instead of an essay. In Book One, C. S. Lewis seeks to explain the Law of Human Nature. He says that everyone appeals to some kind of standard of behavior that no one can keep. He shows how people make excuses for their behavior as if there is a standard.
Lewis also says this “Moral Law” is not an instinct, social convention, or a result of education. When two instincts conflict, the stronger one should win. However, there seems to be a third thing which makes people side with the weaker impulse even if it is “good or bad. ” Lewis says moral law can be taught, but the core of it is found in every civilization. Lewis furthers his argument for moral law when he shows that some people feel their morals are better than those of others. This shows that there has to be some standard people are appealing to.
There are materialist and religious views on this higher standard. Science cannot prove or disprove what or who wants us to behave. The moral law does not follow other laws of nature in that it is what humans should do, not necessarily what they do. Perhaps this is because good behavior is not always convenient and bad behavior sometimes is. According to Lewis, Christianity begins to make sense under these circumstances. Humans are under the law but we break it. If we confess our sins, then we receive forgiveness. It is as if God is directing the universe.
In Book Two, C. S. Lewis discusses Christian beliefs and where they differ. He begins by saying humanity can be divided into the majority who believe in God or god(s), and the minority who do not. From there, it can be divided by the kind of god(s) people believe in. For example, in Dualism, there is a good and a bad independent power. For people to determine which is good or bad, there must be a higher standard created by someone bigger than those two powers. Lewis makes the statement that Christianity is not as simple as it seems, yet it makes sense because it is a good world gone bad.
God created people with free will. We can be in his will one way, but in another way, be outside of his will. According to Lewis, arguing with God is no use though because he is the source of reasoning ability. People who try to set up happiness outside of God, always fail. We are fallen. That is why the fundamental Christian belief that Christ died to give people a fresh start is so important. Lewis says that only a bad person needs to repent and only a good person can repent perfectly. Baptism, belief, and the Lord’s supper connect us to God.
He makes people good because he loves them. He operates through the body of Christ. According to Lewis, God is the only way. In Book Three, Lewis talks about Christian behavior. He says morality is concerned with three things. They are harmony within an individual, harmony between individuals, and the purpose for which individuals are created. Lewis says there are seven virtues. Cardinal virtues are prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. Theological virtues are faith, hope, and charity. In Book three, Lewis discusses social morality like caring for orphans and the needy.
He discusses sexual morality and how it has been misused and perverted. He talks about how Christian marriage which is the union between one man and one woman for life. Lewis talks about forgiveness. We are to forgive because we have been forgiven. However, forgiveness does not remove consequences for our actions. Lewis talks about the great sin of pride and the need for humility. He also discusses psychoanalysis and its direct contradiction to Christianity. Morals are there to guide and protect us, not to stop our fun. Book Four is titled Beyond Personality: Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity.
C. S. Lewis believes that theology is important because it is the “science of God. ” He says “any man would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about him” (page 153). Theology is practical. Lewis talks about the differences in God “making” us but “begetting” his son. He talks about God being a personal God. He discusses the trinity. He says that God is love. For him to have always been love, he would of loved his son before we were created. C. S. Lewis said that God is not in time, he is now. He is simultaneous, not sequential.
That is why he can listen to so many prayers at one time. God is active. C. S. Lewis puts it this way: “God is not a static thing-but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life-almost a kind of drama” (page 175). God breathes vibrance into his “body. ” The body of Christ is made up of people with different purposes. Lewis compares the body of Christ to organs. The body mirrors Christ. Christianity is hard and easy. It is about transformation, not comparison. When Christians fall, Christ picks them up. It is imperative that the book is read in its historical context.
Kathleen Norris, who wrote the forward said, “Lewis seeks in Mere Christianity to help us see religion with fresh eyes, as a radical faith whose adherents might be likened to an underground group gathering in a war zone, a place where evil seems to have the upper hand, to hear messages of hope from the other side. ” C. S. Lewis gave his broadcasts between 1942 and 1944, basically in the middle of a war. On September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler invaded Poland. Two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Then in 1940, rationing began in Britain.
