In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis sets out to share what he believes the core of Christianity is. He makes it clear in the introduction that he is not sharing doctrines of a specific faith, but rather Christianity in general.
I hope no reader will suppose that “mere” Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions-as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in. For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable. (I apologize I don’t have page numbers; I had to return the book to the library.)
In the end, I certainly appreciated C.S. Lewis’s analogies and explanations of Christianity. It encouraged me to ponder my own understandings and determine what I believe. It reminded me of lots of things I should do to improve myself. There are so many quotable analogies!
For just one example out of many, I need to eliminate the “rats in the cellar” of my life, even if I don’t see them every day:
[S]urely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.
Mere Christianity, of course, describes what C.S. Lewis believes is core. In some respects, I think any Christian (well, if they were a good writer) could develop a similar book for their own understanding of the core of their faith. And while the “core” of this core would remain the same, I suspect there may be differences. Mere Christianity is not scripture, and Lewis is not a prophet.
I listened to the audiobook of Mere Christianity in March. While the book was only six hours long, it took me a few weeks to listen to it because my listening ended up being in 5 or 10 minute intervals. C.S. Lewis provides lots of analogies, and I was often confused how the analogy related to the point because my listening was so sporadic. I really didn’t enjoy listening to it, and I felt I needed to give it another chance, so I also read it in April. I am glad I gave it another chance because I enjoyed it a lot more.
I think part of the problem with audio format is that Lewis shares so many deep concepts that are meant to be pondered and applied to my own life. Listening to it in brief intervals confused me, rather than enlightened me. Reading it was much better.
C.S. Lewis’s strength lies in his analogies and his personal voice. His perspective is also significant, since he was an atheist until age 33. (He was 44 when he wrote this book.) The book was highly readable and personable, and the analogies followed his logic.
One of C.S. Lewis’s goals in writing this book was to bring everyone into the “hall” of Christianity (see quote above). Will atheists and other non-Christians be convinced of Christianity after reading this book? I don’t think so. I’m not a logic expert, but I’m not sure Lewis’s logic would convince anyone determined in their current beliefs. For me, a Christian, though, it was an interesting perspective on my faith.
Ironically, Mere Christianity began as a series of radio lectures, aired in the United Kingdom in 1942, in the midst of World War II. For me, it didn’t work in audio format. There were so many things to ponder and apply to my life that I feel it is a book to read and study in depth, probably more than twice. In the mean time, I should read the scriptures again.
What type of audiobooks work best for you? This month, I’ve been listening to children’s books and it is very pleasant. I often listened to nonfiction in the past, but this experience shared that some nonfiction doesn’t work well in 10 minute intervals.
Mere Christianity counts for the Dewey Decimal Challenge (200s).
If you have reviewed Mere Christianity on your site, leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.