C.S. Lewis and Mere Christianity

sprtslvr1973

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Anyone here read it? I just "audio-read" via audible.com, and loved it. Over the years, I skimmed the introduction but never got around to reading it, as it seemed really dry on the surface. However, once I got into it, I loved it.
 

Alpha60

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sprtslvr1973 said:
Anyone here read it? I just "audio-read" via audible.com, and loved it. Over the years, I skimmed the introduction but never got around to reading it, as it seemed really dry on the surface. However, once I got into it, I loved it.
I like it as a general starting point for apologetics, and I think CS Lewis is an example of a high church Anglicanism who was close to Orthodoxy (that said, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, who matriculated to Oxford when CS Lewis was still there (and interestingly enough, when my father, memory eternal was there also), has been unsure about how CS Lewis would feel about the importance we attach to music, since his personal practice was to drive with his brother early every Sunday morning from Oxford to a small village, where they would attend the “Said Service” of Holy Communion, that is, the service lacking in music, and would then leave immediately after receiving, without waiting for the concluding benediction, et cetera).

Now that being said, a far more moving, incarnational, iconographic and Trinitarian exegesis can be found in The Orthodox Way by the aforesaid Metropolitan of Diokleia.  CS Lewis is a bit more elegant a literary stylist than His Eminence, but, as you yourself said, the work is a bit dry, and I attribute this to CS Lewis attempting to avoid offending any particular denominational sensibilities.

I also am uneast about the concept of “Mere Christianity,” because I don’t believe we can reduce the Faith to a mere baseline agreement between different churches that are somehow invisibly united: this seems contrary to Orthodoxy and when the Old Calendarists complain about the “pan heresy of Ecumenism,” this sort of thing comes to mind.  That being said, I am much more inclusivist than a typical Old Calendarist; we have had so many schisms, and so many are artificial in nature, and Orthodoxy is defined primarily through apophatic theology, which would seem to suggest there is a region, a Pale of Orthodoxy, inside of which we can safely hold to a variety of theologoumemna regarding that which js not extremely evident, and I also believe that we can heal some of the schisms that have occurred, including the East-West schism and even some of the Protestant schisms, but a book outlining this process would have to be much more dogmatic and specific than what CS Lewis had in mind.

I don’t think I am in the same religion or the same church as Seventh Day Adventists, Quakers, the Calvary Chapel, Joel Osteen, the Pentecostalists and Charismatics, or most megachurches; conversely, I think I might be in the same religion as some magisterial Protestants, particularly some Methodists, Lutherans, and especially Anglo Catholics, and the traditional Old Catholics, but not the liberal elements of the mainline churches; I can’t imagine partaking of the Eucharist from the hand of, say, Fr. Peter Owen-Jones given the extent to which he syncretically participated in the worship of other religions such as Hinduism, Wicca, even Voodoo and Santa Muerte, in Around the World in 80 Faiths and Extreme Pilgrim.  I believe I am probably in the same religion as the Roman Catholics and the Assyrians, at least, some of them, and am certain there is no legitimate difference between Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy, and we have a moral imperative to end the EO/OO schism immediately.  So this colors my reception of Mere Christianity; it’s just a bit too mere for me, too barebones.  But it is written in a lively manner and is very accessible as a work or general apologetics for use when confronted by militant atheists or infidels.

Now, the ancient fathers did write a number of equivalent texts; these can require patience to read due to what Metropolitan Kallistos Ware describes as the very different way the early Church fathers organized their thoughts when composing a book.  However, they are somewhat definitive: De Incarnatione, by St. Athanasius, the writings of St. Cyril on Nestorianism, De Fide, by St. Epiphanius of Salamis, the Mystagogical Catecheses of the other St. Cyril (of Jerusalem), An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith by St. John of Damascus, and so on.  These texts, according to CS Lewis himself, in a preface he wrote for a new translation of the works of St. Athanasius, specifically, De Incarnatione, into English, are the most reliable, given their acceptance and use in the Church since antiquity.  They are second only to the Creed, the liturgical texts and Sacred Scripture.  Thank God with your heart and soul that Orthodox Christianity did not follow in the bleak footsteps of Rabinnical Judaism and produce an “Orthodox Christian Talmud”, but if we had done so, the works cited above would be a part.

