By Kenneth R. Samples
C. S. Lewis’s death was overshadowed by the enormous press coverage of the same-day shocking assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Yet Lewis’s legacy endures and his popularity continues to grow as many of his distinctive ideas continue to resonate among believers.
Lewis’s Enduring Idea of Mere Christianity
One such idea, found in the preface of Lewis’s book by the same name, introduces his idea of “mere Christianity.” This term refers to a group of essential and “agreed, or common, or central”1 Christian doctrines (such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement) that all branches of historic Christendom affirm.
Lewis describes historic Christendom as being like a large house with many individual rooms. The branches of Christendom (Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant) as well as individual denominations within Protestantism (Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, Baptist, etc.) live in their own various rooms. Lewis suggested that mere Christianity (the essential shared doctrines reflected in the historic creeds of Christendom) represents the hallways or corridors that connect all the individual rooms.
However, Lewis insists that people live and churches function within the rooms themselves, not in the hallways. In other words, individual believers cannot live as mere Christians but rather must embrace a fuller version (a denomination or branch) of the faith. He states: “I hope no reader will suppose that ‘mere’ Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions.”2
Not all members of Christendom find Lewis’s idea of mere Christianity acceptable…
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