20/02/2016

Mere Christianity (by CS Lewis)

As a child some of my favourite books were the Narnia septology by CS Lewis. So I was delighted to find, as a teenager, that he had also written several non-fiction books as well as a sci-fi trilogy. I read my way through my parents’ editions of his work, and over the years have gradually collected them myself.

It’s been a long time since I last read ‘Mere Christianity’. It was originally the transcript of some radio talks Lewis gave in the 1940s on the subject of faith in general and Christian belief; I gather it was then edited, to make it all more readable, and in my book is in four different sections. When I first read this book I was blown away by the writing, the logic and Lewis’s conclusions. I did not see how anyone could read it and not see the reality of God.

Reading it again, decades later, I’m able to perceive a few flaws here and there, and that much of what he says is now quite dated. That’s not unreasonable with content that’s around seventy years old; indeed, what strikes me more is how up-to-date it is, overall, and what a very clear thinker Lewis was. He presents his case respectfully, beginning with the idea of a ‘moral code’ to which the majority of people, whatever their religion (or lack of religion) would aspire to.

He rejects humanism and other secular systems for what seem to me to be excellent reasons, and introduces several possible theories, from a general life-force through to the personal God of Christianity. He admits how reluctant he was to acknowledge God as real, and what a struggle it was for him to believe, and I find the writing convincing and also encouraging.

There’s a section on sins - again, very relevant to modern Christianity, pointing out that ‘sins of the flesh’ are not nearly as dangerous as sins of the mind such as pride or intolerance. It’s a message that many would benefit from reading, in my view. I found it thought-provoking and read no more than a couple of short chapters per day, as there was so much to ponder.

The final section is about the transformation that comes from Christ, and explains why there are some unbelievers who are a great deal nicer than many believers. I found this also to be relevant and also refreshing.

Not all Christians agree with CS Lewis’s standpoints; many perceive him as ‘liberal’, and some of his beliefs (such as his strong patriotism) jar a little at times. But I still rate him as one of the clearest exponents of belief for ordinary people, from an academic standpoint yet in the kind of language that’s accessible to all.

Very highly recommended.  This has been almost continually in print since it was first published, so there are many second-hand editions available as well as new ones; it can now be bought in Kindle format too.

Review by copyright 2016 Sue's Book Reviews

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