Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity

4.4 375
by C. S. Lewis

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The most popular of C. S. Lewis' works of nonfiction, Mere Christianity has sold several million copies worldwide. It brings together Lewis' legendary broadcast talks of the war years, talks in which he set out simply to "explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times." Rejecting the boundaries that divide

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The most popular of C. S. Lewis' works of nonfiction, Mere Christianity has sold several million copies worldwide. It brings together Lewis' legendary broadcast talks of the war years, talks in which he set out simply to "explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times." Rejecting the boundaries that divide Christianity's many denominations, Lewis finds a common ground on which all Christians can stand together, and provides an unequaled opportunity for believers and nonbelievers alike to hear a powerful, rational case for their faith. It is a collection of scintillating brilliance that remains strikingly fresh and confirms C. S. Lewis' reputation as one of the leading writers and thinkers of our age.

Editorial Reviews

Sunday Patriot News Harrisburg
This is an incredibly lucid and unprejudiced work... Read slowly and carfully by Geoffrey howard, the audio version is an easy way to follow Lewis' reasoning.
PA) Sunday Patriot News (Harrisburg
This is an incredibly lucid and unprejudiced work... Read slowly and carfully by Geoffrey howard, the audio version is an easy way to follow Lewis' reasoning.
John Updike
I read Lewis for comfort and pleasure many years ago, and a glance into the books revives my old admiration.
Anthony Burgess
C. S. Lewis is the ideal persuader for the half-convinced, for the good man who would like to be a Christian but finds his intellect getting in the way.
New York Times Book Review
New Yorker
If wit, and wisdom, style and scholarship are requisites to passage through the pearly gates, Mr. Lewis will be among the angels.
Chad Walsh
Apparently this oxford don and Cambridge professor is going to be around for a long time; he calls himself a dinosaur but he seems to speak to people where they are. —The Washington Post Book World
Los Angeles Times
Lewis, perhaps more than any other twentieth-century writer, forced those who listened to him and read his works to come to terms with their own philosophical presuppositions.
Times Literary Supplement
He has a unique power for making theology an attractive, exciting, and fascinating quest.
The point about reading C. S. Lewis is that he makes you sure, whatever you believe, that religion accepted or rejected means something extremely serious, demanding the entire energy of mind.
Library Journal
The late Lewis, Oxford professor, scholar, author, and Christian apologist, presents the listener with a case for orthodox Christianity. This is definitely not the shouting, stomping, sweating, spitting televangelist fare so often parodied; Lewis employs logical arguments that are eloquently expressed. He describes those doctrines that the four major denominations in Britain (Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic) would have in common, e.g., original sin, the transcendent Creator God, and the divinity of Jesus as well as his atonement and bodily resurrection. Geoffrey Howard reads both works, and his performance is superb; he is clear and unhurried, giving just the right emphasis and/or inflection. The volume on the Blackstone edition is recorded at a higher level than HarperAudio's. Otherwise there were no perceived differences in the recordings. If your institution can afford it, the Blackstone production would be preferred because of its sturdy case and the announcement of side changes. Whether or not one agrees with Lewis's arguments, it is a pleasure to hear such a skillful reading of an eloquent work. Public libraries as well as institutions that teach religion/theology or speech should consider. Michael T. Fein, Central Virginia Community Coll., Lynchburg Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Books & Culture
“As we witness Lewis develop we find that these volumes are working as a kind of unconscious autobiography.”
Christianity Today
“C. S. Lewis understood, like few in the past century, just how deeply faith is both imaginative and rational.”

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Mere Christianity

Chapter One

The Law of Human Nature

Every one has heard people quarrelling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kind of things they say. They say things like this: 'How'd you like it if anyone did the same to you?' — 'That's my seat, I was there first' — 'Leave him alone, he isn't doing you any harm' — 'Why should you shove in first?' — 'Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine' — 'Come on, you promised.' People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.

Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man's behaviour does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behaviour which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: 'To hell with your standard.' Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that something has turned up which lets him off keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behaviour or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And theyhave. If they had not, they might, of course, fight like animals, but they could not quarrel in the human sense of the word. Quarrelling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are; just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless there was some agreement about the rules of football.

Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature. Nowadays, when we talk of the 'laws of nature' we usually mean things like gravitation, or heredity, or the laws of chemistry. But when the older thinkers called the Law of Right and Wrong 'the Law of Nature', they really meant the Law of Human Nature. The idea was that, just as all bodies are governed by the law of gravitation, and organisms by biological laws, so the creature called man also had his law — with this great difference, that a body could not choose whether it obeyed the law of gravitation or not, but a man could choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it.

We may put this in another way. Each man is at every moment subjected to several different sets of law but there is only one of these which he is free to disobey. As a body, he is subjected to gravitation and cannot disobey it; if you leave him unsupported in mid-air, he has no more choice about falling than a stone has. As an organism, he is subjected to various biological laws which he cannot disobey any more than an animal can. That is, he cannot disobey those laws which he shares with other things; but the law which is peculiar to his human nature, the law he does not share with animals or vegetables or inorganic things, is the one he can disobey if he chooses.

This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought that every one knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it. They did not mean, of course, that you might not find an odd individual here and there who did not know it, just as you find a few people who are colour-blind or have no ear for a tune. But taking the race as a whole, they thought that the human idea of decent behaviour was obvious to every one. And I believe they were right. If they were not, then all the things we said about the war were nonsense. What was the sense in saying the enemy were in the wrong unless Right is a real thing which the Nazis at bottom knew as well as we did and ought to have practised? If they had had no notion of what we mean by right, then, though we might still have had to fight them, we could no more have blamed them for that than for the colour of their hair.

I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behaviour known to all men is unsound, because different civilisations and different ages have had quite different moralities.

But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference. If anyone will take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Hindus, Chinese, Greeks and Romans, what will really strike him will be how very like they are to each other and to our own. Some of the evidence for this I have put together in the appendix of another book called The Abolition of Man; but for our present purpose I need only ask the reader to think what a totally different morality would mean. Think of a country where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. You might just as well try to imagine a country where two and two made five. Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to — whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or every one. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked...

