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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Mere Christianity by CS Lewis

  • "I hope no reader will suppose that "mere" Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions — as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall, I have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think preferable."  - CS Lewis
CS Lewis was arguably the most powerful Christian apologist of the twentieth century. For those not familiar with what an apologist does, please don't be confused. Lewis' work didn't do for Christianity what Barak Obama did for US foreign policy. Lewis did not apologize for Christianity, for what it was or for what it has done. Unlike Obama's abject apologies for America and its success, Lewis fiercely defended the cause of Christ against all comers.

CS Lewis, an unimposing Oxford don and teacher of English literature was an unlikely defender of the Christian faith. Irish-born Lewis, embittered by the loss of his mother at an early age and years in the increasingly agnostic English boarding schools of his early education, Lewis did a stint in the Army during the First World War. He spent time in a hospital after he was gassed by the Germans and treated to the full horrors of trench warfare. On recovery, he went back to school and finished his transition to confirmed atheism. He even published a book of poetry expressing his skeptical atheism and his unhappiness with Christianity as a system of thought.

Later, in part due to his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien, a devout Catholic and later author of The Lord of The Rings, and fellow Inkling and firm Christian, Hugo Dyson, Lewis became a Christian. He had come to see that what he had earlier dismissed as plagiarism by Christianity was, in fact, convincing evidence that the Christian myth might actually be the truth after all. Lewis called himself "the most reluctant convert in all Christendom", but when he did convert, he came with all his heart and with all his not inconsiderable mind.

Mere Christianity is not a theological treatise. It conceives of Christianity as a whole as a great hall into which all are invited. He sets aside the problem of the multiple denominations into which Christianity is fractured as equivalent to rooms off the main hall. His purpose, he declares, is to bring you into the hall.

Inclusive brands of Christianity find much to applaud in Lewis' powerful arguments in favor of Christianity. Exclusivist Christian sects will no doubt condemn him in any place they can find him unorthodox. Lewis believed in Christ, not in sets of iron-clad doctrines. Like me, Lewis believed God to be powerful enough to find and save any honestly seeking Christian. While Lewis used magic as a metaphor for truth-seeking in his novels and books, he was not into mysticism as a shortcut to truth.

Lewis sought the truth in his Christian walk and where he was fuzzy on specifics, he sought to express the truth in metaphor and symbols. His clarity of reasoning where he is certain on a point, is stunning. I found myself reading his books and going, "Yes!" Exactly, what I thought. I just couldn't put it into the words I was looking for. Lewis' writing is dense, but not in the academic sense. He, rather, has the ability to thoroughly cover an idea in a comparatively short paragraph what many Christian writers spend chapters explaining not half so well.

Lewis is one of the most widely quoted Christian authors of the age. This is because his sentences convey such rich meaning in such a clear and succinct way. When you read Mere Christianity, Try to remember you are entering the great hall. Save having others for your theological lunch for the rooms "...where there fires and chairs and meals."

Highest marks for this ground-breaking book.

© 2017 by Tom King
© 2017 by Tom King

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