Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis [Book Summary – Review]

Britain was at war when C.S. Lewis first delivered these observations over the radio to the British community in 1942. It was an unpredictable time in the nation’s past. For over two years, the nation has been operating under the shadow of war. And, British people had just experienced the blitz’s terror. 

It was in these daunting conditions that Lewis provided these broadcasts on religion and morals when audience confidence was at its very lowest. In the face of so much confusion and disaster, it may have seemed odd to hear a person talk about the value of human justice and of respecting one’s rival. But the argument was that. In dire need of moral revitalization, they acted as a ray of hope to the nation. 

The ideas expressed in this review helped a country through the most painful times to maintain its trust and hope. And they will even support you. We may not be at war now but the effects of war on the human soul are more pervasive than it has ever been, like despair, depression, and ignorance. 

Yes, it’s about Christianity in these sections, but it is also about taking back our common meaning. These eternal thoughts on morals and religion, whether you are a believer or a nonbeliever, serve as a restoration to the persistent cynicism and nihilism that characterize our time.

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Chapter 1 – Intuitive comprehension of fundamental ethical law is available to all humankind. 

When people have problems with each other which happen regularly, how do we settle them? 

Are we playing it out as animals? Well, yes, occasionally. Yet, usually, by using our terms, we prevent physical confrontations. To phrase in a different way, we disagree with each other. Quarreling is an occurrence uniquely human. We are all doing it.

Kids quarrel all of the time. They are saying stuff like, ‘that’s not fair,’ and ‘but you promised, mom!’ 

And it is not only kids, adults are just as prone to little quibbling. They say stuff like ‘oh, I was there first,’ or ‘I helped you out so you owe me.’ Then, of course, the statement ‘you are lying’ would be made by lovers. So what does this affection of quarreling imply about us?

What is similar to both of these situations is that some sort of moral values such as justice or integrity is resorted to by the offended person. What is worse, their competitor is still supposed to stick to the same values. 

That is just what we find. On moral values, opposing sides seldom clash. If somebody is spotted having done something bad, perhaps stealing something or lying to their wife, they are improbable to argue that the moral position of the perpetrator is at blame, that stealing or lying are simply good acts. No, they are desperate to have reasons for why, in this particular situation, they should be disqualified. They may say right now I am hard on cash, or sorry, I have had a lapse in judgment. 

So even though people violate the rules of good behavior, they also believe they have done something bad, on an intuitive level. 

The secret is this intuitive element of ethics. We might have perfunctory explanations for our behavior, but fundamentally, whether something is right or wrong, equal or unjust, both of us, children and adults alike, feel intuitive. 

This is called the rule of nature by the writer, a common principle of good and moral conduct that all humans feel.

This moral rule of nature, of course, varies from what we generally know as the law of nature. You can not defy the law of gravity precisely, say, but you are allowed to break moral laws or disregard them. And then since it is by no means an arbitrary human creation, we can always think of morality as a law; all individuals have experienced the same moral instincts at all times. 

Chapter 2 – Across diverse ages and societies, moral principles remain generally constant.

We have just figured out that the writer believes in a common moral law shared by all humanity. Yet not everyone sided with him. As cultural relativists, those who reject that a fundamental moral law exists are identified. 

They think that from the world we live in, we learn laws about good and bad, and different cultures have different rules based on their traditions and culture. 

Cultural relativists contend that behavioral values are not understood intuitively from infancy. Kids, instead, have to hear from their family and teachers how they are supposed to act. The cultural relativist likely agrees with any parent who has had to punish his or her naughty child. But is this correct?

The idea that we do not have to impart good behavior expectations to children indicates that such rules are all made up; such as the fact that we have to study the multiplication table in school does not imply that the calculation three times three equals nine is not a valid truth of the world. Moral principles are not abstract and they are valid for all, just as mathematical truths.

Another popular objection that relativists have made is that many societies tend to have different ethical structures across history. Just imagine, the Romans used to love watching the lions eat Christians, but to modern minds, such a show would be distasteful. 

History is, undoubtedly, full of occasions such as this where culture operates in a manner that appears counter to our strongest moral intuitions. But does this confirm to us that the people of Rome have different values? Wouldn’t it be better to assume that in this regard, they were only acting immorally? 

Relativists, at any level, are guilty of blowing out of context cultural distinctions. If you take history into account, you will see that the ideals of different cultures are far more similar than they are different. For instance, nowhere in the world can you find a spot where deceit is kept as a quality, and cowardliness is celebrated.

You will notice more to endorse the idea of a moral law than to weaken it by turning an eye on history and anthropology. 

The moral law is not an abstract creation of a human being, but an eternal, actual thing. 

Chapter 3 – Proof for theism is the presence of universal rules. 

So we have seen the argument for the presence of nature’s universal rules. And then what? Why does it make a difference? 

Well, that matters that for a strictly materialistic view of the universe, this doesn’t fit right. 

There truly are, essentially, just two ways to perceive the world. There is the materialist image that suggests that over a long period, the universe is the random result of random interactions between pieces of matter. The metaphysical image is in contrast to this vision. From this view, the world is not at all the result of chance, but some overarching purpose or design has directed it.

What is it then? 

The first point to remember is that science is not able to address this issue. That is not to suggest that the scientific methodology is inaccurate or faulty. It’s just that science is ill-equipped to address simple questions about why. Although the science is excellent at studying and explaining how the universe acts, in other terms, it can not tell us why the universe acts the way it does. 

If we get a glimpse of why it won’t be by empirical methods. But for what? Or are we destined to be clueless forever? 

Well, there’s a different process. We can feel what by introspection, induces us to act the way we do and what we discover is that we are motivated by a strong, uniform force: the moral law. We can sense this rule by working on us and reminding us of how we act. 

We know this law is not a physical law, since human action is not dictated by it. We all recognize that the way people handle each other is of paramount importance, and what’s more, that they treat each other well. 

Still, the question is, does the materialist worldview’s cold, subjective universe account for this? If any kind of world could think for human beings is difficult to see. In the concept of thought or conscience behind the cosmos, the presence of spiritual law is even more relaxed. And however, one who appears to worry for us.

Then if not proven, the presence of universal law at least indicates the presence of some sort of moral being. Although the presence of the Christian God per se does not confirm this, it does demonstrate that there are things of the world that science does not understand, whereas Christianity does. 

Chapter 4 – The most plausible of all the reasonable explanations is that Jesus actually was and is, God. 

This section includes a further statement if you’re not yet sure of the reality of Christianity. In the form of a trilemma, this statement emerges. 

The Trilemma of Lewis focuses on Jesus’ argument to be divine in the New Testament.

Now, objectively, we can only view the argument of Jesus in one of three ways: either Jesus was speaking the truth and he was, and is, actually divine; he was knowingly lying to his disciples knowing perfectly well that he was only a man; or, he truly considered himself to be divine but wasn’t really what would make him delusional, on a level with the man who claims to be a poached egg. 

Those are the Trilemma’s three parts. It’s a trilemma, since, in its way, each component is hard to stomach. You may think it’s easier to accept that Jesus was just a man than a supernatural one, but you might have to acknowledge even then that he reflects a level of evilness or illusion that is just as unthinkable in human beings. 

Some people contend that another alternative exists. They accept that all right, Jesus was certainly not divine, but he was also a wonderful spiritual teacher deserving of veneration. For the speaker, this is an unreasonable choice, because if Jesus was not actually holy, then he would have been either a hideous liar or a hoax, none of which is morally noble. So we have to either believe that he truly is the son of God or fully condemn him. 

What are we to think, then? 

Well, Jesus was divine – the first of the three possibilities. And why? And this is most definitely based on what we know about Jesus-the life he lived, his personality, and his lessons. 

He led an incredibly humble life for a start, which counts against the possibility that he could be deliberately exploiting individuals for personal benefit. The values of modesty and integrity, he also preached. Only an unbelievably narcissistic and proud man, when he truly was not, could assert himself to be holy.

As for the likelihood of him being insane, well, Jesus shows great logic and wisdom in every other part of his life. No evidence existed that he was not in his right frame of mind. Is it possible that in just this one particular region he was delusional? 

The most possible choice is as weird as it may seem, that Jesus was actually divine. 

Chapter 5 – Man’s free will is the root of evil in the universe.

We’re going to answer an argument frequently levied against Christianity in this section, the problem of bad. 

Typically, the argument is something like this. If a compassionate and all-powerful God were to live, he would have the strength and the will to eliminate the world’s misery. Yet there is a world full of misery. Thus, as the scriptures declare, there will not be a benevolent and all-powerful God.

The writer proposes a theodicy – a theory meant to reconcile the presence of a fair God with the existence of Evil in reaction to this claim. But we need to be specific about the bond between good and bad, to start with. 

What is stronger, then, good or evil? What side are you cheering for? 

All right, that’s a stupid question. Both of them think that good is greater than bad. But why? Because good is good, and evil is evil? That doesn’t go very far for us. We want to learn what goodness, which makes it greater than bad, is from. 