Mere Christianity. Copyright (c) by C. Lewis . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Mere Christianity 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 375 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The essentials of Christianity are presented in an enlightening, easy-to-grasp narrative. Both Christian and non-Christians benefit from reading this book. Christians will gain new insights as to why they believe non-Christians will find a brilliant exposition of basic Christian beliefs. It certainly will provoke you to carefully consider what and why you believe. Lewis writes, 'You must make your choice. Either this man [Christ] was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse...But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher.'
WriterAtTheSea More than 1 year ago
This book should be savored. Hands down, it is probably one of my favorite books covering simple Christian beliefs without dragging dogma or denominational theory into it. The brilliant Lewis appeals to both logic and common sense. For the believer, this book should not be missed, and for the non-believer, Mere Christianity offers a logical, persuasive argument for belief. It is probably one of the most influential Christian books in the twentieth century. His presentation and argument for the case for belief in Christ is profound. I don't think there is a book that has affected my faith more outside of scripture.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read this book many times at many different places in my life. When I arrogantly assume I know all there is to know and that I am such a well-learned scholar that someone like Lewis must be overrated and it is my job to perform an exhaustive analysis, I find this book, and truthfully anything else I read, falls short. However, when I humbly open my heart and mind and ask questions such as, 'Does God exist?' 'Does God really love me?' and 'What can I learn about God through this?' I find that I am filled with the wonder and joy that Lewis offers like a gift. Read up on Lewis' life and you will find that he was disappointed by life and love - yes he did fall in love - and learned time and time again to rest in the wonder and peace of God. This book is an installment in his life's work. Don't make the mistake of reading this through the filter of arrogance - no matter how well-educated you are or how much you think you know.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One's religious beliefs are as personal and sometimes inexplicable as sexual preference. I beg to differ with the preivious reviewer. There is no need to browbeat Lewis for his beliefs and his explanation of same. If one dislikes Christianity, one need not believe. If one wants a clear explanation of the central tenets of the faith, one can do no better. Lewis at many points in this book tells the reader that he need not accept certain aspects or approaches set forth in 'Mere Christianity.' I have, myself, issues with the chapter 'Christian Marriage,' but I don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. I have just finished re-reading this remarkable work, and I found no defense of hellfire and brimstone, so the reference in the previous review puzzles me. Perhaps a jaundiced view of the religion itself has colored the reviewer's understanding that Lewis is not prosletizing, but demystifying. He is explaining a personal belief system shared by millions so that anyone can understand how the thing works. Even if one chooses not to accept the belief system, the effort is laudable. My favorite books of all time are the Narnia Stories, yet as something of a pantheist by nature, I had not read his nonfiction. I didn't want to lose my high opinion of the author by finding him to be a tiresome bible-beater. I could not have been more wrong. I see that nearly all of my instinctive spiritual seeking is compatible with the Christian faith. While Aslan remains a potent symbol for my understanding of a Higher Power, it may be time for me to graduate to a slightly more mature symbolism, and in time, to a place where symbolism is unnecessary. 'Mere Christianity' need not be read as a tract, a blueprint, a set of hidebound rules. It is a launching pad for further reflection and inquiry. Considering its mission, the book's humility, humanity, and practicality is unparalleled. In sum, 'Mere Christianity' is the finest work of its kind I have read, and I have read many.
MLucero More than 1 year ago
There isn't a person I wouldn't recommend this to; whether you're a Christian wanting to better understand your faith, or if -- and especifally if -- you're an atheist who believes there is no rational case for Christianity. Lewis begins in the most general, basic terms and reasons his way up toward the ideas of a moral law, a creator, and a personal God, all the while building logically onward toward the Christian religion. The interesting thing is that, by the time the reader reaches the final chapters, it has become clear that Lewis has not made his way upward, but inward from the periphery. The further the book goes on, the truer its explorations become, moving from mere fact to deepest truth. Mere Christianity is a challenging, inspiring and open-eyed inquiry into the nature of the universe.
Doug88 More than 1 year ago
Anything by C.S. Lewis is excellent and thought-provoking, including the Chronicles of Narnia. However, this book is a key Christian apologetic, a marvelous unfolding of why it makes so much sense to embrace Christianity. There are parts of the book that are a little dry, and you have to read it slowly to fully absorb his points and wonderful analogies, but I've read it through three times over the years, and have gotten more out of it each time. I moved on from this book to read almost everything Lewis has written, but this is the one book I return to. I consider C.S. Lewis to be one of the most brilliant writers of any age.
Guest More than 1 year ago
For many years I had been a devout 'atheist' truly believing that God and Christianity ridiculous. One night, after a profound dream, I started to question my own bias towards man's supremecy. I found myself 'believing' in Christ but being still confused by my 'worldly' beliefs. A friend of mine gave me 'Mere Christianity' to read. In it I found ALL the answers I required to allow my 'leap of Faith' Mr Lewis not only has great insight into the workings of our Lord Jesus Christ but also in the workings of men. I would challenge ANY 'thinking' man not to question his beliefs after reading this wonderous selection of writings.
