July 16, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: MERE CHRISTIANITY



I finally got around to reading C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. I had heard so much about the book and I really don't know what took me so long to read it, but I'm so glad I finally did. The book lays out the basic principles of Christianity. Now, I'm a Christian myself, but I have never heard anyone explain these concepts as Lewis does, nor have I thought about them in the manner in which he describes. He provides explanations in "layman's" terms that basically set forth the case for Christianity. It is truly a must-read. In fact, I'm planning on re-reading it, or finding it on audio tape to listen to during my commute. I've highlighted some of my favorite passages below:

"Now repentance is not fun at all...It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person - and he would not need it.

...Now if we had not fallen, that would be all plain sailing. But unfortunately we now need God's help in order to do something which God, in His own nature, never does at all - to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God's nature corresponds to this process at all. So that the one road for which we now need God's leadership most of all is a road God, in His own nature, has never walked. God can share only what He has: this thing, in His own nature, He has not.

But supposing God became man - suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God's nature in one person - then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God." 

-Lewis' Chapter on "The Perfect Penitent", explaining why Christ was killed for us and how his death washed the sins of the world.

***

"And in fact, whatever people say, the state called 'being in love' usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending 'They lived happily ever after' is taken to mean 'They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married', then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be 'in love' need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense- love as distinct from 'being in love'- is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be 'in love' with someone else. 'Being in love' first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it."

-Lewis' Chapter on "Christian Marriage". I've always thought that Hollywood chick-flicks illustrate an out-of-touch portrayal of "love" stories and I think we sometimes buy into it. So it was refreshing to read such an honest description of love, especially in marriage. 

***

"A man knows, on perfectly good evidence, that a pretty girl of his acquaintance is a liar and cannot keep a secret and ought not be trusted: but when he finds himself with her his mind loses its faith in that bit of knowledge and he starts thinking, 'Perhaps she'll be different this time,' and once more makes a fool of himself and tells her something he ought not to have told her. His senses and emotions have destroyed his faith in what he really knows to be true. ...

Now just the same thing happens about Christianity... supposing a man's reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief...

Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods."

-Lewis' first Chapter on "Faith". I think that sometimes our faith is emotional and we start to question God when things aren't going our way. I like his definition of Faith.

***

"I said a few pages back that God is a Being which contains three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube contains six squares while remaining one body. But as soon as I begin trying to explain how these Persons are connected I have to use words which make it sound as if one of them was there before the others. The First Person is called the Father and the Second the Son. We say that the First begets or produces the second; we call it begetting, not making, because what He produces is of the same kind as Himself. In that way the word Father is the only word to use. But unfortunately it suggests that He is there first- just as a human father exists before his son. But that is not so. There is no before and after about it. And that is why I think it important to make clear how one thing can be the source, or cause, or origin, of another without being before it. The Son exists because the Father exists: but there never was a time before the Father produced the Son.

Perhaps the best way to think of it is this. I asked you just now to imagine those two books, and probably most of you did. That is, you made an act of imagination and as a result you had a mental picture. Quite obviously your act of imagining was the cause and the mental picture the result. But that does not mean that you first did the imagining and then got the picture. The moment you did it, the picture was there. Your will was keeping the picture before you all the time. Yet that act of will and the picture began at exactly the same moment and ended at the same moment. If there were a Being who had always existed and had always been imagining one thing, his act would always have been producing a mental picture; but the picture would be just as eternal as the act.

In the same way we must think of the Son always, so to speak, streaming forth from the Father, like light from a lamp, or heat from a fire, or thoughts from a mind."

-Lewis' Chapter on "Good Infection", explaining the Holy Trinity

If you haven't yet read Mere Christianity, I highly recommend you do so!


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4 comments

  1. i have been meaning to read mere christianity for years! i learned a love of cs lewis from my dad, he still sends me a cs lewis quote each day (well sometimes he switches it up and throws the pope in there). i have always found him so easy to read and yet so profound. i think it is the fact that what he writes is so easy to understand that makes it so profound, because he talks about topics that are usually talked about in such flowery terms that they are over my head.

    i am definitely adding this to the list to read before the year is over!

    xo mk
    gold-hatted lover

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  2. So happy I stumbled upon this post. I've been looking for a Christian book for my boyfriend and I to read for a while now and I didn't want something that would be too complex or turn him away from Christianity. This book sounds perfect and I'm ordering from Amazon now! Thanks Juliet! xo, Hayley dailydoseofdarling.com

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    1. I'm so glad to hear that! I think you've love it. Let me know what you think!

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