I will, upfront, confess that I have never read C.S. Lewis’ masterpiece, “Mere Christianity.” I will confess, as long as I’m doing it, that I’m not particularly a huge fan of Lewis outside of his fiction work. However, I am a fan of history. And furthermore, I’m a huge fan of George Marsden. I believe him to be on of the most renowned conservative historians of this age.
In any case, it’s not exactly “normal” to write a biography about a book. However, Lewis’ magnum opus is different. It is almost universally known and loved by Christians (more on what that means in a moment). Although I’ve never read it, I know from others it is powerful both in its content and its scope. It has even gone to save a great many people; even into the present Lewis is still impacting lives. It would be of our interest, then to see the genesis and history of this epic text.
Mere Christianity finds its origins in the days of World War II. The BBC was looking for non-denominational programing to fill its airwaves. An interesting note, the BBC was started by the Scottish Calvinist, John Reith. It’s programming had a heavy Christian tilt, which obviously has changed very much in recent times. Lewis was asked to produce a program on basic questions people have about Christianity. He gave several lectures on a weekly basis to answer some of these. And thus, the framework for Mere Christianity was born.
After the lectures became such a success, Lewis received an offer to create a book out of the high demand for similiar content. Lewis transcribed part of the lectures and then added new content. The first edition of the book is a ghost of what people buy in stores today.
The most interesting section of the book was Mere Christianity’s impact on the Christian world. Earlier I alluded to the fact that the book has been loved by Christians. When Lewis was first proposing the lectures, he wanted the audience to be as widespread as possible so he could garner the attention of anyone who simply didn’t understand Christianity. Therefore, Mere Christianity is largely non-denominational and in many cases, transcends traditional Christian denominational lines. For example, he speaks at length about the many Catholics that have been impacted by Mere Christianity; in some instances, he speaks about how Mere Christianity helped convert former Protestants to Catholicism. For this reason, Mere Christianity is, as mentioned earlier, a masterpiece. It is beautiful because of its simplicity; elegant in its presentation; valued for its content; and treasured for its succinctness. Many Christians in the past 50 years have given Mere Christianity to skeptics and believers alike to great acclaim. It strengthens the faith of those who believe and convert those who are unsure of the claims of Christianity.
Marsden is such a skilled biographer who examines this book through the lens of impartiality. This book is so interesting and I would recommend reading!