Well, the very principles of good and bad reflect the supremacy of good. Goodness is necessary and self-sufficient, whereas evil is still secondary and parasitic to goodness.

In more precise words, what this implies is that good deeds can be done for the mere purpose of doing good, but it is difficult to do bad things for the mere purpose of doing bad. Poor deeds for the sake of good things are always performed. If we enjoy an abundance of a good thing or seek a good thing by ill-means, badness often entails corrupting the good. 

Evil is thus, inferior to good because it is still only a corrupted form of a good that might be more honest.

The Christian definition of good and bad is this. That the devil is a fallen angel is not a chance. Bad includes goodness in Christianity that has been tainted. 

So, ultimately, the initial dilemma can be tackled. How in the world can a holy God sanction evil? The truth is that it was perfectly fine when God created the universe. Yet by the acts of human free will, the universe has now been tainted.

Then you would ask why did God grant us free will if we were only going to misuse it? And why is he not intervening? 

Well, if people had no true liberty to act immorally, they might never act morally either. We’ll have to wait for the next section to realize why. 

Chapter 6 – Inward personality and purpose are based on Christian morality. 

Many people think of God as a kind of Grinch-like character that doesn’t like it when people are enjoying themselves. That’s why all those restrictive laws came up with him, correct? They’re built to restrict our enjoyment and pleasure. 

There is a misinterpretation of Christian morality that is troubling. It’s based on the mistaken belief that morality is all about laws being enforced. 

Imagine a man whose behavior, by all means, is extremely commendable, but who only behaves morally so that he can get into heaven, to see why ethics can not only be about following laws. This man, on the outside, is incredibly friendly and charismatic to everyone he encounters, spends his time for good causes, and even gives the poor a great deal of money. Yet he’s highly pessimistic on the inside, does not even care about the people he is supporting and refuses to give money away. 

Something essential seems to be lacking from this guy, right? He does not have the moral integrity that is necessary. He is doing great things, just for the wrong reasons. And what does this all imply?

There is a major difference between overt moral actions and inner moral character, as this instance indicates. True morality means more than simply behaving morally, it means being moral. 

That is why it is incorrect to believe Christianity’s laws and dictates are what there is to its morals. These rules and directives are just intended as a kind of guideline that directs us in the right way, yet once we have absorbed them into our persona, it becomes redundant. This, then, is the main intention of Christian morality—our own individual’s dramatic change. 

Therefore, self-improvement is essential to Christianity. It’s about changing, by filling it with compassion and kindness, the essence of the inherent self, or spirit. 

Morality should not be considered strictly restricting or limiting because being moral allows one to develop into more stable, satisfied individuals. And most significantly, being moral just feels very good.

What’s more, if the place our spirit is in when we die is the situation we have to suffer for eternity, then readiness for the next life is necessary for the effort we put into strengthening our soul here on Earth. In the next life, joining heaven means nothing less than making our souls here on Earth heavenly. 

Chapter 7 – Christians praise Christ because here on Earth, he is an example of human virtue. 

Humans are able to lead two very distinct forms of life. 

One, foundation and material, has to do with the search for worldly objects. This is human beings’ natural mode of existence – it is fundamentally greedy, thinking only for personal benefit and survival. 

The other way of living is philosophical and has to do with religious values being followed. 

Oddly, intangible things are the artifacts of our worldly desires, such as sex, wealth, and electricity, capable of leaving our possession as easily as we attain them. Ideals, while divine, are steadfast and everlasting in nature.

The Christian experience continues as we realize exactly how far our unsatisfactory, material world is from the fulfillment of fundamentally moral life. Thus, Christianity starts with a profound sense of consternation, not of warmth. It starts with the disturbing revelation that we live incorrectly. 

But it does not have to be like this. 

We will overcome the inherent selfishness of our material nature and reach a higher mode of being through pursuing the Christian life. The more we go down the road of Christianity, the further we detach from those beasts, and the more we get to the image of God. 

But, how come a human can resemble God? He is fine, and so very different from human beings. 

Well, that’s why Christians admire and worship Christ because we see the perfect confluence of human and spiritual virtues in the figure of Christ. The very purpose Jesus came down to Earth, in reality, was to teach people, for instance, how to lead a truly moral existence. Since he is the true representation of goodness, Christians love Jesus. 

In life, the sacred virtues were embodied by Jesus: prudence, temperance, righteousness, and courage. And he shows us, even in death, what true atonement looks like. 

Joy and adoration of Christ is the best way to be a Christian. But, it is because it is the same thing to honor Christ and aspire to live the most moral life imaginable.

