Book Review - Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

I just finished re-reading this modern classic in preparation for a class I will teach this summer at George Fox University titled Christian Faith and Thought. Mere Christianity is one of the main textbooks for the class - deservedly so.
A brilliant scholar at Oxford & Cambridge in the mid-20th century, Lewis' journey from a youth of dogged and aggressive atheism to a life of committed Christianity is well documented. What makes Lewis stand out is the role his mind played before, during and after his conversion.

In Mere Christianity, we get a marvellous look inside this mind. Lewis takes us on a tour of life's great questions, and reveals his own thought process during his atheistic youth, during his changing young adult years, and finally later as a committed Christian. From this tour, with its before-and-after contrast, we get a fantasic view of how to think in a disciplined manner through the big questions of life.

Some major benefits from reading this book:

  • The core tenets of the Christian worldview are explained and compared with popular alternatives. Christianity is validated as the best explanation of life as we know it through comparison, logic, and human experience; not through a priori assumptions about the Bible's veracity.
  • Non-Christian readers get a good explanation of the Christian faith that does not demean them or insult their intelligence. I think this is why so many people like Lewis: agree or disagree, one finds interacting with him emotionally nonthreatening, though intellectually rigorous.
  • Christian readers get a picture of what "thinking Christianly" looks like - something churches nowadays generally do not excel at, I'm sad to say. In an era of Christian practice where the role of the mind has gone out of style and personal feelings are heavily overvalued, Lewis presents a refreshing look how I believe God intends the mind to be used in the life of faith.
I think that last point is why this book has been such an enduring hit among Christians: paradoxically, it's popular because it's so novel in Christian circles. A quick walk down the aisle of a typical Christian bookstore reveals very little substance when comapared to Lewis. Authors don't write at that depth much anymore, because we readers generally don't buy their books if they do. And the lives of Jesus' followers are impoverished as a result.

This book is on my Top 5 recommended list (see my bookshelf to the right) for these reasons and more. If you haven't read Mere Christianity yet, consider putting it on your reading list. If you have but it's been a while, this may be a good time to consider giving it another read. This "movie" is definitely worth owning, and watching repeatedly every so often.


Ranjit said...

I've put this off for way too long. Going to get and read this book now!

Matt Guerino said...

Good man! Let's talk some Sunday about what you're getting out of it once you start the read.

Ken said...

On my most recent trip to Borders (or was it Barnes and Noble) I looked right at this book, but decided to get the Narnia collection instead. I'll have to pick up a copy on my next visit. I have some intellectual snobs in my life that poo-poo organized religion and think this would make for an interesting discussion.

Matt Guerino said...

If you can get them to read it, it WILL be an interesting discussion. Hopefully they'll be willing to, so that even if their personal views don't change, perhaps they'll realize that religious belief isn't quite the irrational nonsense some assume it to be.

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