C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity came at a timely point in my life. Lent started; church was hard. COVID-19 happened; church was banned. Then, I decided to pick up this book, because not going to church was easy, and staying away from church felt normal.
So I was faced with what is part apology for Christianity and part challenge to become a Christian. The part of me that really likes where I’m at right now resisted this challenge, but the quiet part of me that used to really love going to church started to raise its head. It reminded me that at one point I wanted change in my life, and that the good things I have right now are gifts that even several months ago I was begging to have. All that is to say, this book had an impact on me.
Mere Christianity consists of three parts. The first is about the challenge which the existence of morality essentially poses, the second is about Christian morality particularly, and the third is a sort of explanation of basic Christian doctrines.
In the first part, I found Lewis’ critique of Dualism insightful, as I had not thought about the fact that by labeling one power “good” and the other “evil” we are essentially passing judgment on them. His ideas about the source of the idea of good being an Entity (Person) above all of us which guides us rather than forces us to do things made a lot of sense to me.
The second part I found easiest to read of all three, as I have grown up Christian and much of what he wrote was already familiar to me. Here he introduced the idea that in order to practice love (the most essential of all Christian virtues), you really need to do exactly that: practice. One does not start out by being able to love perfectly, but by practising love of neighbor and by practising love of God one can get better at it.
This sort of theme of you don’t start out perfect was continued in the third part. We are commanded to be perfect, yet we are not perfect; the reconciliation of this occurs when we give ourselves fully to Christ and allow Him to make us perfect through the “good infection” of His presence. One point Lewis kept making here is that we do not become Christians to become nice people but to become good men.
Once there was a time a couple years ago when I started reading this book. I did not get very far that time. Reading it now, it has moved me and caused me to think in a way that would not have been possible when I originally tried to read it. It is so nice to read a book about theology that was written in my native language and not in a translation of the Greek; the Fathers of the Church can teach us so much, but often the language is not as natural as what I found in Mere Christianity.
As is so often the case, this book entered my life exactly when it needed to, and I am very grateful for that. Lewis reminded me of faith and challenged what little I have, and I hope that this book will continue to make me think more deeply about the nature and challenge of Christianity.
(This book is 1/50 for my 50 Classics in 5 Years Challenge.)