Reposting this 2013 review because the Kindle Edition in on sale for $4.50
I know it is near heretical in some Evangelical circles, but I have never read Mere Christianity before. As you are reading this I should by Kayaking around a small island in Georgian Bay of Lake Huron. This is my 20th trip with my guy friends from College.
For the past couple years I have conned them into reading a book prior to the trip to give us something to discuss. Since I have some influence and there are two pastor’s kids, a missionary, and a hebrew professor in the group we read theology. We have read Scripture and the Authority of God and The Lost World of Genesis One (which sparked online discussions of The Bible Made Impossible and Incarnation and Inspiration).
This year we decided to read Mere Christianity. I think only one of us had previously read it. Prior to the trip I listened to it on audiobook and then re-read it on kindle on the plane ride.
I understand somewhat why it is a classic. In part, because huge sections of the first part (the more general apologetics section) I have heard in one form or another. So Lewis’ arguments are either standard arguments about God or those that are original have been repeated so much over the past 60 years that they sound standard.
The first section is the standard ‘proofs’ for the existence of God that I in general resist (as a post-modern Christian). The second section is a summary of What Christians believe. This is pretty basic. Lewis is trying for a Christianity that is universal, not particular. And he mostly succeeds, but oddly it is that section that feels the most dated to me.
The third section is about Christian Behavior. And while this is dated, especially with regard to an understanding of the role of women in the church, Lewis was not a moralist. Lewis’s discussion of virtue and the older understanding of the word Temperance is a very helpful and even if he uses old word, the way he discussed behavior and sin is not dated.
The final section is primarily about the Trinity. Which I find fascinating in part because of my long reading project on the trinity, but in part because very few books on basic apologetics or basic theology spend more time on the Trinity than on the death and resurrection of Christ. In Lewis’ discussion of the Trinity he hits on several apologetic points, the purpose of humanity, why God is not in time, why a fall was allowed to occur, and then the last several chapters about what the Trinity has to do with our salvation and sanctification.
Half way through the book one of the guys passed on a helpful essay on Mere Christianity by NT Wright. If you have any interest in the book and have not read it, that is where I would start.
Reading McGrath’s biography of Lewis earlier this year, I was aware that McGrath thought that one of Lewis’ strengths was his ability to speak directly to the culture. And I think that is true. Mere Christianity is not a ‘timeless book’. But I think it is a good book in part because it shows how a thinking Christian can work (and he is trusting his readers to work) through the ways that we are Christians in a particular time and place.