I recently finished reading a literary masterpiece by C.S. Lewis called Mere Christianity. It’s a book about many different Christian topics, misconceptions, and ideas that are explained by Clive in great detail. Now, there are many different topics that I could focus on in this review, but for the sake of time, I will focus on my favorite four—or, as Lewis would say, “favourite four”.
First, Lewis describes how right and wrong are a clue to the meaning of the Universe. He makes the observation that our internal awareness of what is actually “right” and what is actually “wrong” reveals that God principally cares about justice, and that God does exist. The reality is that no one can escape the law of God, and we are all aware of it. We know deep down that there are actions that our society allows and celebrates, which we know to be wrong in our hearts. This deep-down knowledge of what is actually right and what is actually wrong, is the internal inheritance of the knowledge of God’s law. According to Lewis, “Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later” (p. 17; para. 3). I have found this for the most part to be a true statement.
But let me put Lewis’ description of what is right and wrong in more concrete detail. Let’s say there is an Aztec tribe in South America that supports sacrificing people to a tribal god. Someone who is in the middle of that society will get three guiding feelings about what is right and wrong in that situation. First, they probably will get a feeling of support for the sacrificing of innocent people because of their society, and because it influences what they think is right. The second feeling is different from the first, they will have their own personal guiding feeling about the matter; they may even desire to sacrifice innocent people because it’s what they personally think is good. However, there is a third feeling in that person, a feeling of what “ought” to be done. It’s this feeling of what “ought” to be done that gives that person in South America a genuine and true feeling that the sacrificing of a human life is wrong. It is this guiding feeling that is independent of time, place, person, and society.
It’s this third feeling, the “what ought to be done” feeling that is the inherent understanding of God’s law. A law that none of us can escape and that all of us will be held accountable to, regardless of our geographic location or knowledge of the Bible. This law does not need people to make it known, it is just something in all of us that we inherently know. While the argument certainly can be made that this third feeling is nothing more than an in-between—or byproduct—of the first two guiding feelings, I do not think the argument stands because this third feeling can often be completely different than the first two guiding feelings. If we go back to the Aztec citizen, the “what ought to be done” feeling is not an in-between feeling of the first two guiding feelings—indicating that this third feeling does in fact lay independent of the first two.
Another idea discussed by Lewis in Mere Christianity is how to measure the effectiveness of Christianity. To preface, we must understand that we are all products of our environments. Let’s take a fictional character, Bob, who grows up in a very good home and becomes a very nice and happy person. Let’s compare that to a fictional character, Jake; he is grown up in a terrible home and has all kinds of anger and emotional issues. They are both just products of their environments. Let’s add a third character, Jill, who is a Christian. It just so happens that Jill is an even less pleasant person that Jake, our character with anger issues. Now, should the effect of Christianity be to measure Jill against Jake and Bob? Absolutely not, because they are all the products of their environments. However, the measure of Christianity should be to compare Jill, at the beginning of her walk with Jesus, to Jill at the end of her life. What type of person did she blossom into because of her relationship with God? That is the question that measures the effectiveness of Christianity. Comparing Jill to Bob is silly when we know that they are the products of their environments, the true measure is what can Jill and Bob and Jake become because of their relationship with Jesus.
Now, this is misleading because it appears that the measure of Christianity is how nice people can become. On the contrary, it’s about becoming a new creation in Christ. The niceness may be a byproduct of that; however, it is not what God cares about, and it does not always come to everyone. Some people just don’t have it in their DNA (since they are a product of their environment in their physical make-up as well) to be nice people. The good news is that God cares about using you for your intended purpose, not just making you a nice person.
More than a FeelingOne more thing posed by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity is a discussion of love. He talks about how love is so much more than a feeling (something I have said for quite some time now). And, to diverge the discussion for a second, one reason why you should read this book is because it will reassure so many things you have already thought; he will put those thoughts into the soundest of words that will make you want to jump up and shout, “I’ve always thought that too!” But back to the main point, love is absolutely more than a feeling.
C.S. Lewis (1952) says that “Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go” (p. 93; para. 2). If we expected our initial feelings for our wife to last a lifetime, then we would be disappointed when those feelings calm down in later stages of marriage. Also, if you tried to keep that same feeling for your spouse for your entire life, then you would exhaust yourself completely trying to make yourself feel a certain way. Lewis (1952) goes on to say, “It is much better fun to learn to swim than to go on endlessly (and hopelessly) trying to get back the feeling you had when you first went paddling as a small boy” (p. 95; para. 1). The way our feelings change can propel us into deeper water, and more fulfilling water with our wives. Essentially, do not be disappointed by the nature of relationship feelings to calm, it is just biology and the natural course of relationships. It’s not that you love your wife less in later stages of marriage, because you most certainly should grow in your ability to love her by serving her; however, those puppy love feelings do die down and they should. What we should do is move forward with our wives, and pursue serving God as we grow to know each other more deeply, and as we grow in our ability to serve each other more genuinely.
Our Solar SystemMy fourth and final compliment of C.S. Lewis’ work is how he describes our solar system. Essentially, he compares the complex nature of the solar system to the complexity of God. You see, our solar system is not how we would have thought it to be. If I thought of a solar system that would have been made by a god, I would have imagined one that has some distinct and obvious order. Lewis says that perhaps the biggest planet would be in the middle, such as Earth, and all the others would be smaller and equal distances from it in clear intervals—perhaps even with perfectly circular orbits. This would be our guess because normal things that are designed usually play out that way. However, what we actually find is that there are some small planets, some gigantic planets, and some even spinning different ways and acting with peculiar behavior. Basically, our solar system has a character that we could not have guessed. Similarly, our God is a God that we could not have guessed.
Our God has qualities that we do not understand and that we never would’ve attributed to Him on our own. For instance, God created Hell, this is something that no one would’ve guessed, but it is something that we unfortunately find to be true. Just like with our solar system, there are so many things that we could not have guessed, so too is the case with our God. It makes perfect sense, though, a complicated God has a complicated creation. A creation with phenomena we cannot fully understand also has a God that we cannot fully understand.
ConclusionIn closing, I want to give Mere Christianity a ten out of ten (10/10). I feel that it describes the rationale of the Christian faith so appropriately, as well as explaining away the plethora of misconceptions that plague peoples’ views of it. You’ll notice, if you give this book a read, that he has a way of writing that will keep you engaged—you will not want to put this book down. He has a very enjoyable and soothing writing style that will keep the book on the forefront of your mind and heart. You need to read this book whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian because it will give you a deeper understanding of Christianity. Trust me, time spent reading this book is well worth it.
Cite: Faucett, D. (2017). Review of Mere Christianity. Faucett Journal. Retrieved from http://www.faucettjournal.com/articles/mere-christianity-review