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Mere Christianity Paperback – Deckle Edge, April 21, 2015
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In the classic Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, the most important writer of the 20th century, explores the common ground upon which all of those of Christian faith stand together. Bringing together Lewis’ legendary broadcast talks during World War Two from his three previous books The Case for Christianity, Christian Behavior, and Beyond Personality, Mere Christianity provides an unequaled opportunity for believers and nonbelievers alike to hear this powerful apologetic for the Christian faith.
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“C. S. Lewis understood, like few in the past century, just how deeply faith is both imaginative and rational.” -- Christianity Today
“It is not surprising that Lewis’s time-proven views are still flourishing while most other mid-20th-century works are nearly neglected.” -- Wall Street Journal
From the Back Cover
One of the most popular introductions to Christian faith ever written, Mere Christianity has sold millions of copies worldwide. The book brings together C. S. Lewis's legendary broadcast talks of the war years, talks in which he set out simply to "explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times." Rejecting the boundaries that divide Christianity's many de-nominations, Lewis provides an unequaled opportunity for believers and nonbelievers alike to hear a powerful, rational case for the Christian faith. It is a collection of scintillating brilliance that remains strikingly fresh for the modern reader and at the same time confirms C. S. Lewis's reputation as one of the leading writers and thinkers of our age.
- Publisher : HarperOne; Revised & Enlarged edition (April 21, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 227 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0060652926
- ISBN-13 : 978-0060652920
- Reading age : 18 years and up
- Item Weight : 6.9 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.31 x 0.58 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Go buy this classic somewhere else.
By Josh Bowles on August 4, 2017
Go buy this classic somewhere else.
B2: Lewis begins with you do not have to believe that all other religions completely wrong. However, not surprisingly, he goes on to state that the basic premises of other religions which he calls pantheism are wrong and Christianity is right. He also states, “If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply a huge mistake. He also states that he was an atheist based on his observation that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust; not due to lack of evidence which is why I went from being a Christian to be an agnostic atheist. Assuming something is cruel and unjust implies an intelligent agent, I don’t see the universe this way. I see it as a dangerous place for humans, but it has no intent to harm humans; it is just not the right environment for us. We evolved to survive in very specific conditions. Lewis also states that he was “trying to prove that god did not exist...” Again, I cannot be certain that a god does not exist; but I am not convinced a god does exist because I do not have enough evidence to believe. So far Lewis has not provided any evidence of the existence of the god in which he believes. In the next section he mentions that atheism is too simple. In a way it is simple. I can’t believe the claims Christians make that a god exists because none of them have provided enough evidence to convince me their claim is true. Then he states he does not like simple religion. He feels people who believe it is simple must be wrong because the universe is not simple. He speaks in detail of Dualism, which is 2 forces in the universe; one good and one bad. Then goes on to say that it is about an all good god and a fallen angel (Satan). This section is pointless. How does Lewis know any of this information, which he just assumes is true, is actually true? Again, he MUST demonstrate the truth of these claims. In the 3rd section Lewis makes an interesting point regarding how Satan could be a power of evil in the world contrary to God’s will. He then provides the “Free Will” excuse. God provided free will to all the beings he created, which makes evil possible because god wants beings to love him on their own. The issue with this argument is, if you believe that god is all-knowing then he was aware of absolutely everything that ever has and ever will happen prior to creating the universe. If he is all powerful he had the power to create a world where all beings would come to him by choice. Or better yet, why doesn’t this god just have a direct loving relationship with every intelligent being he created, instead of hiding and expecting those beings to come to him. At the very end of this section and into the 4th section Lewis presents his well-known trilemma argument which has been used
ad nauseam by Christians. To summarize it states that Jesus could only be one of 3, a liar, a lunatic or the lord. Lewis has yet to demonstrate that the born of a virgin, miracle performing, parable spewing, rising from the dead character described in the bible existed in real life. Therefore, there is a 4th option: this character could simply be legend. Lewis goes on to state, “The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start.” So, what Lewis is saying is that god sent himself to earth, to be sacrificed to himself, to act as a loophole to rules he created. This makes no sense. Lewis tried to work around the argument of why god wouldn’t just forgive everyone but fails. Substitutionary atonement is nor moral. No one should take the punishment of another. The purpose of punishment is to teach the offender an important lesson, and this is lost if an innocent person takes that punishment in place of the offender. In the 5th section Lewis states that he believes that Jesus is god because he believes on His (Jesus) authority. This is circular reason. Jesus is god because in the bible Jesus says he’s god. He then goes on say that authority is what we use to determine what is true. He states, “Ninety-nine per cent of the things you believe are believe on authority.” This is factually inaccurate. I believe things because I am convinced by the evidence. It does not matter who provides that evidence. The evidence must be demonstrable, verifiable, and objective. Then Lewis speaks of the importance of accepting Jesus, “God is holding back to give us a chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.” This is a threat to either join god’s side or suffer the consequence of hell. Again, how does Lewis know this information is true?
