Mere Christianity

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Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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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.
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.
Harper's
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.
Times Literary Supplement
He has a unique power for making theology an attractive, exciting, and fascinating quest.
New Yorker
If wit, and wisdom, style and scholarship are requisites to passage through the pearly gates, Mr. Lewis will be among the angels.
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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060652920
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/28/2001
  • Series: C. S. Lewis Signature Classics
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 10,448
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year. His most distinguished and popular accomplishments include Mere Christianity, Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and the universally acknowledged classics The Chronicles of Narnia. To date, the Narnia books have sold over one hundred million copies and have been transformed into three major motion pictures.

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) fue uno de los intelectuales más importantes del siglo veinte y podría decirse que fue el escritor cristiano más influyente de su tiempo. Fue profesor particular de literatura inglesa y miembro de la junta de gobierno en la Universidad Oxford hasta 1954, cuando fue nombrado profesor de literatura medieval y renacentista en la Universidad Cambridge, cargo que desempeñó hasta que se jubiló. Sus contribuciones a la crítica literaria, literatura infantil, literatura fantástica y teología popular le trajeron fama y aclamación a nivel internacional. C. S. Lewis escribió más de treinta libros, lo cual le permitió alcanzar una enorme audiencia, y sus obras aún atraen a miles de nuevos lectores cada año. Sus más distinguidas y populares obras incluyen Las Crónicas de Narnia, Los Cuatro Amores, Cartas del Diablo a Su Sobrino y Mero Cristianismo.

Biography

C. S. Lewis was famous both as a fiction writer and as a Christian thinker, and his biographers and critics sometimes divide his personality in two: the storyteller and the moral educator, the "dreamer" and the "mentor." Yet a large part of Lewis's appeal, for both his audiences, lay in his ability to fuse imagination with instruction. "Let the pictures tell you their own moral," he once advised writers of children's stories. "But if they don't show you any moral, don't put one in. ... The only moral that is of any value is that which arises inevitably from the whole cast of the author's mind."

Storytelling came naturally to Lewis, who spent the rainy days of his childhood in Ireland writing about an imaginary world he called Boxen. His first published novel, Out of the Silent Planet, tells the story of a journey to Mars; its hero was loosely modeled on his friend and fellow Cambridge scholar J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis enjoyed some popularity for his Space Trilogy (which continues in Perelandra and That Hideous Strength), but nothing compared to that which greeted his next imaginative journey, to an invented world of fauns, dwarfs, and talking animals -- a world now familiar to millions of readers as Narnia.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first book of the seven-volume Chronicles of Narnia, began as "a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood," according to Lewis. Years after that image first formed in his mind, others bubbled up to join it, producing what Kate Jackson, writing in Salon, called "a fascinating attempt to compress an almost druidic reverence for wild nature, Arthurian romance, Germanic folklore, the courtly poetry of Renaissance England and the fantastic beasts of Greek and Norse mythology into an entirely reimagined version of what's tritely called 'the greatest story ever told.'"

The Chronicles of Narnia was for decades the world's bestselling fantasy series for children. Although it was eventually superseded by Harry Potter, the series still holds a firm place in children's literature and the culture at large. (Narnia even crops up as a motif in Jonathan Franzen's 2001 novel The Corrections). Its last volume appeared in 1955; in that same year, Lewis published a personal account of his religious conversion in Surprised by Joy. The autobiography joined his other nonfiction books, including Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Great Divorce, as an exploration of faith, joy and the meaning of human existence.

Lewis's final work of fiction, Till We Have Faces, came out in 1956. Its chilly critical reception and poor early sales disappointed Lewis, but the book's reputation has slowly grown; Lionel Adey called it the "wisest and best" of Lewis's stories for adults. Lewis continued to write about Christianity, as well as literature and literary criticism, for several more years. After his death in 1963, The New Yorker opined, "If wit and wisdom, style and scholarship are requisites to passage through the pearly gates, Mr. Lewis will be among the angels."

Good To Know

The imposing wardrobe Lewis and his brother played in as children is now in Wheaton, Illinois, at the Wade Center of Wheaton College, which also houses the world's largest collection of Lewis-related documents, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

The 1994 movie, Shadowlands, based on the play of the same name, cast Anthony Hopkins as Lewis. It tells the story of his friendship with, and then marriage to, an American divorcee named Joy Davidman (played by Debra Winger), who died of cancer four years after their marriage. Lewis's own book about coping with that loss, A Grief Observed, was initially published under the pseudonym N. W. Clerk.

