Who are Christians, really, and what do they believe?
Taken from a series of BBC radio broadcasts originally aired during World War II, C.S. Lewis’ attempt to answer this question eventually became the fantastically popular book Mere Christianity.
If you have not read this book, you need to. Here’s why:
In this book, Lewis explains in his introduction that he wants to introduce the reader to what Christianity is at its core – “mere” Christianity if you will – and make the case that it is true.
To do this, Lewis makes it clear he will not focus on all the extra stuff where different denominations may disagree.
He chooses this approach not because those disagreements are insignificant or not worth considering, but rather because it is important to first discover the truth about the barebones foundation of what all Christians, based on logical conclusions and the teachings of Christ, agree upon.
Book I, entitled Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe, focuses on something fundamental in human nature that judges the actions of other humans to be right or wrong.
We all as humans 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.’”
Lewis further explains, “what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behaviour (sic) does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behaviour (sic) which he expects the other man to know about.”
But how are good and evil defined? Who decides? Us? Society? God? There is a drive for good, a pull or desire towards it, yet that good remains unachievable in the complete sense.
C.S. Lewis continues to build on this argument to make the case for God.
As believers, this book really speaks to our need for a Savior.
It reminds us of that “never good enough” feeling we try to hide with pride in our “good deeds.” There’s nothing like a deep dive into the imperfection of mankind to make you truly appreciate the grace of Christ.
Book II, entitled What Christians Believe, really delves into what separates Christians from other religions and philosophies around the world.
Why is pantheism or dualism not complete logically? What is the reality for humankind should Christianity be true? Who is Christ?
Remember, this is Christianity at its very core. Lewis is not seeking to help us as believers sort through the virgin birth, faith versus works, or any other doctrinal discussions.
These are the foundations of why Christians believe in Christ as the one and only Savior of the world. Book I speaks to our need, Book II is the answer to those needs.
Book III, entitled Christian Behaviour, addresses morality in further detail as Lewis continues to answer our burning questions.
Why is morality important to God? What do Christians believe are important virtues to have and why? What would God have us doing or more frequently asked, not doing? What impact does it have on us as humans and our society?
These are such powerful and explosive questions and have a real relevance and powerful impact on our lives as humans and as Christians. You won’t want to put this book down and will want to read it over and over continuing to find value in Lewis’ words for years to come.
Finally, Book IV, entitled Beyond Personality: Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity, is the most theologically complex chapter, but is essential for a proper understanding of the Trinity, which is the most essential question for church unity.
Lewis seeks to answer questions about the Trinity, being born again, and why God’s Word is of such utmost importance.
Many people depend so much on their feelings and intense emotional experiences with God or tapping into that “something” to guide them through life.
As Lewis puts it, “Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting…” But, the doctrines from His Word are meant to be more like a map.
Yes, it can feel “less real” than our mountaintop experiences and personal refreshment from prayer, worship, and communing with God. “But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God… if you want to get any further, you must use the map.”
Mere Christianity is a must read for the modern Christian, especially in a world that is constantly questioning what it is we actually believe and seeks to tear it down.
Having been a staunch atheist for so long, Lewis makes the effort to address misgivings and apprehensions he held before becoming a believer. He appeals to the philosophical and logical minds of those seeking answers and truth.
He does not seek to appear as any sort of expert in matters of high theology or doctrine. On the other hand, he wishes to give us facts about the Christianity that “is what it is, and was what it was, long before I was born and whether I like it or not.”
I definitely recommend getting a copy of Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis (2015-04-21) to read for yourself today.