Why Read/Study Something Like Mere Christianity?

Before we go further with Mere Christianity, I should offer an analogy about what engaging in this sort of reading is like within the Christian life.

I played basketball in school. During the season, we practiced offensive plays, defensive strategies, shooting, plays for throwing the ball in-bounds, etc. Those had an immediate application to the games we would play that week. Some curricula, books, bible studies or Christian lessons are like that—clearly applicable to the game of life, and relatively soon after learning the lesson. But both during the off-season and during the season, our coach had us lifting in the weight room to build muscle strength and stamina.

Work in the weight room did not have an immediate application to executing the game we were playing, but it had tremendous implications for our ability to play the game well.

In other words, some of our Christian formation is like practicing shooting the ball, and drawing up and practicing the execution of plays—getting clear on what, how, when, and why we do what we do in order to be faithful Christians. Other parts of our Christian formation resemble lifting in the weight room—building the strength and stamina to live the Christian life faithfully.

Knowing specific offensive plays does little good if we lack the mental strength and discernment to read defenses and make adjustments that will allow us to score in the face of difficult opposition. Knowing our own defensive strategies does little good if we lack the strength and stamina to hold up against our opponents’ offensive advance.

The point is this. We need practice on the court to teach us the what, how, when, why so that we can know and run the Christian plays. And we need workouts in the weight room to sharpen our minds and strengthen our hearts—our emotional maturity and our courage—so that we have the fortitude to run the Christian plays in the face of confusion and/or opposition (even from within ourselves!).

Christian formation includes both of these dimensions—practicing on the court and lifting in the weight room. Some of our curricula, books, etc focus primarily on moving clearly from lesson to application, that is, practicing on the court. Others tilt primarily in the direction of lifting in the weight room, that is, strengthening us in mind, heart, and soul, so that we can apply Christian teaching with intelligence, courage, and endurance.

While I think you will find a good deal of “take-away” application in Mere Christianity (and in the Bible, and in the Christian classics) than you might think at first, I also think it important to point out that this is more like building muscle in the weight room than it is like learning the plays at practice. Both are absolutely vital. Both play their part.

One last thing. I want to point out that in the illustration I’ve been using, the assumption is that Christianity is a team sport. That is the biblical view. I don’t say that to shame, but rather to invite you (and challenge you, if that’s the proper motivator for you) to do the Christian life the way God designed it to be done—as a team.

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