TH 561: VALUES AND ETHICS
Luther Rice Seminary
In Partial Fulfillment of
the Requirements for the Degree
Masters of Divinity
Justin Z. DuBose
5218 Happy Hollow Ct.
Lula, GA 30554
I.D.# GC6831 / Phone: (678) 707-1491
April 1, 2013
Professor: Dr. Henderson
Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity New York: Collier Books, 1952. Pp. 190
Mere Christianity is a book written by Clive Staples Lewis. It did not begin as a book, but rather as a series of talks on the BBC radio broadcast in England. It was then published as three separate parts: The Case for Christianity, Christian Behavior, and Beyond Personality (pg. 5). These talks were combined to form this book. The topic at hand is the basic tenets of Christianity, as opposed to a denominational approach to addressing the subject. Lewis himself says in the preface that “the reader should be warned that I offer no help to anyone who is hesitating between two Christian ‘denominations’” (pg. 6). At the time of these radio broadcasts in 1941, England was in the midst of total war and the subject of religion was a hot topic, given the actions and intentions of Nazi Germany, along with other sovereign powers. At the time, one could certainly tenably hold the position that there was indeed a genuine need for the topic to be addressed. In a certain sense, the topic is timeless and will always be applicable. It is certainly applicable in modern times given current discussions of gay marriage and abortion, among other things.
The author, as has previously been stated, is Clive Staples Lewis. Lewis was born on November 29, 1898 in Belfast, Ireland. Lewis was educated as a boy at an English boarding school, Wynyard, located in Watford, England and at Malvern College. In 1914, he was awarded a scholarship to Oxford University. In 1917, he would leave Oxford to volunteer for service in the British Army in World War I. On April 15, 1918 Lewis was wounded and two of his colleagues were killed in action. Lewis would graduate from Oxford in 1920, and receive two additional degrees in 1922 and 1923. Lewis was a prolific author writing The Chronicles of Narnia, A Grief Observed, The Problem of Pain, and The Screwtape Letters, among several others.
The book is organized into chapters, beginning with a broad examination and analysis of human nature and law and gradually narrowing into religion, Christianity, and ending with specific tenets of Christianity. The book not only looks at religion from the perspective of a religious man, but also from the perspective of an irreligious man, as Lewis himself once was. Chapter Six is specifically devoted to “The Rival Conceptions of God”. In this chapter, Lewis addresses the shortcomings of a worldview with no God. “Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.” (pg. 46) This is one of the great strengths of this book: Lewis is able, from an apologetics standpoint, to examine Christianity from the perspective of both a lover of the God of Christianity and a resister to the God of Christianity. Additionally, by beginning at the universal laws of human nature, Lewis grabs every reader of the book and puts them into the same boat with him from the opening chapters of the book. Chapter Four of Book One, entitled “What Lies Behind the Law”, addresses certain assumptions about the law that have been established in the first three chapters. He differentiates between science, which observes what happens, and moral law, which determines what ought to happen (pg. 33). This is an important distinction to make, for many readers will object to certain tenets of Christianity on the basis of unobservable scientific data. Another great strength of the organization and rationale behind the book comes in the form of certain “warnings” by Lewis. By beginning more broadly, everyone is together. However, by the time Lewis gets to the heart of the book, where he is specifically addressing “mere” Christianity at its roots, he warns the reader. One example comes from chapter twelve in book three on “Faith”, Lewis says, “if this chapter means nothing to you, if it seems to be trying to answer questions you never asked, drop it at once.” (pg. 126). He goes on to say that it can actually do more harm than good to try and understand certain things “now” rather than later, once certain other epistemological foundations have been laid.
The underlying theme of this book is undoubtedly to clarify certain aspects of the religion of Christianity. As an apologist, one cannot help but entertain the idea that the aim of the author was to persuade listeners and readers to join the ranks of Christendom. His organization of content would certainly have aided in the accomplishment of this objective, as would his implementation of logic, philosophy, science, and other educational disciplines. As the book progresses, this objective becomes clearer. Observe this quote from chapter seven of book four: “Men are mirrors, or “carriers” of Christ to other men. Sometimes unconscious carriers. This “good infection” can be carried by those who have not got it themselves. People who were not Christians themselves helped me to Christianity.” (pg. 163). The closing paragraph of the book holds true to this objective as well. Lewis makes one final push for Christ. “Give up yourself, and you find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and the death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being and you will find eternal life.” (pg. 190).
This work is plainly apologetic in nature, and, when searched for in online bookstores it is rightly categorized under “religion” in most cases. The content was extremely applicable to the 1940’s when it was authored, and, in the opinion of this reader, is still just as applicable today. The content is, in fact, timeless and, again, in this reader’s opinion, will continue to be so as long as religion and man exist together. This book comes highly recommended, and that recommendation is passed on from this reader to the next.
NG, LR, NCU, USAR
My collection of personal papers written over the years