B3: In section 1 Lewis discusses morality, I have covered most of this above. In this section Lewis and I come close to agreeing. Morality is a goal, and for humans the goal is human wellbeing. Lewis states, “Morality, then, seems to be concerned with three things. Firstly, with fair play and harmony between individuals. Secondly, with what might be called tidying up or harmonizing the things inside everyone. Thirdly, with the general purpose of human life as a whole: what man was made for.” The first 2 are about human wellbeing. The 3rd is about a god and eternal consequences. Lewis needs to demonstrate that human “souls” exist, are eternal and there is an afterlife. In section 2 Lewis speaks of 4 cardinal virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Justice and Fortitude. Prudence is being cautious which is a good thing. I am a cautious person. Temperance, per Lewis, means for all pleasures go to the right length and no further. I agree, any pleasure to excess can lead to problems. I follow this advice in my life. Justice, per Lewis, includes honesty, give and take, truthfulness, keeping promises, and all side of life. Again, I agree and live this way in my life. Fortitude, per Lewis, means facing danger well and sticking in even when there is pain. I live this way as well. In section 3 Lewis covers what a Christian society would look like. In section 4 Lewis speaks of antiquated psychology which he supported during his life. He does feel that homosexuality is wrong, and psychology may be able to “cure” this issue. I disagree with this assessment, but this opinion was common at that time. In section 5 Lewis speaks of sexual morality (chastity). To Lewis Chastity is the Christian rule, “Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.” I agree with being completely faithful to your partner. If you are not, it can cause great suffering for your partner, your family, your children, your friends, etc. However, consensual sexual interaction between consenting adults outside of marriage can be conducted without causing suffering to the parties involve. I don’t see this as immoral. In section 6 Lewis Christian marriage. He provides some good insight regarding the initial feeling of love and how it will fade with time. Couples should not separate because this feeling fades; but find happiness in each other and stay committed. I agree with this. Obviously, this is the preferred option for Christians and non-Christians alike. However, when there is suffering in the relationship there are times when divorce is necessary. Mental, emotional, and physical abuse can be one reason, infidelity is another. Protecting yourself and your children is imperative. Christians should NOT feel guilty, or feel they are sinning, if they divorce under these circumstances, regardless of what is taught by Christianity. Lewis feels the man should be the head of the household based on his religious belief. I find this ridiculous. Marriage is a partnership and all decisions should be made as a team. One person may be better equipped to make certain decision than the other based on knowledge and experience. That person should take the lead at that time. In section 7 Lewis speaks of forgiveness. I agree we should forgive others for actions which caused us to suffer. However, this is just a mean to let go of the anger we hold. Yet, that doesn’t mean we have to trust that person until that person demonstrates they are sorry, and they earn back trust. In section 8 Lewis speaks of pride. Lewis feels this is the “…the essential vice, the utmost evil…” The pride Lewis describes is feeling competitive, wanting to outdo others to prove to yourself that you are better. This kind of pride seems to stem from low self-esteem, which is not good for anyone. I agree that pride and low self-esteem are not good and people who suffer from them should seek help. In section 9 Lewis speaks of charity. Basically, Lewis defines charity as “Trying to treat everyone kindly…including people he could not even have imagined himself liking...” I agree. In section 10 Lewis speaks of hope which he calls “one of the theological virtues.” He states, “This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not…a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.” I disagree. Christians cannot know that an afterlife exists, the best they can do is hope it does. Later in the chapter Lewis states, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” This is just a silly claim. I may find I have a desire to be able to fly like superman, that doesn’t mean I was made for a comic book world, and that place exists. In section 11 Lewis speaks of faith which he states Christians have 2 definitions. The first is belief, accepting or regarding as true the doctrines of Christianity. The second is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, despite your changing moods. Lewis admits to having doubts as his mood changes. He emphasizes deliberately holding Christianity’s main doctrines before your mind for some time every day is very important. That includes daily prayers and religious reading and churchgoing. This is a way to continually remind of what you believe. To me this seems backward. If what you believe is true, and you understand why it is true, there is no need to continually remind yourself of what you believe and why you believe it. In section 12 Lewis continues with faith. He starts by saying that there are a great many things that cannot be understood until after you have gone a certain distance along the Christian road. Lewis spends most of this chapter attempting to explain having faith and doing good actions; you must have faith, to have god in you, which causes you to do good actions. I found this to be a bit convoluted. Ultimately humans do good works without faith in a god. Lewis has, and cannot, demonstrate that this god is somehow inside of us other than as a concept in our minds.
B4: In section 1 Lewis begins with stating that Theology as the science of god. This is an inaccurate statement. Theology is speculating about things for which there is no means to determine if they are true. Science is a method of determining facts about phenomena in our shared reality by using the scientific method. Lewis compares theology to a map of physical locations; but this is NOT an equivalent comparison. A map of physical locations can be demonstrated to be verifiably and objectively accurate. Theology can NOT be demonstrated to be accurate in any way. He goes on to make many claims about Jesus being not created but begotten by god, and therefore he is god. Lewis must demonstrate any of this is factually accurate, but he just assumes it is. In section 2 Lewis speaks of his 3-person god. Lewis at one-point states that god shows more of himself to some people than others because some people’s mind and character is in the wrong condition. This is a “No True Scotsman” fallacy. How can we determine who is in the right condition to hear more from god? The “right condition” is just an opinion of men and can vary from man to man. This also tells us that if god isn’t communicating to you, it is your fault. In section 3 Lewis speaks of time and how his god is outside of it, and therefore is not restricted by it. Lewis attempt to use this to dodge the issue that if a god is all knowing and all powerful, humans cannot have freewill. He states, “…suppose God is outside and above the time-line. In that case, what we call ‘tomorrow’ is visible to him in just the same way as what we call ‘today’. All the days are ‘now’ for him. He does not remember you doing thing yesterday; he simply sees you doing the, because though you have lost yesterday, he has not. He does not ‘foresee’ you doing things tomorrow, he simply sees you doing them: because, though tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for him… In a sense, he does not know your action till you have done it…” This argument does not follow. If god does not know your action until you have done it then he is NOT all knowing. If god does not know future events prior to them happening prophecy becomes impossible. In section 4 Lewis attempts to explain how god begot Jesus (and the holy spirit) yet all 3 have always existed. He provides a simple analogy: Of picturing something in your mind, let’s say a puppy. He states that the act of imagining something in your mind was the cause and the mental picture is the result. I disagree with this analogy. The act of imagining and the mental picture happen simultaneously; they are the same. Lewis goes on to speak of the holy spirit who acts through people, yet he makes no attempt to demonstrate that this being exists. In section 5 Lewis speaks of the “Natural Life”, which is just horrible, and compares it to a person who has become a genuine Christian (a spiritual life), which is wonderful. It is too bad this isn’t demonstrably true. How can we tell the difference between someone who is a genuine Christian and someone who believes he is but really isn’t? In section 6 Lewis speaks of the fall of man, where Adam and Eve didn’t do as god instructed and this was all due to god giving them free will. Yes, if he all knowing he would already have known this was going to happen prior to creating the universe. None of this makes any sense, unless this is just a story written by humans. The rest of this section is about why god just didn’t “beget” us all as his sons. The answer is just Lewis speculating. In Section 7 Lewis speaks of praying as “pretending to be Christ” while praying. He claims the real son of god will be next to you and helping to change you, apparently this is how you become “born again.” Reflecting on who you are and your good and bad actions on a regular basis is a good way to make changes in your life; no supernatural elements required. In section 8 Lewis claims that trying to make changes, in yourself, will not work (which is demonstrably wrong). He then claims the Christian way is the only way and involves killing your natural self. People change all the time regardless of religious belief. In section 9 Lewis continues the topic of changing. (*Note: he off handedly comments that masturbation is a sin – this is just wrong. Masturbation is completely natural and hurts noon and is perfectly healthy.) He states that if you go to god to help with one sin he may work on fixing all your sins. Lewis claims that god will not stop until you are perfect. What is this standard of “perfect”? How can it possibly take place while you are alive as perfection is not attainable