The Beloved Classic on What All Christians Believe
One of the most popular introductions to Christian faith ever written, Mere Christianity brings together Lewis’s legendary broadcast talks during World War Two. Here, Lewis provides an unequaled opportunity for believers and nonbelievers alike to hear a powerful, rational case for the Christian faith.
A collection of scintillating brilliance, Mere Christianity remains strikingly fresh for the modern reader and at the same time confirms C.S. Lewis’s reputation as one of the leading writers and thinkers of our age.
About 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 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 100 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.
Date of Birth:November 29, 1898
Date of Death:November 22, 1963
Place of Birth:Belfast, Nothern Ireland
Place of Death:Headington, England
Education:Oxford University 1917-1923; Elected fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford in 1925
Read an Excerpt
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.
Reading Group Guide
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