Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Review 2013...#2 Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

How this book came to me:  I had heard of this book for years but never read it, then a few months ago a friend recommended it (she reads it through a couple times a year).  Since Christmas was coming, I asked for it for Christmas, and my husband gave it to me.

Nutshell Synopsis:  Mere Christianity is actually a collection of 4 shorter books that were based on radio spots done by Mr. Lewis when Britain was at war with Nazi Germany (the beginning of World War 2).  Previous to converting to Christianity, Mr. Lewis considered himself an atheist so he starts from the beginning to "prove" God and Moral Law, then walks the reader step-by-step through Christian living and doctrine. 

Quotes from the book:  I found many of the things that Mr. Lewis said to be interesting and, in some cases, inspiring.  There are a few "famous" quotes sprinkled throughout but decided to present some of his lesser-known (to me) bits of wisdom.

"We all want progress... There is nothing progressive about being pig headed and refusing to admit a mistake."

"This is one of the reasons I believe Christianity.  It is a religion that you could not have guessed."

"The better stuff the creature is made of-- the cleverer and stronger and freer it is-- then the better it will be if it goes right but also the worse it will be if it goes wrong."

"But even the best Christian that ever lived is not acting on his own steam-- his is only nourishing or protecting a life he could never have acquired by his own efforts."

"The real job of every moral teacher is to keep on bringing us back, time after time, to the old simple principles which we are all so anxious not to see."
"When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him.  When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less."

"If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next." 

"We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means..."
More Info: I don't always read Forwards and Prefaces of books but I'm glad I did on this one.  This particular edition had a Forward written by his stepson, Douglas Gresham, who explained much of the background of how Mere Christianity came to be. It also contains some letters between Mr. Lewis and several other people.  I did not read those.  Maybe next time. 

Reading Level:  This book is not terribly difficult to read but it did take some time to adjust myself to its obvious rhythm.  Mr. Lewis uses many turns of phrases that are particular to the time and place so unless the reader is slightly familiar with it there may be some confusion.   I knew my fondness for BBC America and Masterpiece Theater-type programming would come in handy one day!  Mere Christianity seems to me to be a type of apologetic and evangelistic tool but is thoughtful enough to engage long-time believers.

Re-readability:  I will probably re-read this book in the future, possibly a few years down the road.  As I said in the beginning, the friend who recommended it reads it over and over.  I was not as drawn into it as she, obviously, but it is a good book that I would  recommend although I'd say check it out from the library rather than buying an expensive copy.

Lasting Impressions:  There were several admonishing concepts that I take away from this book which include #1 Give people better raw material so that it is easier for them to make more moral acts of choice.  #2  Appetites grow by indulgence, take care of what I feed on. #3  This is a quote from the book that I hope people will understand of me and what I say/write:  "I can only ask instructed Christians to watch very carefully, and tell me when I go wrong; and others to take what I say with a grain of salt-- as something offered, because it may be a help, not because I am certain that I am right."

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