Several poems, stories, and a novel fragment published after Lewis's death have come under scrutiny as possible forgeries. On one side of the controversy is Walter Hooper, a trustee of Lewis's estate and editor of most of his posthumous works; on the other is Kathryn Lindskoog, a Lewis scholar who began publicizing her suspicions in 1988. Scandal or kooky conspiracy theory? The verdict's still out among readers.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Clive Staples Lewis (real name); Clive Hamilton, N.W. Clerk, Nat Whilk; called "Jack" by his friends
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 29, 1898
    2. Place of Birth:
      Belfast, Nothern Ireland
    1. Date of Death:
      November 22, 1963
    2. Place of Death:
      Headington, England

Read an Excerpt

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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Table of Contents

Preface
Foreword
Bk. 1 Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe
1 The Law of Human Nature 3
2 Some Objections 9
3 The Reality of the Law 16
4 What Lies Behind the Law 21
5 We Have Cause to Be Uneasy 28
Bk. 2 What Christians Believe
1 The Rival Conceptions of God 35
2 The Invasion 40
3 The Shocking Alternative 47
4 The Perfect Penitent 53
5 The Practical Conclusion 60
Bk. 3 Christian Behaviour
1 The Three Parts of Morality 69
2 The 'Cardinal Virtues' 76
3 Social Morality 82
4 Morality and Psychoanalysis 88
5 Sexual Morality 94
6 Christian Marriage 104
7 Forgiveness 115
8 The Great Sin 121
9 Charity 129
10 Hope 129
11 Faith 138
12 Faith 144
Bk. 4 Beyond Personality: Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity
1 Making and Begetting 153
2 The Three-Personal God 160
3 Time and Beyond Time 166
4 Good Infection 172
5 The Obstinate Toy Soldiers 178
6 Two Notes 183
7 Let's Pretend 187
8 Is Christianity Hard or Easy? 195
9 Counting the Cost 201
10 Nice People or New Men 207
11 The New Men 218
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First Chapter

Mere Christianity LP

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 they have. 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 LP. Copyright © by C. Lewis. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

Introduction
Regarded as the centerpiece of Lewis's apologetics, Mere Christianity began as a series of live fifteen-minute radio talks that Lewis gave, under the auspices of the BBC, during WWII. Characterized by careful reasoning, vivid analogies, and Lewis's gift for making complex religious ideas immediately accessible, the broadcasts were overwhelmingly successful, so popular that Lewis was besieged with letters from listeners. He wrote to Arthur Greeves on December 23 1941: "I had an enormous pile of letters from strangers to answer. One gets funny letters after broadcasting -- some from lunatics who sign themselves 'Jehovah' or begin 'Dear Mr. Lewis, I was married at the age of 20 to a man I didn't love' -- but many from serious enquirers whom it was a duty to answer fully." Lewis was able to reach such a wide audience in part because he tried to explore the essence of Christian belief, what he felt "all Christians agree on." After he finished the radio scripts, he sent them to Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Church of England theologians, all of whom agreed on the main points he had made. Lewis himself says in the preface to Mere Christianity, "So far as I can judge from reviews and from the numerous letters written to me, the book, however faulty in other respects, did at least succeed in presenting an agreed, or common, or central, or 'mere' Christianity."

The broadcasts were initially published as three separate books, The Case for Christianity (1943), Christian Behavior (1943), and Beyond Personality (1945), and collected into Mere Christianity in 1952. Like The Screwtape Letters, MereChristianity was warmly received by both the public and the critics. The Guardian said of Lewis: "His learning is abundantly seasoned with common sense, his humour and his irony are always at the service of the most serious purposes, and his originality is the offspring of enthusiastically loyal orthodoxy" (21 May 1943), while The Times Literary Supplement praised Lewis as having "a quite unique power of making theology an attractive, exciting and (one might almost say) an uproariously fascinating quest" (21 October 1944). These qualities have continued to attract a wide audience of both Christian and non-Christian readers.

