Three years ago when I was recovering from a crush, I gave someone the opportunity to recommend any two unrelated books and promised that I’d read one of the two. Today I finally made good on that promise by finishing reading Mere Christianity (book and lecture series or PDF), which is probably the most famous Christian apologetic book.
I will not express any philosophical opinions on this book yet, only sentimental ones. For starters, Mere Christianity is definitely not what I expected it to be. It is split into four “books”:
- The first book tries to argue that the reason why we have a general sense of morality that we expect others to abide by is because God placed this in us. His argument is a bit tedious, and the first time I read it (years ago, while still in my philosophical prime) I found several logical issues with it, though I cannot remember them from this recent re-read of it.
- The second book starts to breach the area of what Christians believe, but not in a very concrete sense.
- The third book describes his view about what moral beliefs Christians have in common, both in terms of non-religious topics and religious topics.
- It is only in the final book that he really states the essence of what Christianity is about, in terms of what Christians are meant to be and strive for.
Lewis’ style of writing is very idiosyncratic. (Well actually, it’s based off his radio talks.) I cannot say that I like it (it is quite unfamiliar to me), but I appreciate the way he uses imagery and analogy to convey exactly what it is he means about things that could easily be misinterpreted by presumptuous people. I also admire the way he dispels a lot of illogical nonsense that people seem to get caught up with. His style of flow and reasoning is fairly convincing in the moment, but I must admit that it makes it harder for me to remember the bigger picture, where it is easier to spot logical flaws. Although some of his references to culture are outdated or foreign, even when it’s a miss it doesn’t pose an obstacle for interpretation.
Lewis uses analogies to explain the most difficult concepts in Christianity. It’s a no-nonsense explanation for laymen, and I definitely learned a thing or two that no one else has managed to conveyed to me so far. He also has some intriguing and purely philosophical hypotheses that seem to be his personal beliefs. Overall I would definitely recommend Mere Christianity to other non-Christian readers to get a basic grasp of Christianity without all the stigma, misrepresentation, and nonsense that is typical of hearsay. However, a major disadvantage of Lewis’ approach using analogy for me is that I now have to verify whether what he says is indeed an accurate portrayal of what Christians believe, but since he didn’t use much Christian terminology I also have to independently distinguish opinion from statement and try to decipher his analogies accurately.