Notes on Mere Christianity

March 28, 2024   /   Faith Alliance Church

Learning objectives for Mere Christianity 

What:

To help understand basic tenets of Christianity, to help communicate basic understanding of Christianity, and to expose others to great and historic Christian authors. 

What for: 

  • To be able to communicate what Christianity is about
  • To be able to dialogue about why Christianity matters and why it matters personally 
  • to understand the foundational aspects of Christian writing. 
  • to be introduced to CS Lewis and be able to pick up more of his writing

Book 1: Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe. 

There is likely not a better modern writer on the concept of the Moral order or of what theology would call a “viruous world.”  Meaning that the world, as created by God, was created with order inherent within it.  And to understand that, and live it out, is what makes us the most human.  We find we cannot do that without Christ but Lewis takes time to point out the created order. 

He states this on page 6: 

“I hope you will not misunderstand what I am going to say. I am not preaching, and Heaven knows I do not pretend to be better than anyone else. I am only trying to call attention to a fact; the fact that this year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people.”

  • How does this idea point to a moral or created order? 
  • Why does Lewis start all the way back here when he is writing about Christianity? 

Book 2: What Christians believe

Page 42: 

“Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys’ philosophies—these over-simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either.”

  • Christianity is not something we could have guessed. Why would it be hard to guess? 

Book 3: Christian Behaviour

Goodness is goodness for its own sake.  Badness is spoiled goodness. People do bad things mostly because they see some use or pleasure in it for them. It is not wholly bad, it has some good in it. 

43“I do not mean, of course, that the people who do this are not desperately wicked. I do mean that wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way. You can be good for the mere sake of goodness: you cannot be bad for the mere sake of badness. You can do a kind action when you are not feeling kind and when it gives you no pleasure, simply because kindness is right; but no one ever did a cruel action simply because cruelty is wrong—only because cruelty was pleasant or useful to him. In other words badness cannot succeed even in being bad in the same way in which goodness is good. Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled.”

We were made a specific way , like a car running in gas.  It is how we operate. God cannot just make us happy because we would not be happy, that is not how we work. 

48“The reason why it can never succeed is this. God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

One of the most famous Lewis quotes

52“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

  • How can that rubric, liar, lunatic, Lord, help us to better understand Jesus personally? How can it help us to talk about him to others? 

Book 4: Beyond Personality: or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity

our actions make Christianity unbelievable to the outside world. 

  • How does this help our understanding of how people are formed in Christ?
  • What does this say about your own formation in Christ?

207 “I think this is the right moment to consider a question which is often asked: If Christianity is true why are not all Christians obviously nicer than all non-Christians? What lies behind that question is partly something very reasonable and partly something that is not reasonable at all. The reasonable part is this. If conversion to Christianity makes no improvement in a man’s outward actions—if he continues to be just as snobbish or spiteful or envious or ambitious as he was before—then I think we must suspect that his ‘conversion’ was largely imaginary; and after one’s original conversion, every time one thinks one has made an advance, that is the test to apply. Fine feelings, new insights, greater interest in ‘religion’ mean nothing unless they make our actual behaviour better; just as in an illness ‘feeling better’ is not much good if the thermometer shows that your temperature is still going up. In that sense the outer world is quite right to judge Christianity by its results. Christ told us to judge by results. A tree is known by its fruit; or, as we say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world.”

Lewis is saying that The only instrument for really studying God is the Christian community 

  • how does that help you to understand the church?
  • Is that encouraging or challenging?
  • What is one thing the church can do to respond to this call? 

165“Consequently, the one really adequate instrument for learning about God is the whole Christian community, waiting for Him together. Christian brotherhood is, so to speak, the technical equipment for this science—the laboratory outfit. That is why all these people who turn up every few years with some patent simplified religion of their own as a substitute for the Christian tradition are really wasting time. Like a man who has no instrument but an old pair of field glasses setting out to put all the real astronomers right. He may be a clever chap—he may be cleverer than some of the real astronomers, but he is not giving himself a chance. And two years later everyone has forgotten all about him, but the real science is still going on.”

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