Friday, August 19, 2011

Book Review: Mere Christianity

I just finished another book: Mere Christianity. Since it's such a famous, classic book in Christian literature, I'm not going to go into a detailed review, but I will say a couple things. 

First, I'm going to share a quote that I thought applies pretty well to Mere Christianity. I found it on the back cover of my copy of the book:
"C. S. Lewis is the ideal persuader for the half-convinced, for the good man who would like to be a Christian but finds his intellect getting in the way." - Anthony Burgess, New York Times Book Review
But Mere Christianity is not just for unbelievers. It is for believers as well, to see Christianity with a fresh, different perspective, to be more equipped for Christian apologetics and for sharing their faith with unbelievers, and to become more solid in their own beliefs. 

Mere Christianity deals with a lot of tough questions, and uses logic and reasoning to answer them. It can be pretty deep and often makes you think, but C. S. Lewis frequently uses excellent analogies and metaphors that make all of his concepts seem simple, straight-forward, and easy to understand. In fact, I think this is probably one of his best gifts as a writer: his beautiful use of analogies.

My personal copy of the book is scribbled all over with notes, underlining, and stars, with a few pages dog-eared for my favorite quotes. Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book. (I'm putting brief phrases and questions at the beginning of each quote, so you can tell, at a glance, what topics they're on.)

We are at war, in enemy-occupied territory...
"Christianity agrees with Dualism that this universe is at war. But it does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a civil war, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel. ... Enemy-occupied territory -- that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage."

 Something even better than earthly romance
"The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water."

Why do Christians still sin??
"A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that can to some extent repair itself. In the same way a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble -- because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out."

 What does Christianity say about totalitarianism and democracy?
"And immortality makes this other difference, which, by the by, has a connection with the difference between totalitarianism and democracy. If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilisation, which may last for a thousand years, is more important than an individual. But if Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he is everlasting and the life of a state or a civilisation, compared with his, is only a moment."

A "big" sin vs. a "small" sin
"One man may be so placed that his anger sheds the blood of thousands, and another so placed that however angry he gets he will only be laughed at. But the little mark on the soul may be much the same in both. ... The bigness or smallness of the thing, seen from the outside, is not what really matters."

The desire for another world...
(Two quotes on this topic.)
"The Christian says, 'Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthy pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.' "
"I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same."

How can God be three persons in one??
"In God's dimension, so to speak, you find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube. Of course we cannot fully conceive a Being like that: just as, if we were so made that we perceived only two dimensions in space we could never properly imagine a cube."

Our free will is like a choosing compass...
"Their [unbelievers'] free will is trembling inside them like the needle of a compass. But this is a needle that can choose. It can point to its true North; but it need not. Will the needle swing round, and settle, and point to God?"