Review: Mere Christianity

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Mere Christianity
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a public apologetic for Christianity based on the author’s radio addresses during World War II. Thinking of Lewis riding the train from Oxford to London, while London was being bombed, to deliver these addresses on the radio is astonishing. He was asked to do this and it was an effort to unite a country at war. This was behind Lewis’ objective of “mere” Christianity. He took the term from the Puritan Richard Baxter who used it to refer to essential Christian doctrine, or the essence or core of Christian faith. Lewis envisioned it as the lowest threshold by which any Christian profession had merit. So he wrote seeking commonality and avoiding the “denominational doctrines” that were sources of division. I can’t say I commend the approach.

Lewis was first a philosopher, so it’s not surprising his approach was more a reasoned approach than a biblically didactic approach. I don’t think we should reject a reasoned approach from the off, because to do so would be to suggest that reasoning, by that I mean the laws of reason, is contradictory to Scripture. We know that is not the case for Jesus commended the reasoning of the Pharisees concerning the weather (Matthew 16:1-4), but condemned their reasoning that was not joined with faith to discern the true sign before their eyes. Their problem wasn’t reasoning per se, but unbelief.

However, Lewis was not a theologian nor a pastor. He had definite holes and problems in his theology. At times he does make awful statements in terms of theology. His anti-calvinist shirt tails come untucked here and there, but he usually manages to get them shoved back in his trousers, but his belt could use a little more cinching. Lewis does understand something of practical Christianity. He knows something of Christianity in a tweed sport coat, a conductor’s cap, a mother’s apron, and a workman’s overalls. This is the area where I did the most highlighting as I read.

As a thinker and writer, Lewis is always worth reading. As an exegete and didact of the text of scripture, not so much. One can benefit from reading him, but one has to know how to read.

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