(The Inklings Series is a monthly series featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. But I don’t want it to be just me chatting about these books, so that’s where y’all come in! I’ll announce the book at least four weeks in advance of when the discussion post will go live, so you have plenty of time to get the book and read it. Then, the following month, I’ll post a discussion post and let the fun begin!!)
How do I even began to put all my thoughts and reactions to this book in one post? Can I just say Lewis drops the mic approximately 967 times and call it a day? No? Well…here’s my attempt not to simply write out the book. You’ve been warned.
I’ll start by saying this is one of the books that has shaped my views in ways I’ve lost count. It amazes me that so much of what Lewis wrote is so incredibly significant for today’s generation. Plus he makes me laugh. His one liners throughout the book were one of many highlights.
In you didn’t catch the background to how this book came together, I think it’s worth mentioning from the Foreward:
“As a young man, C.S. Lewis had served in the awful trenches of World War I, and in 1940, when the bombing of Britain began, he took up duties as an air raid warden and gave talks to men in the Royal Air Force, who knew that after just thirteen bombing missions, most of them would be declared dead or missing. Their situation prompted Lewis to speak about the problems of suffering, pain, and evil, work that resulted in his being invited by the BBC to give a series of wartime broadcasts on Christian faith. Delivered over the air from 1942 to 1944, these speeches eventually were gathered into the book we know today as Mere Christianity.”
No big deal right? I love seeing the impact Lewis had and how the Lord opened so many doors. Alright, let’s dive right in!
I believe Lewis is one of the most capable to make arguments against atheism, as he himself was one more many years.
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”
“Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.”
Furthermore, he is able to bring about the truth of Christianity and the spiritual battle we face. Take some of his thoughts from “The Invasion” (which I love as a chapter title):
“That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you couldn’t 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.”
“The difference is that Christianity thinks this Dark Power was created by God, and was good when he was created, and went wrong. 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. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery.”
“Intellectual snobbery” – such a perfect phrase.
As I mention in the discussion questions below, “The Shocking Alternative” is one of my favorite sections and I had a hard time not adding all the quotes. His thoughts and discussion of free will are spot on. Like this gem: “Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” He also shows so clearly the ways satan tries to attack Christians and as he showed in The Screwtape Letters, it’s not easy to spot (otherwise who would fall prey to it?) as well as the results.
“What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could “be like gods” – could set up their own as if they had created themselves – be their own masters – invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history – money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery – the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”
How much damage have we seen in history and humanity because of people searching for purpose and meaning outside of Christ alone?
Another reason I love this book is because it reminds me that I’m not alone and I don’t need to have control. Things I have doubted or struggled with are things that other believers have struggled with. When we fail, we get up, dust off our knees and keep marching on. I really liked this bit:
“Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God.”
And that chapter on Hope? Y’all, I can hug it every day because YES. I cut down my quotes to four, so here’s some encouragement. I definitely thought of The Last Battle (Narnia) with some of these. We long for what’s next and I’m encouraged that this isn’t it.
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”
“Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world.”
“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.”
“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 do that same.”
Alright, I hope I didn’t overwhelm y’all! Now for some discussion questions. Join in any or all and please share any other insight. This is one of those awesome books that I want to hear all your thoughts!
1. Did you have a favorite section(s)?
There were several that had most of it underlined. Lewis seemed to have something incredibly powerful to say in each section. Some of the ones I really liked? The Shocking Alternative, his thoughts of forgiveness and pride and charity. I could definitely add more, but I’ll stop. Wait! One more: Hope.
2. Any favorite quotes you want to share?
One more because it’s a favorite: “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.”
3. What’s your overall view of this book? Any major take aways?