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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Mere Christianity is a classic non-fiction book comprised of three radio broadcasts from the World War II era in Britain. WWII was a devastating time for people of the Christian faith and C.S. Lewis aired Broadcast Talks (1942), Christian Behaviour (1943) and Beyond Personality (1944) for the people and troops of Britain during the war. These three talks were put to paper and put together to make Mere Christianity. The book is made from three broadcasts, but it is divided logically into four books.

Book 1 is entitled "Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe". In this book, Lewis goes into the fundamental reasons why there is a God and that moral right and wrong, in its basic sense, is proof that God exists. He doesn't get much into the Creation vs. evolution debate although he does touch on it at times. Book 1, along with Book 2, are Lewis' strongest statements in favor of the Christian God and of Christianity.

Book 2, "What Christians Believe", is the argument of the central Biblical truth that Jesus Christ became man and actually died to atone for our sins. As an apologist (someone who systematically defends the faith with logic, reason and science), Lewis breaks down other non-Christian religions, shows that mankind cannot save itself from its own evil (referring to Book 1) and presents the solution to man's evil in the man of Jesus and his death for our sins and also what it takes to believe in the Christian way.

Book 3, "Christian Behaviour", describes what happens after you believe. How do you act as a Christian? Are you supposed to act different? How different are you supposed to act in relation to non-believers? Does that even matter? This book, in a way, revisits Book 1 and its descriptions of moral rights and wrongs, but under the light of a Christian life and not just for morality's sake. Some of the topics he covers in this chapter are social morality, Christian marriage, psychoanalysis, sexual immorality, faith, hope and charity.

In Book 4, entitled "Beyond Personality: Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity", builds on Book 3 in that it studies the way Christianity is spread, the Doctrine of the Trinity (one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and the cost to be a Christian. Is it hard or easy? Or both? This book deals with some harder and deeper topics in Christianity.

One of the themes that is found throughout Mere Christianity is that C.S. Lewis compares various topics in Christian belief to everyday occurrences and objects that we are very familiar with. But he almost always will note that there is a point where the analogy breaks down. In this, he shows that Christianity is unique in this world and when paired with the logic of God's existence, it is very compelling evidence.

In his preface, Lewis states that he intentionally is refraining from discussions that separate out different Christian denominations. That type of discussion would have been detrimental to any push for logic in Christianity. That doesn't change the fact that there are different Christian doctrines, but his focus with Mere Christianity was to nail down the central premises of Christian belief.

C.S. Lewis, after converting from atheism to theism and then to Christianity, championed apologetics to skeptics. In his many books, he tackles difficult problems that seem to go against the argument for a Christian life. He is most famous for his fantasy allegory of the Bible's central theme in The Chronicles of Narnia.