Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity
© 1952 C.S. Lewis
191 pages

This is a little book I have heard an awful lot about. While friends and readers may know of my interest in philosophy, few know that it stems from a period back in late 2006 when I found a teacher in Ravi Zacharias. Zacharias is a Christian philosopher and apologist, and he shaped my worldview. In attempting to articulate why it was I disagreed with him on various points, my principal of freethought became a practice: to deal with his conclusions I found I had to question his premises and the assumptions that they were built on. I found I enjoyed thinking about philosophical matters, and so as a consequence of listening to Zacharaias, I became both a freethinker and a philosopher. Zacharias quoted from C.S. Lewis a lot, and many of my devout Christian friends have Mere Christianity on their "favorite books" list. Two of them have requested that I read the book, and so I have.

The book combines four books, although the cover lies and says there are three. The books included are The Case for Christianity, Christian Behavior, and Beyond Personality. (There's a fourth, between the first two, but I'm writing this at the library and sans notes.) According to Zacharias and alluded to by Lewis, he was an ardent atheist who became England's "most reluctant convert". I saw very little reluctant in Lewis' writings here. I am, I must admit, disappointed. I had expected my assumptions to be challenged, my philosophical nose to be tweaked, my worldview to be aided. This did not happen. The first thirty pages did give me something to grapple with, but I realized when writing in my journal on the ideas that Lewis was presenting that I'd dealt with these issues before. Zacharias repeated them in his lectures, and my philosophy/humanities blog started as a way of storing my responses to Zacharias online.

Lewis actually never makes a case for Christianity. He tries to raise some questions*, and then says "Christianity is the best answer to this questions". He never defends his new-found belief in the inerrancy of the bible, the divinity of Yeshua, or anything else. While the later books may be of use to Christians trying to to justify their faith, this is a book written to believers. Lewis admits in one book -- Beyond Personality, I think, which is his attempt to deal with the "mystery of the trinity" -- that some things just must be believed.

Although the first twenty or so pages allowed me to revisit my old ideas, I was disappointed in this book. I expected much better. Last year a friend told me that this may give me something to think about, or just be "more fuel for the fire", but it's really neither for me. Perhaps if I'd not heard Ravi Zacharias I would have found it more admirable, but I doubt I would be in a frame of mind to read this book without having been schooled in philosophy and freethought by Zacharias, my accidental and probably unwilling teacher.

* Lewis' entire theology seems to be based on the assumption that there is a Law of Good Behavior that humans disobey and know they're disobeying, but yet want others to obey. Some of my essays on this subject include "Relativity andMorality" and "Relativity and Absolutes". "God's Loophole" may address some questions but I've not read it in a while and so cannot be sure.

1 comment:

  1. I was looking forward to your review of this book and did wonder if you would be as disapointed with it as I was - but at least you finished it... something I just couldn't do!

    It was touted to me as a great piece of Christian literature and some have described it as the book that confirmed their faith. Personally I found it barely readable twaddle. How anyone could be convinced of the Christian viewpoint from this book completely escapes me. For such a great thinker I thought that this book showed Lewis to be a very poor constructor of arguments. Maybe his other faith books are better - I certainly hope so because if his reputation is in any way based on this book he is undeserving of it.