Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A book about a book: The Life and Times of 'Mere Christianity'

George Marsden's C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity: A Biography (2016) should be on your reading list for 2017 (and for locals of Cedar Rapids, you too can check it out from the public library).

Whether this is you first encounter with the writings of C.S. Lewis (1899-1963) or you're already an admirer of all things Lewis, Marsden's book about a book will draw you in.

Mere Christianity has a surprising life worth studying. The book began as lectures on British Broadcasting Radio in the heat of World War II. These were 15 minutes speeches written for and spoken to scared soldiers, war widows, and a bombed out England. Publishers quickly realized that these words had a depth and winsomeness to them that deserved publication. It turns out they were right. On both sides of the Atlantic, and now around the globe, C.S. Lewis's Christian imagination and theological arguments have become old friends and useful weapons for bringing down the strongholds of darkness.

Mere Christianity is second in sales only to Lewis's seven books of fiction, The Chronicles of Narnia. Mere Christianity is an invitation to feel the logic of Christian doctrine, and to understand the beautiful vista of Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection.

One particular paragraph on page 85 was worth the price of the book for this reader. Marsden writes:

   Lewis also found apologetic work spiritual debilitating [a Christian apologist defends the Christian faith]. 'I have found that nothing is more dangerous to one's own faith,' he told a group of Anglican clergy and youth workers in 1945, 'than the work of an apologist. No doctrine of that Faith seems to me so spectral, so unreal as the one that I have just successfully defended in public debate.' The problem, he explained, was that such occasions make the doctrine appear to rest on the 'weak pillar' of one's own self and arguments. Faith could not rest just on cold reasoning. One needed to get back 'into the Reality--from Christian apologetic to Christ himself.

   We can learn much from this great 20th century defender of the Christian faith. But more than anything, what we must experience most is not "good arguments for Christianity," but rather, the Good Christ of Christianity. The best reasons to become a Christian are like advertisements or maybe even personal ads, but in the end, Christianity is a relationship, a marriage, a reunion of a loving God and His beloved people. If we don't get to the Reality, the reasons don't matter much.

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