for any human, unless your definition is weak. This is all subjective; it is your opinion that some supernatural force helping you to change. In section 10 Lewis mentions a very good question, “If Christianity is true why are not all Christians obviously nicer than all non-Christians?” From my perspective it is because people are people regardless of religious belief. Some people are nicer than others for many reasons. Religion does not magically make people nicer or better than others. Not to mention, different Christians interpret the bible differently which can lead to them being not nice. For instance, the bible states homosexuality is deserving of death and all atheist are fools. This taints Christian’s attitudes towards these people and can lead to them treating these people poorly. In section 11 Lewis (*Note: more than once in this book, including this chapter, Lewis seems to imply that he is accepting of an old universe and evolution by natural selection – I am pleasantly surprised) uses evolution to say men, in a spiritual perspective, will go from being creatures of god to sons of god. This chapter is a bit silly as evolution has nothing to do with people’s opinion of the existence of a god. But I guess Christians evolve into “new men” and can be recognized as such. They have “the mind of Christ.” This section gets a bit strange as Lewis goes on speaking of these people being imbued with some kind of god magic. Yet, at no point does he attempt to demonstrate this is the case. They may have grown as people, have made changes in their lives, and treat others differently but the magical parts must be demonstrated to be true.
For the non-believer, it is a great opportunity to get a bare-bones explanation of everything Christians believe. For the believer, it is a great help in understanding why you believe what you believe. Many Christians, without really realizing it, believe things without knowing why. Lewis's explanation of Christian doctrine from the ground up helps the Christian fill in the blank parts of their theological understanding.
There is not one single day in which an idea from this book doesn't pass through my mind, and I use logic from the book on a regular basis to explain what I believe and why. I would highly recommend this book.
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However, there is a section in the book that I strongly disagree with and which I believe could potentially mislead people, hence the low rating.
In the chapter entitled “The Great Sin” he speaks about “Pride” and mentions this is the “utmost evil” of all vices. He states that chastity (sexual morality), anger, greed, drunkenness’ etc are mere “flea bites” in comparison and I think that this could be a very dangerous statement to make.
To me it comes across that he is suggesting that, compared to pride, all these other sins are nothing. Ergo, if I am caught up in any of these carnal practices, it’s not really a major issue, as long as I’m not puffed up with pride!
I want to focus on “sexual immorality” because I believe that this is up there as one of the greatest sins that displeases God most and I will try to back up my comments based on what we find in Scripture.
Allow me to start with the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians:
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
We see that sexual immorality (fornication/adultery) is mentioned.
Let us now look to the words of our Saviour, Jesus Christ:
“Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man...”
Again sexual immorality (fornication/adultery) is mentioned.
In this next passage of Scripture Paul mentions that sexual immorality was the one of the reasons why many Israelites lost their lives:
“Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.”
1 Corinthians 10:8
When there was a dispute over whether the believers of the nations should adhere to the Jewish Law or not, the church leaders came to the decision that as long as they were to abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication “ye shall do well”
And, again, sexual immorality (fornication) is mentioned.
In the writings of Jude (A half brother of Jesus) he also speaks of the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrha that were destroyed by God because of “fornication” amongst other sins (Jude 1:7)
Now let’s go to the book of Revelation in which God the Father is speaking and warning us about the seriousness of sin and the eternal consequences that will face those who choose to disobey.
“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Once again, sexual immorality (whoremongers) is mentioned.
