Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

This work is Lewis' defense of Christianity. He strives to be non-denominational and simply to address the idea of Christianity. I have not yet read about CS Lewis as a person but I gather he was at one point an atheist and before this work converted to Christianity. His initial argument (probably really poorly paraphrased) is that each person has an ideal of behavior that they consider "good" and by which they judge themselves and others. Few, if any, are able to obtain this ideal behavior and yet we know of it. He thinks that in order for this ideal to exist, the understanding of something better had to come to us from something outside of ourselves (God!). He also defends the creation of the universe by God with the same kind of thought line - an architect could not create a house that he was a part of - he must be removed, a distinct separate piece in order to create. And so, God is separate from us in order to be able to create us and to form this ideal that we all intrinsically understand.

I like the section I read where CS Lewis asserts that we will be judged in the end not by how close we are to ideal but by how much progress we made with what we have been given. He acknowledges that some people are born bad tempered, impatient, sarcastic, (all those characteristics that I have and must constantly strive to overcome). So the person who started in the world with a naturally sweet disposition wouldn’t necessarily come out "ahead" of their foul mannered neighbor if the neighbor was actually working harder to overcome his temperament than the sweet one was working to use his temperament for good. So, all the goody-two-shoe's of the world take note, I may yet get to heaven and won't you be surprised to see me there!

He compares people again later in the book when he talks about how what we see as terrible sins - sins of a sexual nature - are not always the worst in God's eyes. Because our culture puts such an emphasis on sexuality these sins have taken on a heightened importance in our minds. But Lewis claims that for all we know, the prostitute may actually be closer to God than the church going man who puts his position or his wealth ahead of his love of the Lord. Lewis cites as an example people paying to see strip teases, looking at girlie pictures and reading or viewing pornography. Then he compares that to another natural drive, our drive to eat, and says we don't do this with food. we don't devote hours of time to it watching shows and reading about it. I immediately wondered if CS Lewis were alive today what would he think of the Food Network and the proliferation of magazines and cookbooks. I fantasize and almost drool as I pore over the recipes in my Southern Living magazine - is this my porn? And I love watching Unwrapped on the Food Channel - I am a sinner!

My practically perfect friend, Mary Poppins, recommended I read this and my mother is also a huge CS Lewis fan. The version I read was borrowed from my mother it was maybe the third edition and it was published in the early 1950's! Mary Poppins says she has read it again and again and I can see that. There is so much to take in that you just skim the surface with the first reading. He is such a persuasive writer with such easily understood examples hat I found myself just reading an nodding flowing like a river through the words. I know my experience would be different if I read the book as part of a discussion group and took the time to reflect and debate some of the points he makes.

Overall, excellent book, throughly enjoyed it and will definitely read it again.

This is one of the books on my list for the Spring Reading Thing 2009. Click on the logo to see the rest of my list.

1 comment:

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