Christian-Scholar More than 1 year ago
All of CS Lewis' books are well worth reading. However, if I were asked to recommend only one of his books, then it would be Mere Christianity. In this book, a convincing case is made in support of Christianity as a religion and the fundamental teachings of Christianity are well explained. Mere Christianity is a beneficial read for the believer and a thought-provoking read for the non-believer.
r49x More than 1 year ago
C.S.Lewis presents Christian theology logically and defends it with brilliance.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this book, Mr. Lewis offers his case for Christianity. He doesn't get bogged down in 'Our denomination is better than yours' or 'Our view of the end times is true and yours isn't' or 'Evolution is false and young earth creationism true.' No way. Mr. Lewis is much too sophisticated for that kind of stuff. What he does offer, however, is a case for 'mere Christianity.' That is, he lists the basics that traditional Christians should agree on: the existence of G-d, the objectivity of morality, estrangement from G-d, the divinity of Jesus, the substitionary atonement, the new birth, life in the spirit, etc. This book is good for somebody who has questions about the Christian faith. It won't be good for committed atheists, although they could get a thing or two out of it. And for those who no longer stand within the 'orthodox' Christian camp, this book is a good reminder of where you have been and perhaps will set the stage for new formulations of Christian doctrine. The writing in this book is clear and easy to understand. I don't think another Christian writer was as good as Lewis. If you're wondering about Christianity, and would like to see it explained with ease, this book is for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mere Christianity did not make me a believer. I did eventually become a Christian, however, largely due to the fact that this book made me rethink many of my arguments against Christianity. Lewis is no evangelist, but he has a skill for logic that makes even the strict scientist stop and think. I read this book after reading Lewis' other work, The Screwtape Letters. The two books play off each other well and both pose many of the same questions to the reader about our perception of reality and the forces at work in our lives. Mere Christianity, unlike Screwtape Letters, is not a story but a work of expositional prose worthy of of Oxford professor such as Lewis. It gives an unbiased description of Christian belief that is not partial to any sect or denomination. The Creationist will be disappointed that Lewis is an Evolutionist, but this in no way detracts from the value of the rest of the book. The books strength is that it exhorts the reader to the same 'open-mindedness' scientists have always admonished Christians to have toward new discoveries throughout history to the scientific mind that often just assumes Christianity MUST be false.
Bookluvr67 More than 1 year ago
This is a book that will change your life no matter what your religious beliefs. Lewis originally gave these as talks on the BB during the WWII, and they are as fresh and applicable today as they were then. So many people owe their faith to this book, and with good reason. Give it a read and pass it on to a friend!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Other than Jesus, John and Paul, C.S.Lewis is my all-time favorite writer (none of the fiction, all of the popular prose books). I first read C.S. Lewis' works when I was about ten years old. (I am now 42.) He has better style, content, scholarship, and cohesiveness than any author I've ever read. His theology has many flaws: not clear enough on justificaion by faith, wrong view of the sacraments of water baptism and the Lord's Supper, unbiblical belief in purgatory, often passive acceptance of evolution, he did not believe in biblical inerrancy, he wrongly believed that salvation could be lost, and more. You would think today's Christians, (especially me), would be repulsed, and would attack a work with all these doctrinal errors. And some do. Normally, I wouldn't recommend reading a book with these kinds of errors. However, many of the errors are not championed at length. It seems to me that many reviewers misunderstand Lewis' true intention on many of these things by reading his works with their own preconceptions and theological demands in mind, legitimate as those may be. Judging him by his words, contrary to the opinion of some of the misguided false-prophet hunters, Lewis was a born-again saved believer. How can I proclaim this with such certainty? 1st John 5:1. 'Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.' Lewis proclaimed Jesus as Christ, as God, and as the Son of God. He believed that our sins were forgiven completely on the basis of Jesus' death on the cross, His burial, and His resurrection. (1st Corinthians 15:1-4.) He believed the Gospel. Also, those who work for 'the other side' do not lead people to believe in Jesus as Savior from their sins. They don't expose Satan's tactics. Lewis did. Whoever is not against us, is for us. (There are only two sides in this war. There are no neutral individuals.) Also, I have never read any other writer that makes me feel like he is in the same room with me, talking with me, as C.S. Lewis does. As a side note, his life story is fascinating, and his whole 'culture' is warm and intelligent. As living proof, his son, Douglas Gresham, has one of the most enjoyable English voices to listen to. He credits his insight and kind disposition to the fact that Lewis was his step-father. C.S. Lewis doesn't say what you want him to say or what you expect him to say. But that is precisely why his writing is valuable: he provides an ocean of insights about the subjects of faith. Even when he is wrong, the writing is filled with more insight than that of an author who merely restates truths we already know well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
C.S. Lewis's life of suffering, war and death (which led him down an intensive spiritual path from atheism to Christ) is well reflected in this work. Using simple (yet critical) philosophy and logic, Lewis describes not only that God's existence is possible, but so obvious that to reject it is intellectual (and of course, spiritual) suicide. Though originally composed for a 1940s/1950s English audience, this work is a timeless classic --- a theological and philosophical masterpiece. Even for the born-again Christian, Lewis can give greater insight into morality and divine law that may very well change the way you think forever. Lewis's reasoning is so simple and yet so advanced, that the 'freethinkers' and humanists have spent decades trying to attack it, yet Lewis's logic remains. It is mere, it is human, it is truth.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reopened my eyes to God's glory and majesty. Recommend to everyone from the the pope to a hard-core atheist.
