Reflections on Mere Christianity

Recently, I finished reading through Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. This was my second time reading through it front to back, and I found it significantly more helpful and relevant in this reading. Below I’ve recorded some of my main takeaways from Lewis’ book.

The moral argument for the existence of God – He writes at the end of chapter 1,

These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in (8).

Lewis then goes on to argue, especially in chapter 4, that “what lies behind the law” must be God himself. The atheistic position (what he calls the “Materialist view”) cannot logically account for the reality of the Law of Nature.

Obviously, I’m not unpacking all of Lewis’ argument in detail. I’m simply trying to recall the type of argument he’s making. And to me all of this is very compelling and helpful. As I’ve spoken with (basically) atheistic friends, I have been able to get some traction with them using the lines of thought upon which Lewis is arguing. Many atheists are appalled at the terrible things that have been done in the name of religion. But what constitutes “terrible”? What substantiates the claim that something is “evil”? On what basis can there be moral outcry if there is no fixed moral standard upon which we base our judgment? But, in fact, this instinctive tendency to recognize “the Law of Nature” points to our universal awareness that there is a Law Giver to whom we must give an account. And our accounts are tragically flawed. At this point, the gospel becomes beautifully relevant. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

“Being in love” and love – This was a real encouraging and instructive aspect of Lewis’ book for me. I copied a large section on this topic from his chapter on “Christian Marriage” here. There you can re-visit the whole of his argument. One reason I found this instructive was his distinction between “being in love” and love. He clarifies by saying, “‘Being in love’ first moved [a husband and wife] to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it” (109). In other words, “being in love” is almost entirely an emotional or romantic feeling. I’ve called it ‘infatuation’ or ‘sentimentalism.’ This sensation draws us to our lover, but, Lewis contends, it will not keep us there. “Being in love” ignites a romantic relationship, but it will not keep the fire burning. Instead, a quieter, more consistent love is needed, true love. I’ve often heard this called ‘covenant-love.’ Maybe we should say that this type of love is a mixture of the infatuated love mentioned before and the love we have for our closest friend.

All of this has been very instructive for me, because for a long time I only thought ‘being in love’ is what constituted the type of love that kept a relationship together. This obviously proves problematic because the flames of infatuation die down, often pretty quick. When I’d lose the infatuated feelings for a girl, then I’d lose the girl. So Lewis’ words are a strong corrective for me. Real, enduring, deep love is the stuff of commitment, sacrifice, and daily care.

And all of this is very encouraging for me, because I never thought I’d get love right. Because I’d keep ‘falling out of love’ and think, “Oh. Well. This relationship is over.” But in reality I had love all wrong in the first place. Now that I understand true love more correctly, I can enjoy it more deeply.

All of this said, I think we should seek to cultivate romantic feelings for our wives. And Lewis himself goes on himself to say that if we continue in the deeper, truer sense of love, then we’ll find the joy and thrill we were always looking for in the first place.

Little choices, big ramifications – Several times throughout the book Lewis makes reference to the significance of “little choices” we make. Here’s one quote from p. 132,

Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.

Reading this paragraph, and several others like it, were helpfully sobering for me. It’s easy for me to see small failures as not so big of a deal. And similarly, it’s easy for me to see small victories as not so big of a deal. But Lewis urges that the interest of these infractions or successes are compounded; therefore, small can become big in a hurry.

This reminds me of how several times I’ve heard it said, No one who cheated on their spouse planned to cheat on their spouse the day of their wedding. Rather, small compromises along the way lead to disastrous results. Therefore, we must not ignore slight concessions to sin that we’ve made.

On the other hand, Take heart! One decision for faithfulness to our brides over glaring at another woman is a big win. One choice of modesty over indulgence makes a big difference. And one “small” act of love, service, and grace can lead to big change.

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