I’m finally getting to a project I’ve long talked about, namely blogging through CS Lewis’ classic book Mere Christianity. I plan to go more-or-less straight through, chapter by chapter. But I will also vary the pace and take an extra post here and there to expand on something in the book from time to time, so the numbers on the post titles will not correlate with the chapters themselves. So I’ll make note of where I am at the top of each post.
If you’re wanting to read along, now is a good time to pick up a copy wherever fine books are sold, either at a store or online. If you’ve never read Mere Christianity, I think you’re in for a treat.
For my part, I’m certainly no expert. I have read Mere Christianity many times and once had the immense blessing of teaching through it weekly—just about chapter by chapter—with a great small group of guys, which took us about eight months to do. But I’ve not reached the point of having read through, much less studied well the whole Lewis canon. Still, I think I can be helpful for those who’ve got a little less time with it than I, so I offer these posts for that purpose.
The preface establishes a few helpful details at the outset.
- The background
- He aims to contend only for “mere” Christianity
- How he will use the term “Christian,” especially in reference to Book Three, on Christian Morality
These are the collection of what where originally radio addresses on BBC radio. They had been previously collected into three books, and are here collected into one, with some editing to help the transition from spoken language to written language.
Lewis aims not to weigh in on a doctrinal distinctive of a particular denomination, though he says of himself, “There is no mystery about my own position. I am a very ordinary layman of the Church of England, not especially ‘high,’ nor especially ‘low,’ nor especially anything else.”
He helpfully reminds us that not only is it true that the finer points of doctrine that separate one branch of Christianity from another are fewer and less weighty than those points of agreement that bind the whole faith together. In my own context, this is clearly seen around the beliefs and practices associated with baptism. Baptism is certainly an important thing, and our theology of baptism is far from insignificant. But it is also not so great a point as to overshadow the centrality of Jesus Christ as Divine Son of God, Savior of the world, and Lord of all creation, for example. That is far greater a thing to have in common, that particular theologies about and practices for baptism that differ, important as those may be.
And Lewis points out that conversations, even arguments, about doctrinal distinctives are conversations for the already converted: “I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold.” Let’s stick to the stuff at the absolute center, the core.
Here’s the best definition of “mere Christianity”: “Ever since I became a Christian, I have though that the best, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbelieving neighbors was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times” (emphasis mine).
I’ll get to the use of the term “Christian” in my next post.