Mere Christianity: Part 1


I wasn’t intending to start this series so soon, but I had easy access to Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, so I decided to get started now. This first part only addresses the preface, but there was enough in it worth talking about, so I’ll make a post on the preface alone.

First, I’d like to begin by asking those of you who believe this book to be a good representation of Christianity why you believe so and what your denomination is. For those of you who disagree, why do you disagree and what is your denomination?

In the preface, while discussing his intention to make his book a good representation of all Christianity, Lewis argues “our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son.” How does this help anyone? The Christian divisions are obvious to anyone who cares to see them. One must only look at the names of churches: Zion United Church, Brentwood Baptist Church, St. Peter’s Church, etc. We can see the divisions. Refusing to talk about them doesn’t make us think they aren’t there, it just makes us think you’re deceiving us. Don’t not talk about them, but do tell us why you think we should become Christians despite them.

Lewis goes on to explain that he will not discuss things that he has no knowledge of. He states “I have also said nothing about birth-control. I am not a woman nor even a married man.” I think he can be forgiven for thinking that a husband has any say in whether or not his wife takes birth control: it was a different time. That said, I think a number of today’s men should take a lesson from this. Particularly politicians and lobbyists. If you aren’t a woman, why are you trying to pass laws about what birth control women can and can’t use?

He then discusses the habit of telling people what they can and can’t be. Again, I have to agree with Lewis: we have words, and these words have definitions, and they become meaningless when we use these words however we like. Personally, I’d accept someones claim that they are a Christian if they tell me that they believe in the Christian god and Jesus Christ. I’m not sure how necessary the Bible is, since most Christians don’t seem to have read the Bible and as such can’t really say whether or not they accept it, and Christians can’t seem to decide if it’s the infallible word of god or man’s interpretation, and whether it’s literal or a metaphor. As such, I think the first two will have to do. Likewise, I won’t accept someone’s claim to be a Christian if they tell me that they believe in a god, but can’t say more about it than that, or if they claim that nature is that god. That’s really more of a deism or a basic theism. Though he goes on to say “As for the unbelievers, they will no doubt cheerfully use [Christian] in the refined sense. It will become in their mouths simply a term of praise. In calling anyone a Christian they will mean that they think him a good man.” What? How does that make any sense? Yes, in today’s society, one need only to call themselves a Christian to be considered a good person. It it is the Christians who use it in the sense that Lewis described. It’s not in the non-believers interest to do so, because it buys into a systemic problem: that one must be Christian to be good. Take atheists for example. People think we’re as trustworthy as rapists. We are assumed to be bad people because we aren’t believers, and, in particular, Christians. So why would we use Christian as a synonym for “good person”? We don’t think that all Christians are good people, and we don’t think that you have to be a Christian to be a good person. To resolve his fear that Christian may become synonymous with “good person,” he suggests calling a Christian a bad Christian, rather than saying that they can’t be a Christian, when they behave immorally. This to me is a no-brainer. If you say “no x would do y,” that’s a no-true-Scotsman fallacy. A person can still be a Christian and do bad things. They are not not-a-Christian, they are simply a bad Christian, or a bad person who happens to be a Christian.

Lewis then goes on to warn against judging others. He likens discovering Christianity to finding your room in a hall with many rooms. I can’t decide if this is patronizing or a good analogy. One one hand, it’s like he’s saying “if you’re not a Christian, you just haven’t found the right room yet.” This is patronizing because it discredits every non-Christians’ experiences. But, on the other hand, it’s like he’s saying “everybody has their own room, and what’s right for one person may not be right for another.” This is a good analogy. It allows everybody’s experiences to matter, and it keeps people from viewing their belief system as superior to all others.

This is my interpretation of Mere Christianity up to now. I doubt that I’ll have time to post reviews every day, but I’ll do them as often as possible.

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8 responses to “Mere Christianity: Part 1

  • bornfromabove7

    C.S. Lewis like most people that claim to be Christian in the world today believe in freewill, the bible does not teach freewill, Yeshua the Messiah did not teach freewill, therefore those that claim to be Christian that do not speak the truth that is in the bible are not led by the Spirit, those who are no led by the Spirit are either deceived or not born of the Spirit,

    a Christian is someone that believes Yeshua is the Messiah that doesn’t practice sin (1 John 3:9 & 1 John 5:1) the bible makes that very clear & the bible makes it very clear that no one by freewill makes the choice to accept the Messiah (John 6:65).