There are also some newer works which are far more interesting, which again, are Orthodox-specific, for example, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, beautifully translated into English by Fr. Seraphim Rose.  There is another book by a chap with what I think is an Arabic name, which comes across as being a bit more “fundamentalist,” the title of which I forget, but which I did not like; it was a bit like a compilation of the worst of OrthodoxInfo.com in book form.  If Metropolitan Philip Saliba’s homilies on YouTube and the writings of Metropolitan Kallistos Ware are what persuaded me to finally leap across the Bosphorus and the Euphrates into the loving emnrace of the Syriac Orthodox Church, the material on OrthodoxInfo came across as being a bit toxic and nearly made me reconsider.  So from that perspective, I do sympathize with CS Lewis in his desire to avoid producing a particularly “partisan” book applicable to one theological perspective only, but I fear he rather threw the baby out with the bathwater.

 

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Alpha60 said:
I also am uneast about the concept of “Mere Christianity,” because I don’t believe we can reduce the Faith to a mere baseline agreement between different churches that are somehow invisibly united
So you haven't actually read the book?
 

Alpha60

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Asteriktos said:
Alpha60 said:
I also am uneast about the concept of “Mere Christianity,” because I don’t believe we can reduce the Faith to a mere baseline agreement between different churches that are somehow invisibly united
So you haven't actually read the book?
No, I have read it, from cover to cover.  I am just a bit, “merely” if you will, uncomfortable with the premise.  Lewis took a sort of reductionist approach and avoided touching any matters of dogmatic  comtroversy in it; the book attempts to address a sort of generic “baseline Christianity” and I am not sure that exists.  There is a baseline Orthodoxy (assent to the creeds, Tradition, avoiding anathematized beliefs) but this is quite a bit heavier than what Lewis wrote.

Oh, one thing CS Lewis wrote that I agree with entirely, and this will doubtless surprise some members who are convinced that I crave some massive reform and innovation in the liturgy, is what he wrote about the spiritual danger and frustration routinely caused, in his time, by Anglican clergy experimentally lengthening, shortening or otherwise altering the services.  This complaint was not aired in Mere Christianity, but it is something I agree with completely; I am opposed to any changes to the liturgical practice in any existing parish which run the risk of disrupting the prayers of the laity, or confusing them in any way.  So, in the Byzantine Rite for instance, I am hugely opposed to the new hymn book being used by Ruthenian Catholics known as the “Teal Horror.”
 

Asteriktos

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How long has it been since you read it? 15 years? 20?
 

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I haven't read the book yet. I prefer Lewis' Narnia books.

Outside of that, I always thought Lewis was a little too snarky.

Overall, I prefer Tolkien to Lewis. No one has written a movie about their friendship yet, that I'm aware of - now, that would be a good one. :)
 

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Asteriktos said:
How long has it been since you read it? 15 years? 20?
I have it as an eBook on my iPad and consult it frequently, I would say at least once every few months; specifically, I tend to use it to refute the more trite arguments of atheists that pop up (I also have David Bentley Hart’s brilliant Atheist Delusions, but that work is also much more ponderous, whereas Mere Christianity has the not inconsiderable advantage of being crisp amd lively, owing to the fine literary style of CS Lewis, which I believe was exceeded only by George Orwell, among mid-20th century British authors).
 

Alpha60

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biro said:
I haven't read the book yet. I prefer Lewis' Narnia books.

Outside of that, I always thought Lewis was a little too snarky.

Overall, I prefer Tolkien to Lewis. No one has written a movie about their friendship yet, that I'm aware of - now, that would be a good one. :)
That would be a great film!  Have you read CS Lewis’s excellent Space Trilogy?  (i can’t recall the name of the first volume, but the second was Perelandra and the third, That Hideous Strength).  I wish someone would film those...

By the way, CS Lewis was on good terms with several British science fiction writers of repute.  Not HG Wells, however; I believe he rather disliked HG Wells.
 

biro

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Haven't read the space books yet. I will look into them, thanks. :)
 

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biro said:
Haven't read the space books yet. I will look into them, thanks. :)
The first one is entitled Out of the Silent Planet, I just recalled.

They are brilliant; more fantasy than science fiction, but very good.  Better than the Narnia books I would say, but also much more sinister and frightening; not intended for children.
 

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biro said:
Haven't read the space books yet. I will look into them, thanks. :)
The series Hyperion is a great scifi opera.
Not by Lewis, but figure I'd throw it out there, just dont expect any favorable topics towards religion in it.

But i have been reading mere Christianity and its a good book of apologetics. Have some good points and some not, im 80 pages in or so, but usually have 5 books going at once so i jump back and forth. Worth the read, especially since you can get a good used copy for $3-5 on ebay all day
 

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biro said:
I haven't read the book yet. I prefer Lewis' Narnia books.

Outside of that, I always thought Lewis was a little too snarky.

Overall, I prefer Tolkien to Lewis. No one has written a movie about their friendship yet, that I'm aware of - now, that would be a good one. :)
I'd like to second all of this.