Let us just briefly go over a few more scriptures which mention about this particular sin:
1 Corinthians 6:18 tell us to “flee fornication;” 1 Thessalonians 4:3 states: “This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication;” Colossians 3:5-6 tells us to “put to death fornication” and explains that is one of the reasons why the wrath of God is coming; Ephesians 5:3-5 also mentions that fornicators will have no inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God; again Hebrews 13:4 tell us that “fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
Hebrews 12:16, Revelation 2:14, Revelation 2:20 all also mention fornication.
From the scriptures we’ve looked at I think it’s pretty clear that sexual immorality in particular is far from being a “flea bite” of a sin compared to pride. The Bible is literally saturated with warnings against this particular sin.
Now I’m not in any way trying to diminish the sin of pride - Pride is a MAJOR sin which God hates and could well be the greatest sin in the Bible - but what I am trying to do is show that sexual immorality is in fact also a very serious sin and one that can cause the wrath of God to be upon us, as is revealed to us in His word.
In summarising I think that Christian authors really need to be more careful with what they publish as they could potentially lead many down the wrong path and cause them to err in a great way.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.”
2 Corinthians 13:14
As a teen I was staunchly atheistic and proudly touted my allegiance to the Dawkins' and Hitchens' of the world, yet as the public discourse and political/cultural landscape shifts I, along with many people, have found a new level of patience and understanding with (Anglican?) Christianity.
CS Lewis shows tremendous wisdom and understanding in the manner which he breaks down core Christian tenets such as Charity, Marriage and Faith in such inventive, modern and sensible ways that you can't help but be swept along with the reasoning and depth with which he puts forward his explanations.
With Mere Christianity, Lewis is not looking to promote religion, or faith, but rather gently point out the many ways in which civilisation, emotion and human decency (and it's counter-part) are so fascinatingly intertwined, so no one should avoid this book fearing it to be a chest-thumping propaganda piece for the author's own religious views.
Overall, it's a beautiful book, well worth a read.
On the whole this isn't a preachy book. Around the middle of the book he does go into what Christians believe to be sin, but he does not glibly quote scriptures the way some Christian writers do. He is not out to prove that he is right or to convert people. Several times he points out that he is a layman, not a preacher and that he is only giving his opinion, based on his own thoughts on the subject.
Lewis begins by considering an apparently innate sense humans have of what is right or wrong, good or evil, which he calls “natural law“. This natural law seems to span all cultures throughout history. It is like the laws of physics, to which we are all subject, however whereas we are unable to break the laws of physics, we can choose break the natural law, by committing murder or stealing. Lewis draws certain conclusions from our knowledge of the law and our ability to break it, which the reader is able to accept or reject.
He then succinctly describes the distinction between the atheist, the theist and the pantheist, and how for those who believe in God theology is important. Theology in his view enriches faith and helps to guide us through, like a map helping you to reach your destination.
Up until page 195 I found this book excellent, and I even read the preface, and agreed wholeheartedly with almost everything he said. However thereafter he and I part company somewhat. Firstly because Lewis continued to believe in the theory of evolution, which I do not. He acknowledges that many intelligent people do not believe in it and is not disrespectful to those of us who don’t (as many are today), but his chapter based evolution is not one I can go along with.
Likewise, I can’t quite go along with his belief (shared by many Christians undoubtedly) that we must surrender our whole being to God in order to be redeemed - that Jesus wants to literally take us over, mind, body and soul, in order to save us. It just does not make sense to me that God would give us our lives and our freedom if he then wishes to take both from us. However there is plenty of scripture to support that point of view and although it seems to me to make the way back to God impossible for most of us, sadly it could be true.
Oh and one final thing that I didn't like about the book - something that many male writers are unfortunately guilty of - the constant use of "man" . It is very irritating if you just happen to be a woman! And there is really no excuse for it. But as I say Lewis is not alone in this - most scientific, historical and religious books refer to our species as "man" - and Lewis also says about becoming "sons of God" as if there is really no place for women in the kingdom of God - which I very much hope isn't true.
For a MUCH more enjoyable, challenging and inspiring Christian apologist may I recommend G K Chesterton's "Orthodoxy"!