Rationing is allowing each person to only have a certain amount. People would have a limited amount of food, clothes, and other things that would usually be easily accessible. May 10, 1940, Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain’s position of Prime Minister in the UK. Churchill was a strong leader during the war. The German “Blitzkrieg,” meaning “lightning war” was continuing to take Britain’s cities. In 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and as a result, the United States joined the war. During 1942, Singapore, which belonged to the British, fell to the Japanese.
The mass murder of Jews at Auschwitz (A German concentration camp) began. In 1943, British and Indian forces were fighting the Japanese in Burma (Located between India and China). On June 6, 1944 (Also known as D’Day), the allied invasion of France occurred, and the French were liberated. In 1945, the British went further into Burma. On May 7, Germany surrendered. That day is known as VE day which stands for Victory in Europe day. Finally on August 14th, Japan surrendered after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
Clement Attlee also won the general election in the UK and replaced Churchill. The context and events that surround Mere Christianity are of great depth. Kathleen Norris says “We can only wonder about the metaphors that connected so deeply with this book’s original audience; images of our world as enemy-occupied territory, invaded by powerful evils bent on destroying all that is good. ” It must of been so odd to turn on the radio and hear Lewis bringing the message of hope and light to a world that was filled with pain and sadness. One of C. S. Lewis’ broadcasts survived the war.
Upon listening, he speaks with a tone of simplicity and hope. That tone is also shown in his book. It is as if he thinks that what Christians believe is more important than anything. C. S. Lewis was born into an Irish Anglican family. He was always taken to church, but he found the message of Christianity “uninspiring. ” When his mother passed away, he began to think God was cruel and later began believing that there was no God at all. When Lewis later converted to Christianity, he joined the Church of England. He served in the trenches of World War I. Then, in World War II, he served as an air raid warden.
He also gave talks to men in the Royal Air Force. Lewis knew it would not take many missions before the men were declared dead or missing. As a result, he was “prompted” to talk about suffering, pain, and evil. This is why Lewis was asked by the BBC to give the broadcasts. Because Lewis is so well rounded, it is difficult to point out biases. In Mere Christianity, he wanted to focus on the “core of Christianity” and he put a great deal of effort into making that happen. He sent copies of Book Two to four clergymen-an Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic.
He tried his best to make sure his information was correct and that he did not have any denominational biases. The Methodist clergyman thought he did not say enough about faith and the Roman Catholic clergyman thought he spoke to much about the “comparative unimportance of theories in the explanation of atonement. ” Other than that, Lewis was able to accomplish his goal. Lewis also mentions atheism in his book. However, it is used in reference to his arguments as an atheist and why he changed his mind. Modern day readers may have some trouble getting into the book because although it is conversationally written, the English is not as modern.
Lewis also is repetitive and detailed in an effort to build his argument. One can appreciate though that Lewis does not claim to be perfect. He says he is “neither high nor low. ” C. S. Lewis was a leading writer in his time and still remains one today. His book Mere Christianity sits on the shelves of many modern-day pastors. Millions of copies have been sold worldwide. Mere Christianity is interesting to believers and non believers alike who want to know the core beliefs of Christianity. Anthony Burgess in a New York Times review said “C. S. Lewis is the ideal reader for the half-convinced, for the good man who would like to be a Christian but finds his intellect getting in the way. ”
The way Lewis explains and defends Christianity is exceptional. Lewis also has the ability to create analogies that help the reader understand the complexity of Christianity. While explaining how Christians see good he says “He (Christian) does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it” (page 63).
Mere Christianity also includes C. S. Lewis’ famous trilemma. Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or he was the Lord. Each of these three each seem crazy, but makes a good point. The trilemma is very popular with Christian apologists. Lewis challenges Christian readers to practice humility, forgiveness, charity, hopefulness, and faith. He says “Give up yourself, and you will find your real self… look for Christ and you will find him” (page 227). The quality of Lewis’ Mere Christianity is powerful and brilliant. He allows readers to walk with him as he shares Mere Christianity.