I stumbled across the audiobook of CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity: A Biography when I was looking for another book by George Marsden. I have previously read two other books from The Lives of Great Religious Books series (Letters and Papers from Prison and the Book of Common Prayer) and so I eagerly picked it up (both as a fan of Marsden’s and the series.)
The series seems to have done a good job hiring good authors, and good writers matters in a series like this. This is not a series that requires heavy historical lifting: a short section of biography about the author, the story of the writing and overview of the content, a summary of the response and objections, and the spread of the book. All three that I have read have basically been the same format. But the format works.
I have a pretty good handle on Lewis’ own biography at this point. Marsden handles that well and throws in a few tidbits that I have not previously heard, but made sense in the context of the book. The basic story of the book, I was also familiar with because it is pretty important to Lewis’ own life story.
What was more interesting to me was the response and objections to Mere Christianity. The discussion of the Catholic objections to Mere Christianity made sense once Marsden pointed them out. But I would not have been able to express them myself without his help.
The importance of the United States readership to CS Lewis’ spread is always interesting. As I have heard in context of NT Wright and a few others, a British accent and a professorship at one of UK’s great schools really can really impress a lot of Americans. That is not to minimize the strength of Lewis’ work. I would not have read more than two dozen books by or about Lewis in recent years if I did not think he was important. But mere sales numbers do not confirm long term importance and impact.
Historical stories of cultural impact are interesting. So much seems to happen almost by chance. The right book at the right time matters. As helpful as Mere Christianity is, there are far better written apologetics books. But there is a voice there, and the context of Lewis’ others books. And Mere Christianity has had a lasting impact. I read it for the first time only a few years ago with a reading group, more than 60 years after it was published
CS Lewis's 'Mere Christianity': A Biography by George Marsden Purchase Links: Hardcover, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook