“In the Trinity Term of 1929, I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England,” testified C.S. Lewis in his book, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life. Today’s article, however, is about another book from the same author, Mere Christianity.
First published in 1952, Mere Christianity is an anthology adapted from a series of radio broadcasts made by author Clive Staples Lewis for the BBC between 1941 and 1944.
The book discovers God from the perspective of a man with undeniable logic, a researcher of his own faith, and a Christian who is not afraid of uncomfortable questions. C.S. Lewis is not a theologian, but “an ordinary layman of the Church of England,” as he describes himself, who presents to the general public the essence of Christianity from his own perspective.
It is fair to say that some points in this book are subjective interpretations originating from the cultural, social, and religious context in which the author lived. Precisely because of this, Lewis was afraid to publish such a work. He did not want to create controversy within Christianity, but rather to offer sceptics an authentic, coherent, and healing Christianity, himself being among the healed.
With a humble attitude, Lewis manages to carry his readers by a thin rope along the border between faith and reason. Although his book is an exercise in clarity and eloquence, a tribute to the Christian creed, the author admits his limitations in the face of questions to which the only valid answer remains faith in the Transcendent.
Honest and open to dialogue, C.S. Lewis describes his own work with an exceptional metaphor: “[Mere Christianity] is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted… It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at.”
The volume has become one of the best-known theology books for the laity and ranks third in Christianity Today’s list of the most influential books in the American evangelical environment since 1945. Francis Sellers Collins, the geneticist who coordinated the Human Genome Project (the historic project to map all the genes in the human body) is just one of the contemporary personalities who based their first steps in Christianity on reading Lewis’s book.