Alpha60 said:
biro said:
I haven't read the book yet. I prefer Lewis' Narnia books.

Outside of that, I always thought Lewis was a little too snarky.

Overall, I prefer Tolkien to Lewis. No one has written a movie about their friendship yet, that I'm aware of - now, that would be a good one. :)
That would be a great film!  Have you read CS Lewis’s excellent Space Trilogy?  (i can’t recall the name of the first volume, but the second was Perelandra and the third, That Hideous Strength).  I wish someone would film those...

By the way, CS Lewis was on good terms with several British science fiction writers of repute.  Not HG Wells, however; I believe he rather disliked HG Wells.
The first one was Out of the Silent Planet. I never could get into the first two, but That Hideous Strength was excellent. The plot, the characters, everything. The Reverend Straik is one of the best characters I've seen in a book.
 

Alpha60

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platypus said:
biro said:
I haven't read the book yet. I prefer Lewis' Narnia books.

Outside of that, I always thought Lewis was a little too snarky.

Overall, I prefer Tolkien to Lewis. No one has written a movie about their friendship yet, that I'm aware of - now, that would be a good one. :)
I'd like to second all of this.

Alpha60 said:
biro said:
I haven't read the book yet. I prefer Lewis' Narnia books.

Outside of that, I always thought Lewis was a little too snarky.

Overall, I prefer Tolkien to Lewis. No one has written a movie about their friendship yet, that I'm aware of - now, that would be a good one. :)
That would be a great film!  Have you read CS Lewis’s excellent Space Trilogy?  (i can’t recall the name of the first volume, but the second was Perelandra and the third, That Hideous Strength).  I wish someone would film those...

By the way, CS Lewis was on good terms with several British science fiction writers of repute.  Not HG Wells, however; I believe he rather disliked HG Wells.
The first one was Out of the Silent Planet. I never could get into the first two, but That Hideous Strength was excellent. The plot, the characters, everything. The Reverend Straik is one of the best characters I've seen in a book.
Interesting.  I was particularly fond of Perelandra; it seems to me the most beautiful world described in science fiction or fantasy.  I also loved That Hideous Strength.
 

RobS

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Lewis is an intellectual lightweight compared to his influences, especially Chesterton.

If you want great apologetics, read Pascal or Kierkegaard. Mere Christianity is meh.
 

Justin Kolodziej

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Mere Christianity ends up being a branch-theory bonanza, vs. The One Lord, The One Faith, The One Baptism, The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
 

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RobS said:
Lewis is an intellectual lightweight compared to his influences, especially Chesterton.

If you want great apologetics, read Pascal or Kierkegaard. Mere Christianity is meh.
Lewis is something of a lightweight, but I've always jokingly referred to him as the "gateway drug" of apologetics and theology. I remember there was some quip of Ross Douthat's that said something like "You start with C.S. Lewis, then you’re reading G.K. Chesterton, and suddenly you’re a Catholic" (a terrible paraphrase).

C.S. Lewis can be the same thing for Orthodox. You read Lewis, then you're reading Ware, then you're reading some St. Gregory, St. John, St. Augustine, St. Irenaeus or St. Basil, and hey you're Orthodox.
 

RobS

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Sampson said:
"You start with C.S. Lewis, then you’re reading G.K. Chesterton, and suddenly you’re a Catholic" (a terrible paraphrase).
That's almost what happened to me.

From Mere Christianity--> Abolition of Man--> Orthodoxy--> The Everlasting Man--> seriously considering RCC--> ??--> trueorthodoxy.org
 

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Lewis' mere Christianity is his Anglicanism.  More Christianity is our Orthodoxy.

Alright, I'll show myself out.
 

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I'm glad I read Metropolitan Kallistos' (Ware) Orthodox Way, rather than have him read it via an audiobook. 
 

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sprtslvr1973 said:
Anyone here read it? I just "audio-read" via audible.com, and loved it. Over the years, I skimmed the introduction but never got around to reading it, as it seemed really dry on the surface. However, once I got into it, I loved it.
This is a great book. I read it twice.

My understanding is the C. S. Lewis was Anglican. He certainly 'got' Christian theology, the liturgy, communion, etc in general and is worth reading from a believer/Christian viewpoint.

I also like The Screwtape Letters. Its a good description of how evil enters into daily life through temptation. He also has other books on Christian topics as well (The Problem of Pain).
 

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RobS said:
Lewis is an intellectual lightweight compared to his influences, especially Chesterton.

If you want great apologetics, read Pascal or Kierkegaard. Mere Christianity is meh.
I Agree hundred percent. Lewis is a mediocre mind.
 
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