C.S. Lewis, Mere Christian
by Philip Yancey
I bought my paperback copy of Mere Christianity in 1968, almost fifty years ago. (Brand new it cost me $1.25!) It’s a measure of C. S. Lewis’s greatness that he could tackle some of the thorniest issues we’ll ever encounter, and carve a path through them in a way that still guides us decades later.
The story of C. S. Lewis has been told many times. A convinced atheist who found his lack of faith challenged by friends like J. R. R. Tolkien and Charles Williams. A scholarly specialist in medieval literature who became best known as a writer of the Narnia books for children. A confirmed bachelor who married a Jewish divorcée from Brooklyn at the age of 58, mainly to allow her to stay in England, only to fall in love and have four sweet years together before she died of cancer.
Mere Christianity came about when the BBC hired Lewis to explain the basics of Christianity to a nation reeling from nightly assaults by German bombers. Much of civilization seemed in peril, with Europe controlled by Stalin in the east and Hitler in the west. Could God truly be in control of human history? Could the forces of good possibly hold out against the forces of evil? Was there any hope?
Here we are in 2015, some seven decades later. Nazism fell and Communism collapsed in much of the world—though not in China, the most populous country. We face different threats today. Disillusioned, most of Europe has abandoned its historic faith. The church wavers in the United States, with one-third of the millennial generation claiming no religious affiliation and the broader culture moving away from its Christian roots. Radical Islam is resurgent, as violent groups like ISIS vow to capture not just the Middle East but all of Europe as well. Most Christian growth occurs in places like Africa and, against all odds, Communist China.
Other defenders of the faith—apologists they’re called—have arisen since C. S. Lewis, but none has the continuing impact of the eccentric don who rarely traveled, never learned to drive, and yet somehow expressed his beliefs so clearly and winsomely that millions still turn to him for guidance. Some fifty of his books remain in print, with total…
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