We can only surpass our materialist worldview and approximate Divine goodness by mimicking Christ. 

Chapter 8 – Virtue allows us to overcome and reach divine perfection, our foundation, material life. 

So we have seen that it will help strengthen our souls to follow the example of Christ and live more virtuously. 

So how can leading a more noble life to enrich the spirit, precisely? Or to put it differently, why are the values of Christians good for us? That is this section’s issue.

We are going to use the three primary values of Christianity to address this question: hope, confidence, and charity. 

Let’s take a closer look at optimism first. Hope, for a Christian, means looking forward to the everlasting joy which awaits us beyond the hardships of earthly existence. 

Today, many non-believers contend that Christian hope is nothing more than a form of this world’s escape and rejection in favor of the next. They say the notion of heaven in another world is some kind of pure speculation that distracts us from living the lives we already have. 

This is naive, though. In reality, the people who have faith and look ahead to the future are the ones who with the highest zeal and least care, live life on earth. Some people don’t let life’s challenges overwhelm them because they know they will eventually give way to something greater, however large their issues could be.

We are now arriving at the second theological quality, faith. Faith applies to our desire to reduce doubt and stand firm in the Christian doctrine of our faith. 

Yet, certainly, trusting in something blindly is not a quality, is it? 

Well, this is a misinterpretation of the idea that confidence is blind. Faith is viewed by nonbelievers as if it is the diametric opposite of rationality, and therefore accuses something believed by the faith of being irrational. Yet religion is not the opposite of rationality, but an adjunct of reason.

Faith is a kind of force to hold to values that we have always come to by justification. None of our values will endure the fluctuations of our shifting moods and situations without confidence. This is precisely why individuals who do not have trust sometimes end up riddled by uncertainty and poor beliefs. 

Finally, we come to a charity that is all about loving and helping those people who need help. As it needs us to be compassionate and caring for those we might not like, charity can be a daunting virtue. 

There is a hidden benefit to be found in charity, however as you behave endlessly as if you love someone you will finally end up loving them for real. It is not necessary to exaggerate the value of this fact. We fill our hearts with sincere feelings of affection and gratitude through charity. 

Chapter 9 – In the development of civilization, Christianity constitutes an incremental step ahead.

It caused indignation and violent protests from the Christian world when the principle of evolution through natural selection was first proposed. Still, now many Christians believe that Christian belief is totally at odds with the concept of evolution. 

It is not real. Christianity and evolution are not at all opposing, they simply complement each other. The emergence of the Christian faith is yet another leap in the evolutionary process that has provided an edge to humans and let them survive. 

Helpful physiological features that evolve in animals by accident end up being replicated from generation to generation, according to the principle of natural selection, since the trait allows the organism to survive and continue to produce descendants. 

Well, one such valuable characteristic that has allowed humans to survive is the Christian faith. Even then we are not talking about a biochemical characteristic this time, but a metaphysical one. 

To make a parallel, almost as certain as the cells of our ancestor evolved to be sensitive to light that allowed them to see the physical world, so the spirit formed in us to be responsive to the light of God that allowed us to sense the divine realm, primarily the moral rule. 

Note, the best practices for peace between human beings are laid down by moral law. That is why the Christian faith, which embraces the universal rule, has been so popular in the world in replicating itself. For people and societies that follow them, the ideals of the Christian faith have tremendous real significance, which has helped them thrive and prosper. Christianity, for instance, stresses unconditional cooperation for group members, particularly though it may not be financially beneficial to offer support.

In reality, this is a spiritual variant of the idea of ‘survival of the fittest’ – people and cultures who follow these ideals are better suited for the struggles of life in a way.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis Book Review

It is not only entirely reasonable to believe in Christian doctrine, it is also beneficial to be a Christian for both you and the community. 

Today, atheists who say it to be unfounded and anti-science are lambasting Christianity. Although this is a significant misinterpretation of that. In no way is Christianity in conflict with the science experiment. It only fills the holes where research has proved to be ill-equipped to have responses. Questions, like, why is there a universe? And why do these human beings sense moral values? Christianity, where science is absent, can be clarified. What is more, when it comes to how we should live and what ideals we should live under, science does not have much wisdom. Christianity, by comparison, sets out the framework for the most ethical way of living – the one that is better for our souls and society. 

Find the Community for You.

If you are a non-believer taking the first slow steps into the Christian community, remember that there are likely already developed Christian groups around you, no matter where you are. Try looking up one and learn of service or participating in a research group. The most significant step that you will take to discover your budding spirituality is to find your community. Take the same advice if you are not a believer, except with a charitable group.

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