by C.S. Lewis
I've read The Chronicles of Narnia at least 3 times all the way through (My all-in-one copy is sorely tattered with a preponderance of notes from the last read through.) I've read much of Jack's other fiction. I even read The Four Loves earlier this year. But I only just finished reading his classic work of non-fiction.
My first impression was that I found it much easier to read that The Four Loves, which I accounted to the "mereness" he was trying to present and the fact that this book was originally presented as a series of radio talks. The book reminded me of my "first love" for the Gospel. But, more than that I was brought back into the initial wonder of Christ that Lewis is known to paint. I believe he had an advantage coming to Christianity from an atheist's perspective. But, not just as an atheist - an atheist who loved story.
Jack uses logic, simple pictures, cliques, and colloquialisms, as well as appeals to human nature and and Christian tradition to show us what Christianity is all about. He moves from establishing natural law, to the need for the Gospel, and then the Gospel itself. He then teaches basic doctrine while immediately applying it to the Christian life. He begins with discussion of specific areas of the Christian life but doesn't waste time showing that the ultimate goal isn't following a list of rules, but sanctification.
The final portion of the book from which I gained the most is his proposition that the point of the Christian life is Christ purifying all of you. That if Christ must have any He must have all. That if you find victory over your few great sins, that is only the beginning. That God has come not to repair a few leaks, but to turn your cottage into a palace, for He must live there. That to pursue righteousness, we must many times make our flesh pretend. But, we do not pretend in vain for Christ is there "turning our pretense into reality."
That those who resist temptation know it better than evil men who never resist. That faith is not dependent on moods. Christ takes people where they are and sanctifies them from that point, not compared to where other people are in their walk. “The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.”
It is so easy to become so wrapped up in furthering the kingdom or changing the culture, that I forget what is necessary to truly do those things. If I neglect my personal purification, there will be no real change. How is the kingdom built? When my heart is changed to the point that I must share this change with others. Change happens when Christ tears something away in myself and replaces it with Him and then I want to see the same restoration in my culture.
Yes, C.S. Lewis believed in free will. Yes he believed that a Buddhist focusing on the "Christian" elements on his religion may have been part of Christ and not known it. But, the statements of these views are mostly stated in the final chapters. I found too much wonderful encouragement and interesting ways of explaining other doctrines to cast this book or Lewis himself aside. Besides, I don't read books because I'm desperate for something to argue with.
I found myself undertanding the Space Trilogy better. Or, rather, I understood this book because I had pictures and stories to accompany the wonder and mystery of doctrine presented here.
I believe this book can reach Christians of all stages. Whether "scared that Christianity might be true," new to orthodox doctrine, or in varying stages of dying to self, C.S. Lewis provided a great source of education and encouragement.
Some Favorite Quotes from the Mere Christianity:
"Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in."
“This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there’s a rumor going around the shop that some of us are someday going to come to life.”
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”