In the early 1940's, about the time I was born, there was a brilliant thinker who went on radio to deliver three broadcasts to describe why he could no longer be an atheist. He had thought his way past atheism -- a position he then declared suitable only for boys.
These talks were then compiled int a book called "Mere Christianity" that the New York Times acclaimed as "ideal for the half-convinced, for the good man who would like to be a Christian but finds his intellect getting in the way." Lewis was a professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature at Cambridge University and may be best known today for his book "The Chronicles of Narnia" -- recently made into a movie.
Lewis wrote about his qualifications (or actually his lack of qualifications) for writing this explanation of the Christian faith:
"It’s not because I’m anybody in particular that I’ve been asked to tell you what Christians believe. In fact it’s just the opposite. [The British Broadcasting Corporation] have asked me, first of all because I’m a layman and not a parson, and consequently they thought I might understand the ordinary person’s point of view a bit better. Secondly, I think they asked mebecause it was known that I’d been an atheist for many years and only became a Christian fairly recently. They thought that would mean I’d be able to see the difficulties – able to remember what Christianity looks like from the outside. So you see the long and the short of it is that I’ve been selected for this job just because I’m an amateur and not a professional, and a beginner not an old hand. Of course this means that you may well ask what right I have to talk on the subject at all. Well, when I’d finished my scripts I sent them round to various people whowere professionals: to one Church of England theologian, one Roman Catholic, one Presbyterian, and one Methodist. The Church of England man and the Presbyterian agreed with the whole thing. The Roman Catholic and the Methodist agreed in the main, but would have liked one or two places altered. So there you’ve got all the cards on the table.What I’m going to say isn’t exactly what all these people would say; but the greater part of it is what all Christians agree on… One thing I can promise you. In spite of all the unfortunate differences between Christians, what they agree on is still something pretty big and pretty solid: big enough to blowany of us sky-high if it happens to be true…"
“Mere Christianity” has been one of the most instrumental books in my walk as a Christian. It is insightful, but Lewis writes in a style not easy to skim and his thinking process is so complex that I found that it had to be studied to get the full power from it.
I have not just underlined key passages, I have even charted them out on legal pad so I could hold the thoughts in mind and make them actionable in my mind. And that means that I have likely read “Mere Christianity” six times, plus many times when I just picked it up and re-read a page or two to clear my head.
I was not surprised at my recent Bible Study Group to learn that most of these quite learned Christians had not read Lewis’ book or some had started and gave up. It is hard work to get to through Lewis' academic writing style ... and there are those who will struggle with the need for a rational treatise on why to be a Christian, when the real reason is simply a statement of faith -- no other explanation needed. But I obviously found Mere Christianity to be incredibly helpful to me personally but not at all easy to read.
So, I am undertaking a daunting task that I am actually looking forward to: I am going to attempt to write a simplified version – kind of like the NIV simplified King James. I hope to create a more approachable version of this classic, without losing the brilliance of C. S. Lewis.
These notes will be from my seventh reading of C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. I hope Professor Lewis does not turn over in his grave, shaking a fist at me. Or you might prefer to follow a study published by the C. S. Lewis Foundation.