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.