Guest / Limited Access /
Why 'Mere Christianity' Should Have Bombed
Image: Rick Beerhorst
Why 'Mere Christianity' Should Have Bombed

Sixty years ago, London publisher Geoffrey Bles first released a revision of four sets of radio talks by an Oxford literature don. The book was called Mere Christianity, and there was nothing "mere" about it. A somewhat disjointed set of C. S. Lewis's views on a wide range of theological, philosophical, and ethical matters, the book became the most important and effective defense of the Christian faith in its century.

As Mere Christianity (henceforth "MC") goes into its seventh decade of publishing success, rivaled still by no other apologetic, it's worth taking a look at its unlikely success.

Why It Shouldn't Have Worked

The first reason why MC should not have worked is rather basic: It doesn't deliver what its title promises. It does not do even what John Stott's classic Basic Christianity does—namely, outline at least the basics of evangelicalism's understanding of the gospel. Given the title's own promise and Lewis's express intent of offering "mere Christianity," we get something substantially less than that, as I think Puritan pastor Richard Baxter, from whom the phrase comes, would affirm.

Furthermore, MC offers not only less than "MC," but also more: Lewis's own opinions about domestic relationships, marriage, and gender; and his particular take on the vexed question of God and time (which, in my view, has powerfully perpetuated Christian Platonism and its "timeless God" among many people who have never read Plato). The danger here is the danger that resides also in C. I. Scofield's dispensationalist notes to his famous Reference Bible. (I recognize that this is perhaps the first time anyone has claimed that ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedNominal Nation—The Shift Away From Self-Identified Christianity
Nominal Nation—The Shift Away From Self-Identified Christianity
The decline of nominal Christianity is an opportunity for the gospel
TrendingWhat to Give Up for Lent 2016? Consider Twitter's Top Ideas
What to Give Up for Lent 2016? Consider Twitter's Top Ideas
(UPDATED) Charting how Lenten abstinence has changed over time, as 2016 data comes in.
Editor's Pick3 Reasons Election Season Is Good For You
3 Reasons Election Season Is Good For You
It’s easy to despair over candidates, but we have good reason to celebrate this time in our country’s life.
Christianity Today
Why 'Mere Christianity' Should Have Bombed
hide thisDecember December

In the Magazine

December 2012

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.