    And 1 Cor 1:10 does not support different denominations in the church, 1 Cor. 1:10 makes it very clear that a Christian is supposed to speak the same thing, those that claim to be Christian that do not speak the same thing as the Apostles spoke are not led by the Spirit

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  • wavygirl27

    I think that division of the churches is why the liberals are taking over today. If our churches can’t agree on major issues like abortion or homosexuality, then why should the rest of the world listen? I go to a Baptist church, but the stance there is that if you are a follower of Christ, and have accepted him into your life and confessed your sins, you are a Christian, and the labels that surround this or that religion don’t matter anymore.

    I haven’t read the book, and probably should, but I’m more of a fiction girl so it would be hard for me to get into.

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    • bornfromabove7

      In regards to abortion & homosexuality, the church is not supposed to judge the world, the church is supposed to judge those who claim to be Christian that practice sin & remove them from the church that’s what 1 Cor 5:9-13 says.

      Any church that claims to be Christian that allows sin in their church is not led by the Spirit, & any church that judges the world is not led by the Spirit, a Christian is not supposed to associate with anyone that claims to be Christian that is not led by the Spirit

      1 Cor 5:9-13 I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of the world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you to not associate with any so-called brother if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-not even eat with such a one.

      For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked person from among yourselves.

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  • hannahgivens

    Hi! Thanks for the follow, I’ll look forward to the rest of this series.

    Regarding the “Christian” terminology, I would definitely say that’s a product of his time and place… Non-Christians now would NEVER use the term “Christian” as a generic stand-in for “good person,” because the two aren’t culturally linked anymore. I do see Christians/people in very Christian cultures doing it that way though. “A good Christian ____” just means it’s good quality or trustworthy or whatever, and the term is used by my grandparents’ generation, but not mine and very rarely by my parents’. (I live in Alabama, where “Christian” is still associated with “good,” but even with that young people very rarely do it.)

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  • johnspenn

    I haven’t read this book yet, but it is on my list. In the spirit of disclosure, I am a Primitive Baptist. If you want to know more about that go to crossroadspbc.org

    Regarding divisions: I partly agree and partly disagree with Lewis. I do believe Christians and churches should be open and honest about the reasons they may disagree with one another. But would it make a lot of sense for me, as a PB, to try to explain to you, an atheist, why I disagree with Lutherans on some doctrinal matters when you, the atheist, thinks we are both off our rockers for disagreeing over what you believe to be nonsense in the first place?

    Regarding birth control: why wouldn’t a husband have input in his wife’s decision to use (or not) birth control? Regarding politicians, why wouldn’t they regulate birth control options that were dangerous or life threatening? Isn’t that part of their job as public servants? To protect the public?

    Being a Christian is not a magic bullet that will keep anyone from doing horrible things. And, not being a Christian does not guarantee doing the same. You are dead on with this observation.

    Finally regarding the “rooms” analogy. I haven’t read it so I will reserve judgement, but I have this to add: only one of these competing worldviews can be true. The God of the Bible exists, or He does not. Jesus died to save His people from their sins, or He did not. Different worldviews make mutually exclusive claims. They may all be false, but they CAN NOT all be true, regardless of everyones personal experiences.

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    • hessianwithteeth

      When it comes to couple, a conversation is required to determine if the couple is ready to have a baby. Both partners should be in agreement before a baby is had. As such, if a woman isn’t ready for a baby, then her husband doesn’t have any right to tell her she can’t take birth control. I’d say the same of men. If they aren’t ready for a baby, then their wife has no right to tell him to remove the condom.

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      • johnspenn

        From your reply, it looks like you’re saying that ideally, they should both discuss the situation and come to a mutual agreement. Is that accurate?

        I agree with that position whole-heartedly.

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  • A Voice

    I haven’t read any of Jack’s work since my second to last semester as an undergraduate: eight years ago. One thing that struck me in particular about Mere Christianity is the particular point put to Jesus Christ, that he was either who he said he was, a liar or a madman.

    There is much Jack gets right and much that he gets wrong. I’d encourage exploring his work with all due epistemic humility, keeping in mind that he was first an atheist and what that tends to mean.

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