Guest More than 1 year ago
God created us all differently and I'm glad he did. For those of us who need to understand the world and everything in it, this book is for them. Some people can just believe and some need more explanation. It's how God made us. I fell away from God because of past dissapointments with man and with church. I got to the point of doubting all the man made laws in all churches. Who's right and who's wrong? Lewis's book brings me back down to reality and helps me regain individuality, to think for myself and not be so concerned with what and how other men or women think. He challenged my mind and put it all in perspective. I highly recommend to people who want to better explain God and his creations to those, who like myself, think analytically.
Guest More than 1 year ago
C.S. Lewis takes you down a path of logic that leads you to no other conclusion than to except that there is a God, let alone a Christian God. His analysis is outstanding. Although, he excepted evolution a little to freely, it was a great book. During his time, I'm sure that evolutionary evidence seemed too insurmountable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lewis's Mere Christianity is a must read for anyone with at least some interest in the field of theology. People who stubbornly follow any religion or cling onto atheism will likely find this work to be boring and unconvincing, but this book is an excelent read for anyone who has ever asked 'Why?' This work contains compelling arguments for both general theism as well as christianity, but the lack of any truly solid, logical transition from theism to christianity makes the second half of the book merely a collection of nice thoughts. Nice and fairly logical thoughts, but certainly no indisputable argument for Christianity and against all other religions with such a crucial link missing from Lewis's chain of logic. Although Lewis uses very few arguments for theism in the first half of Mere Christianity, his version of the Moral Argument is by far the most convincing that I have ever heard. This is a must read for all open-minded people, Christians and non-Christians alike.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this book is C.S. Lewis's account of his religion, it is only to be read not followed. His points are true, and it is truly a book of clarification. A book that sparks interest in the human intellect and will always begin to. I am only 13 and read this book with out the slightest bordom. He is the Founder of Christian logic (well the third, Jesus, St. Paul, and then C.S. Lewis). He really did come through in this novel I must admitt in 'The Four Loves,' he was a bit rambling on and on, but this he is direct and to the point. And why shouldn't he be, I mean he is C.S. Lewis after all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is amazing that C. S. Lewis wrote this book so long ago and, yet, it is so applicable to modern society today. As I read it, I couldn't help, but think it was as if he wrote the book just yesterday. He is very analytical and convincing in his defense of Christianity. Reading this book will solidify and deepen any Christian's faith and for the atheist, his eyes might be opened to the errs of his thinking after reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Explains about God and being Christian in exceptional way a must read for all Christians.
MistlethwaiteMiss More than 1 year ago
“Mere Christianity” is a brilliant directory into the core principles and beliefs of Christian faith. C.S. Lewis provides a completely unbiased, insightful, discussion of Christian ideals that will provide a powerful foundation of understanding for those not of the Christian faith For Christians will provide a deep, no nonsense study into the principles they live with daily, but wish to explore more in-depth. This book tackles topics, such as human nature, marriage, faith, hope, charity and eternity in a clear and concise manner that left me as the reader feeling as though I had previously tried to make my own beliefs towards these principles overly complicated. I have read other works by C.S. Lewis, and though I enjoyed and appreciated them, “Mere Christianity” was even more thought-provoking on a personal level. Normally I read through books fairly quickly, however with this one I felt impressed to stop and ponder on the ideas presented more frequently and found myself marking many of its passages and taking notes. C.S. Lewis does a masterful job of addresses principles that are shared by all Christian faith’s without ever showing greater respect or a preference for any particular denomination. This book does not work to prove other religions as false, (with the exception of atheists, which C.S. Lewis himself used to be) and it will not reveal any new ideas those who are already Christians. For Christians it will simply act as an intense review of principles they are already familiar with, for as Lewis says in this book, “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” I personally loved this novel! It is one of few books I own that I plan to reflect on and re-read again and again. I would recommend this book to non-Christians who are sincerely looking to learn about what Christians believe and to all Christians as a great instructor into clarifying principles and as an aide for refocusing on core doctrines.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a great read for both believers and nonbelievers. C.S. Lewis provides many analogies that will help one defend their faith if it is ever challenged. Would highly recommend!
Terry L. Squier More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books on Christianity that I have ever come across. A must read for all. If you don't believe or have doubts about faith, you will want to read this book.
Sierra Academia More than 1 year ago
C.S. Lewis is brilliant in Mere Christianity. This former atheist employs basic logic to convince any skeptic of the truth of Christianity and the magnificence of God. If you're an atheist or agnostic, don't skip over this book. Lewis wrote Mere Christianity just for you. One of the best and one of the truest books I've ever read.