Questions for Discussion

  • At the end of the first chapter in Mere Christianity, Lewis lays out the scope of his argument: "First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in" (p. 21). All cultures, he says, have a moral code and those codes are remarkably similar. Is he correct in inferring from this observation the existence of a Universal "Law of Human Nature," an innate sense of right and wrong? How do you think Lewis would respond to contemporary proponents of moral relativism?
  • Lewis first delivered the chapters that make up Mere Christianity as live radio addresses for the BBC beginning in 1941. In what ways does the writing reflect the fact that it was originally intended to be heard rather than read? What qualities of Lewis's speaking voice come through in the book? How do these qualities affect your receptivity to Lewis's ideas? What pains has Lewis evidently taken to make himself clear to an audience who had to absorb his ideas on first hearing?
  • Lewis argues that repentance "means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death" (p. 60). In what ways have we trained ourselves to be conceited and willful? In what ways has Western culture contributed to this willfulness? Why does Lewis insist that part of the self must die in order to truly repent? How is this interior death related to Christ's death on the cross?
  • In explaining the way Christians see good, Lewis offers a vivid analogy: "…the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life within him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it" (p. 64). Such analogies appear throughout Mere Christianity. Why are they so effective in making complex ideas accessible? In what ways does this particular analogy reinforce and clarify the statement that precedes it?
  • Lewis ends the chapter "Sexual Morality" with a remarkable assertion: "…a cold self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute" (p. 95). Why does Lewis consider spiritual sins to be worse than sins of the flesh? What is Lewis's view of the proper role of sexuality, pleasure, and chastity for Christians?
  • Why does Lewis see Pride as the greatest sin, "the utmost evil," in comparison with which "unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that are mere fleabites"? (p. 110). How does he define Pride and its opposite, Humility? What effect does Pride have on one's relation to other people, to oneself, and to God? What is the relationship between Pride and the other vices? Lewis cites other Christian teachers who share his perspective but does not name them. Who might he be thinking of?
  • In an introduction to a broadcast given on 11 January 1942, which was later deleted from the published text, Lewis explains why he was chosen to give the talks: "…first of all because I'm a layman and not a parson, and consequently it was thought I might understand the ordinary person's point of view a bit better. Secondly, I think they asked me because it was known that I'd been an atheist for many years and only became a Christian quite fairly recently. They thought that would mean I'd be able to see the difficulties-able to remember what Christianity looks like from the outside." Do you think Lewis has succeeded in representing the ordinary person's view of Christianity? In what ways might his atheism and later conversion have affected his relationship to Christian beliefs? Do his convictions gain weight because he struggled to arrive at them?
  • Lewis wants his theology to have practical uses. In discussing Charity, he says: "Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor; act as if you did…. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him" (p. 116). The reverse, he says, is also true. "The Germans, perhaps, at first ill-treated the Jews because they hated them; afterwards they hated them much more because they had ill-treated them" (p. 117). Why would behavior influence feeling in this way? Why would pretending to feel something lead to actually feeling it? Do you think this principle applies both to individuals and, as Lewis implies, to larger political groups and nations? Have you ever witnessed or experienced this phenomenon yourself?
  • In the chapter on Hope, Lewis makes fun on those who reject the Christian idea of Heaven because they don't want to spend eternity playing harps. "The answer to such people," he says, "is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them" (p. 121). What is Lewis's conception of Heaven? What is his view on the right relation between this world and the next? Why does he feel we should we "aim at Heaven" rather than at earth? (p. 119).
  • Why does Lewis so vehemently reject the view that treats Jesus as a historical rather than a divine figure? Why does he find the notion of some who regard Jesus merely as a great moral teacher to be absurd? Why does he assert that "If Christianity only means one more bit of good advice, then Christianity is of no importance"? (p. 157).
  • In "Counting the Cost," Lewis says that God "will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or a goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly…His own boundless power and delight and goodness" (p. 176). What is required to become such a creature? Why do you think Lewis has chosen to describe this apotheosis with these images?
  • How appealing is Lewis's conception of Christianity as he presents it here? Has it clarified any theological confusions you may have had, or changed your own beliefs about how to live as a Christian? Do you think Lewis's ideas about virtue and morality can be valuable for non-Christians?
About the Author: Clive Staples Lewis was born in 1898 in a suburb of Belfast. An extraordinarily precocious child, at the age of eight he was writing and illustrating "Animal-Land" stories with his brother Warren, at ten was reading Paradise Lost, and at nineteen was described by one of his teachers as "the most brilliant translator of Greek plays that I have ever met." By the time Lewis entered Oxford in 1917, he had long considered himself an atheist, a position that his experiences on the front lines of World War I only confirmed. But in 1925 he was elected to a fellowship at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he taught for twenty-five years and where his intellectual, creative, and religious development underwent a remarkable flowering. Shortly after a late night talk with J.R.R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson in 1931, Lewis had a conversion experience, beautifully described in his autobiography Surprised by Joy (1955), and regained his faith in Christianity. There followed an astonishing succession of fiction, criticism, and religious books, including The Problem of Pain (1940), The Screwtape Letters (1942), The Abolition of Man (1943), The Great Divorce (1946), Miracles (1947), George MacDonald (1947), and Mere Christianity (1952), and the seven children's books comprising The Chronicles of Narnia, completed in 1954. Greatly admired for his teaching, Lewis was offered the chair of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge in 1954, a position he held until his death. In 1956 he married Joy Davidman Gresham, the American poet and novelist, who was diagnosed with cancer later that year. Despite his wife's illness, Lewis achieved in his final years the happiness and contentment he had searched for all his life. His relationship with Joy, who died in 1960, is the subject of Richard Attenborough's film Shadowlands, and Lewis's own A Grief Observed, published under a pseudonym in 1961, is a deeply moving account of his struggle to come to terms with her loss. C.S. Lewis died on November 22, 1963, at his home in Oxford.
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 375 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2008

    Christianity as it meant to be.

