Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Book Review on Mere Christianity

In this book review I will endeavor to explain the content of the book, and will hold my commentary to the end of the series. Please refer to Challies.com for other pertinent commentary on Lewis and this his most well known book.  

Mere Christianity was written in order to set down what all Christians agreed on, not what we argue about. Lewis wrote it as an apologetic for the death, resurrection and incarnation of Christ. This is the testimony of Christ. Lewis says in the Introduction that, “Ever since I became a Christian I have thought that the best, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbelieving neighbors was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times.” This goal was the premise of Mere Christianity.
Lewis had not been a Christian most of his life, and therefore had an affinity for skeptics. He felt that by explaining Christianity in this most basic way he could win some of them over to his way of thinking. He sets out to show the superiority of the Christian worldview over the naturalistic and pantheistic worldviews. He wanted Mere Christianity not necessarily to be a theological treatise nor a dogmatic, but rather a way of living and thinking.
He sets out to prove his thesis, that Christianity is a far superior world-view, by separating his material into four different sections. The first book is titled, “Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe.” The second book is titled “What Christians Believe.” The third book is titled "Christian Behavior”, and the last book is titled “Beyond Personality: or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity.”
The first part begins by showing that all humans by nature have some sort of agreement as to what is right and wrong. Lewis calls this the Law of Nature and this law governs all humans. Moderns have come to believe that the laws of nature are the scientific laws such as gravitation or the laws of physics. However, the laws of nature, according to Lewis, are the moral laws that govern human behavior. The difference between the two is that humans do not choose gravity or scientific laws, but can choose to either obey or disobey the moral laws that govern everyone. 
Lewis believed that the moral laws are innate and that people didn’t have to be taught them. If we take the moral laws of the different religions, and the ancient peoples, the similarities far out weigh the differences. He uses the example of someone who says that there is no objective right and wrong. This person cannot live like there is no right or wrong. All men have a standard, even if it is just self-interest.
The next point he makes is that we have knowledge of right and wrong, but we do not keep this objective standard. We feel that law of nature squeezing us into its mold, but deep down we know we do not conform. These laws are different from mere instincts, because you usually have to decide between two different impulses. If the choice is to save a man that is drowning or be safe yourself, then the moral law tells you help him at the sacrifice of yourself. This moral law is stronger than the other impulse, and often supercedes it. If no set of moral laws were better than any others then what would be the difference between the Nazis and the United States society? If moderns were consistent they would be more on the side of Peter Singer than on decent moral behavior. The problem with today (as even from Lewis’ day) is that more and more people are leaning toward a morality like Peter Singers.
This leads CS Lewis asking the question about who is behind the objective morality? Who is the power behind the law? He is not yet speaking of Christianity, but just getting his readers to find out what the something is that is directing the universe. He wants to direct his readers to a good, an absolute goodness, and if there is absolute goodness then this absolute goodness must hate what we do. He says God (absolute goodness) is the only comfort. He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger – according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way? (p. 31) He said we start with dismay, and end in unspeakable comfort.
This leads to the second book; What Christians believe. He has spent a great deal of time leading up to this point. He had been doing pre-evangelism to this point. Now he switches gears. He takes the idea of atheism and turns it quickly to theism by showing its absurdity. Atheists have to prove that they are right, and all others are wrong. Atheists have to prove that in a world without meaning (to them) why is it we are always grasping for it? Dualism comes close to truth, but we have to rule it out too, because evil is a parasite of good (which Augustine said before Lewis). If this was not the case then we would have two competing gods and our choice of one over the other would not be good or bad only our own personal preference. This rules out Dualism.
Christians believe that God created the evil power, but God created al things good, but evil was chosen. God made man with free-will which makes evil “possible”, it also makes love, goodness and joy worth having. We then freely had the choice to love and unite to God out of that free will? The moment God made the self then there became a “possibility” of placing that self before God, and wanting to be like God as Satan said before our fall. This he put into the first creatures minds – to be like gods, find happiness apart from God, but there is no happiness apart from Him. As Augustine said, “You made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you?” (Confessions, p.21) This comes to the question of what do we do with the moral filth in our lives so we may find that peace with a good God? What do we do with Jesus? God, in Christ, became man so that He could help us. He suffered and died in humiliation. He could do this as a man, and be the perfect sacrifice, because He was God. Christ became our peace, so we would be united to God (Eph. 2:14-18). This brings us to the choice of rejecting Christ or not.

More to Come...............Lynn

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