Guest / Limited Access /

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 ...

Read More

Displaying 1–11 of 11 comments

Greg Cootsona

August 20, 2013  11:31am

This article grasps Lewis's key geniuses. (I will tweet a link soon--the ultimate demonstration of approval.) Lewis had a brilliant mind, a stunningly winsome style, and a powerful imagination. He was clear and intelligible, while holding his immense scholarship lightly. Lewis possessed a combination of gifts and skills that no one has yet matched since his passing. Therefore, I'm not sure the title--though it catches our attention--is accurate. An Oxford don and skillful translator, broadcast during the war years on what was then a powerful form of media (i.e., radio) should succeed. Not a huge surprise.... So now to two quibbles: Lewis was not an American evangelical--not from the US, he sought to present "Mere Christianity," not any single part of it. (E.g., my upcoming book on Lewis will unfold his divergence from evangelicalism on Scripture. Or check my blog.) It was his imagination, not purely rational argument, that really convinced his audience.That is certainly worthy of note.

Report Abuse

Red Well

January 03, 2013  1:14pm

"The market is now flooded with books by Ph.D.s who cannot write an interesting and intelligible paragraph, and by wannabe pop apologists who just aren't very smart." Too true... Regarding MC's success overall, protestant Christianity in the US tilts toward anti-intellectualism and dissuades or redirects great minds before they hone the kind of informed analysis that Lewis mastered. By contrast, old world Britain (and perhaps even Stackhouse's Canada!) offers a more established Christian intellectual tradition. Yet as Stackhouse points out, Americans still crave the kind of affirmation and argumentation offered by MC. Perhaps one reason many believers find the "new atheists" vexing is that they are both intellectually serious and plainly articulate.

Report Abuse

Tom Nash

December 30, 2012  1:13am

Mere Christianity and other apologetic books have strengthened my own faith -- after conversion. However, it was the good old fashioned work of the Holy Spirit, not rational arguments, that initially brought me to saving faith. It was a heart thing, not a head thing. So, are apologetic arguments more useful as evangelistic tools or as sources of edification for those who already believe?

Report Abuse

Noel Anderson

December 29, 2012  7:44am

Stackhouse says the pictures in Lewis' head stopped appearing when he was in his "mid-sixties." Lewis was born in 1898 and died in 1963, not yet 65. How much mid-sixties was there to work with?

Report Abuse

Larry Newman

December 28, 2012  9:44pm

The explanation doesn't explain the hugeness of the popularity. It's not some technique or combination of techniques that Lewis used, such as argument plus depiction, as much as the anabashed attempt to address our fellow human beings with what he considered the basic truth about life is, at a starting point we all understand. Professor Stackhouse is looking at trees, in pointing out that Lewis is using "the moral argument" that has this and that history, espoused by such and such a thinker in history, and how controversial it is. Instead,(the forest is) his engagement of us as human beings, who have all heard others "quarreling" and trying to say that people are wrong in this or that ... that is the ineluctable common ground that all of us who have lived in any kind of society can witness to all the time. An "argument" is just the following of statements by their implications, and Lewis points to a basic fact: we want something true, and what is implied by it!

Report Abuse

Santosh Ninan

December 28, 2012  2:30pm

I re-read Mere Christianity every January, which means I should crack it open in another couple of days. There is no other book I own that continues to point out the truth of my faith and truth about God. The only other book that has affected me as much is Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. Lewis WAS an ordinary layman - he was never ordained or ever held any kind of official office in the Church of England. Having degrees and teaching at a University should not place him in a category above "ordinary". And a couple of paragraphs that display antiquated views on women's roles in the home should not be enough to deprive giving this book to a thoughtful seeker.

Report Abuse

Howard Pepper

December 27, 2012  5:26pm

It's been many years since I read Mere Christianity and my theology has changed dramatically. But I have reviewed it briefly & recently watched the movie, "Shadowlands" about him. It includes a few minutes of his BBC broadcasts, particularly the famous "liar, lunatic or Son of God" section. One of the major changes since MC's publication is advanced NT scholarship and "Jesus studies". When he wrote, the Dead Sea Scrolls had barely been discovered, far from completely translated and released, as just one example. "Q" was not much studied and understood. Schweitzer had shown the centrality of the apocalyptic prophet role but it was not widely discussed. If Lewis had lived several decades later, I'm not at all sure he would have supported traditional dogma nearly as much as he did, though he did challenge it even then, in some areas. Apologetics for well-educated, studious people just is (properly) much tougher today than it was 5-6 decades ago. Tradition's holes are more exposed.

Report Abuse

R Breedveld

December 27, 2012  4:01pm

Mere Christianity helped me (an eighteen-year old Christian student) make it through secular university with my faith intact. That was back in the seventies. But I still enjoying picking up my copy of Lewis' book and reading through it. His arguments and illustrations seem to work for me!

Report Abuse

M Adisu

December 27, 2012  1:44pm

Yes, we do need to engage the culture more, especially during the weeks leading up to Christmas and Easter. Another yet unconverted Oxonian, Dawkins, was on Al Jazeera last week dutifully preaching on God, ignorance, genetics, intolerance, etc. We also need to be consistent with our message the rest of the year. Lewis was consistently a clear thinker and a communicator. I should say your "depiction without argument" may well be an apt description of the state we are in. It was Mark Noll who in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind [1994] brought to our attention the dangers of abandoning the life of the mind. I often wonder if the strong following Lewis continues to enjoy within the evangelical community is not an attempt by the latter to latch onto the "argument" component that is lacking.

Report Abuse

Charles Cosimano

December 27, 2012  12:26pm

The problem with Mere Christianity is far deeper than the article's author realizes. It is, after all, a period piece. Its target audence nominal Christians in 1948 Britain. It is loaded with examples that only work for that audience. It does not persuade anyone who is not already persuaded and merely needs a push over the edge. From the first paragraph, the cultural weaknesses of his argument are apparent for we live in a culture where folks will say without hesitation, "To hell with your values," if they do not agree with them. You cannot use shared morality effectively because there is the very real possibility that the hearer, or reader, may not share that moral vision at all. And, after all, the confirmed unbeliever has a simple response the Trilemma.

Report Abuse

Sabrina Messenger

December 03, 2012  3:44pm

Quite frankly, I found Mere Christianity boring. I much prefer CS Lewis's other works.

Report Abuse