“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Many of you already know how much I love C.S. Lewis. I’ve read all of his work, including his published essays, letters, and even his Latin letters. I have a profound debt of gratitude to C.S. Lewis. His books have shaped the way I understand and approach philosophy, theology, and oddly enough sociology. Even though Lewis wasn’t Catholic, he was a significant influence on my path to Rome. His theology is deeply rooted in the Catholic faith, and I have no doubt that if Lewis was alive today he would be horrified by the Anglican church’s abandonment of orthodoxy—but that’s an entirely different topic! Today I want to discuss Mere Christianity.
What I find most interesting about Mere Christianity is that Lewis never intended for it to become a book. What we know today as Mere Christianity began as a series of radio broadcast talks Lewis presented during WWII. In Surprised By Joy, Lewis talks about his early childhood and how he became an atheist. He was intimately familiar with natural and logical objections to Christianity. Objections from experiencing pain and loss that led Lewis to ask the age-old question: how could a benevolent God allow this or that to happen? Anyone who has seriously considered having faith in any religion has asked these questions.
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
When you read Mere Christianity it will feel more like a long walk with Lewis through Magdalen’s beautiful gardens. As a convert himself, Lewis takes the reader by the hand and walks them through a logical progression—the same progression that led him to Christianity. Each page is conversational; Lewis begins with explaining human nature, the law, and our ability to discern between right and wrong. It’s obvious he was inspired by the conversational aesthetic and style of Aristotle. However, unlike Aristotle, Lewis had a gift for dumbing down complex truths and arranging them to be immensely comprehensive, and so natural you wonder why you had never thought of it before.
All that we call human history–money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery–[is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
In nearly every preface C.S. Lewis repeatedly reminds his readers that he is not a theologian. He states very clearly and kindly that he is merely explaining theology in laymen’s terms, but it’s here that I disagree with him. There’s something magical about taking profound theological truths and discussing them in such a way that anyone–even of average intelligence–understands it.
There are specific formalities theologians follow when teaching theology and most of the time Lewis steps out of usual theologian primness. He does it because it is too stuffy, too formal for everyday conversation and theology should be at the heart of every conversation, every act of kindness, every word we say or think.
To take theology—the study of God—and discuss it in such a way to make it conversational and understandable for anyone is remarkable. Mere Christianity gets to the heart of what it means to be a Christian and why it is the most reasonable choice. It’s hard to choose, but I think the best point Lewis makes in Mere Christianity is what it means to live like a Christian. Modern Christianity focuses a lot on what to believe, which is important—butwhat does Christianity actually look like?
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis has painted a portrait of what the Christian life should look like, which I think will be of infinite value for the Church for ages to come.
Have you read Mere Christianity? What are your thoughts?