Mere Christianity

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.)

One thought on “Mere Christianity

  1. Great review! I struggled with Lewis’ writing style since I had not read many theology books and he is just such a genius, I felt like an idiot when I didn’t comprehend what he was saying. It made me feel insecure at first because I was reading it alongside my (at that point) new boyfriend (now husband) since it was a favorite of his. He helped me understand the parts that were difficult for me and I soon became more comfortable with Lewis’ lengthy sentences (that will go on for a whole page!) and imagery. One of my favorite quotes is:

    “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

    What a great way to think about the often painful and messy work of sanctification.


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