Mere Christianity

After serving the British army in the brutal trenches of World War I, C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) went on to teach English literature at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He may be most famous for his Chronicles of Narnia series of 7 books, which I read to my daughter, Jana, when she was 6 years old. In 1942, when Britain was being bombarded by 400 German planes every night, Lewis was invited by the BBC to give a series of radio lectures on the central meaning of Christianity. The lectures continued until 1944 and were published as 3 books, then subsequently combined as Mere Christianity in 1952. When I read Mere Christianity recently, sadly for the first time, I was overwhelmed by Lewis' ability to humbly state a powerful, clear, and rational case for the Christian faith. While Lewis didn't consider himself a theologian, I consider him a genius, a 1-in-a-billion combination of logic, faith, and imagination who came to understand and live the Christian faith at the age of 32, when his life was dramatically altered by an encounter with Jesus Christ. Mere Christianity does not consist of academic philosophical musings, it's a work of oral literature, honestly spoken to an audience struggling for survival in a world gone mad. If you haven't read this book, do so as soon as possible.

Here a just a few of my favorite excerpts:

* Though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. [To a place where everyone] is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes.

* Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions, or Faith in Christ. I have no right really to speak on such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary.

* The command 'Be Ye Perfect' is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were 'gods' and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him--for we can prevent Him, if we choose--He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful, but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what he said.

* The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: The pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and back biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must become. They are the Animal self and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it it better to be neither.

* Keep nothing back. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin and decay. But look to Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.