    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.'

    23 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2008

    Not for the arrogant

    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.

    19 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Like a Fine Wine...

    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.

    18 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A rational case for belief in God, and faith in Christ

    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.

    15 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2006

    There Is No Cause For Controversy Here, It Is 'Mere Christianity'.

    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.

    14 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 11, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Most Brilliant Christian Thinker of Our Time

    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.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2003

    The intellectual catalyst to a new life.

    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.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    CS is a master

    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.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    The greatest author and apologetic. C.S.Lewis

    C.S.Lewis presents Christian theology logically and defends it with brilliance.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 23, 2010

    A Must Read!

    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!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2006

    Mere obfuscation and sophistry.

    C.S.Lewis, a capable writer and rare example of Xian intellectual, and friend of J.R.R Tolkien, an even better writer is best known for works such as the Perelandra Trilogy, the Chronicles of Narnia, and the Screwtape letters. In the aforementioned works he used fiction and fantasy elements to conceal religious themes. In Mere Christianity, the author dispenses with using parables, allegory, and fiction. He decides to get serious and tell it like it is in Lewis' imagination, as his theology does not correspond with any reality known in this world. Perhaps Alpha Ceti Prime has a world that meets Lewis' doctrinal metaphysics? Most Xians disdain using logic and reason to support their faith and see their faith as something that is believed or not believed, and the lack of evidence therefore, requires faith. Faith which ultimately boils down to wishful thinking, is the substance and foundation of Christianity, not reason or logic. Yet Lewis, like T. Aquinas before him tries the approach of reason as does McDowell the author of Evidence That Demands a Verdict. All of this stuff I have read with chuckles and giggles supressed. To answer who made the world with 'God' is to answer an unknown with an even greater unknown. At least the origins of the Universe should be accessible and solvable by the Scientific Method. Not so God, of whom, even his supporters admit, nobody knows anything except by 'revelation' meaning hearsay. One man says 'God told me such and such' and an even bigger blockhead believes him. Surprisingly, C.S.Lewis for a smart fellow, seems to forget the obvious. If God wants us to do such and such, he or she ought to make things clear as the noon-day sun, not leave things to long dead prophets, of which the Bible itself refers to as madmen deceived by God. Why cannot God tell me point blank 'I made you for this reason, I want you to do this, and I want you to stop doing that.' But this does not occur. Attempts to justify faith, which is belief without or contrary to evidence, by reason, is like using Socratic reasoning to support the existence of Unicorns. Basically, Lewis' 'logical' arguments boil down to 'I have an inner knowledge that the bizzare version of reality contained in Holy Writ is truth.' What am I or you to do with Lewis' or anybody else's 'inner' feelings? We can't argue or discuss that rationally. Even more amusing were Lewis' attempts to justify eternal suffering in Hell. No matter how hard you try, no matter how hard you conceal your illogic and specious reasoning with sesquipedalian words [words a foot and a half long--coined by Aristotle], you can never justify giving a finite amount of evil, an eternal punishment. Nor can you ever align that with a God of good. A God who is both good and evil might work, and a God who is mostly evil works even better. But this good guy God needs to be abandoned if hellfire is retained, else Hell can be forever thrown into the trashheap of theology, and the good God retained. You can't have it both ways. Better yet, throw God in the trash can with his stupid doctrines and laws, with other relics of the ignorant and superstitious past. Trying to justify past idiocies with 'reason' denotes a really lame intellect indeed. Lewis should have stuck to fiction, which at least had the slender palliative of entertainment to justify it. Mere Christianity belongs in the waste basket.

    4 out of 87 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2006

    mere christianity

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2003

    This book changed my life

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2007

    The Best by the Best

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2006

    Timeless Brilliance

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2013

    Buy now

    Reopened my eyes to God's glory and majesty. Recommend to everyone from the the pope to a hard-core atheist.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2008

    Everyone's different

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2006

    Great Book

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2005

    A truly thought provoking read

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2004

    C.S. Lewis is the Founder of Chrisitan Logic

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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