When he was not yet 10 years old, C. S. Lewis was crushed by the unexpected death of his mother from cancer. Later he would say that her death left a dead place in his heart that caused him to be disillusioned about God’s nearness. When asked at age 18 what his religious views were, he called the worship of Christ and the Christian faith itself “one mythology among many.” By the time he was barely 20, having served in the British Army on the frontlines of France during World War I and begun his studies at Oxford University as a student, he was an avowed atheist.
In 1925 C. S. Lewis was appointed English Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, and he tutored English Language and Literature. In the ensuing years, he made two close friends on the English faculty at Magdalen College, namely Hugo Dyson and J.R.R. Tolkien. Both of these men challenged Lewis’ heart upon the reality of God—not that Lewis was seeking God.
Later he would say that he didn’t really want to find Him. He wrote, “Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about ‘man’s search for God.’ To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse’s search for the cat.” As it turned out, God was indeed seeking C. S. Lewis and He found him.
His masterpiece, “Mere Christianity” is even more popular today than when it first came out. During the first fifteen years of the twenty-first century, it sold more than 3.5 million copies in English alone. It has been translated into more than thirty languages.
Mere Christianity began as a brief series of broadcasts on the BBC during England’s dark days in the early part of World War II. The broadcasts were well received and the BBC persuaded him to go and make four series. Lewis collected and edited the first two series into a little paperback, titled simply Broadcast Talks. But in 1952 Lewis brought his full notes together, with a new preface and a new title: Mere Christianity.
Charles Colson emphasized the role of Mere Christianity in his transformation and J.I. Packer, Peter Kreeft, Francis Collins, Alister McGrath, N.T. Wright, John Piper, and Timothy Keller Lewis all acknowledge Lewis’ influence in their own apologetic writing.
George Marsden, Professor of History Emeritus at University of Notre Dame, highlights the following strengths in this work:
- Lewis looks for timeless truths as opposed to the culturally bound. Mere Christianity is not dated in the way most other mid-twentieth-century books seem to be.
- Lewis uses common human nature as the point of contact with his audiences. He could speak in simple terms that just about everyone could understand. As in writing the Narnia tales, he knew how to put himself in the shoes of his audience. Lewis is a poet at heart, using metaphor and the art of meaning in a universe that is alive.
- Lewis uses reason in the context of experience, affections, and the imagination. He appeals to the whole person who intuitively recognizes that there is more to reality than all that we can see.
Mickey Maudlin beautifully summarizes the joy that awaits us, “What you find is the identification of a moral compass you did not realize existed, one that says you are not measuring up, the story of how God sent Jesus as an invasion into the world to start a revolution, that doctrines are really maps to show you your choices and to guide you forward on your journey, and that all this about God, Jesus, and the church is really about you: will you admit your need, receive God’s help, and start the process of being perfected, made into a little Christ, so that you can pursue further adventures with God in his heavenly realm, the world you were created to inhabit?”
You can find “Mere Christianity” on Kindle for $0.85 by following this link.
And I have five copies to gladly give away for the first five requests from subscribers to Watchwords who e-mail me.
Even if you have read this before, go back and read again. This is a book that is worthy of an annual read! If this is your first time – you are in a for a treat.
In His great love,
 Mickey Maudlin, “The Perennial Appeal of C.S. Lewis,” presentation at the C.S. Lewis Festival, Petoskey, MI, October 2012.