Mere Christianity | Study Guide

C.S. Lewis

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Mere Christianity | Book 4, Chapter 5 : Beyond Personality: Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity (The Obstinate Toy Soldiers) | Summary



Lewis begins this chapter by explaining that spiritual life (Zoe) and biological life (Bios) are in opposition. Ego (in the negative sense of pride and self-centeredness) is an attribute of biological life and fears the spiritual life that would annihilate it. Lewis explains the fearful resistance of Bios toward Zoe with a metaphor. He asks readers to consider the internal experience of a tin soldier undergoing a transformation into a living man. The tin soldier only knows you are destroying it; it does not understand you are improving it by turning tin to flesh.

The incarnation of Christ was the first time a man existed who was what God all along intended for humans to be. He was a man in whom biological life is completely transformed into "the begotten life." As our egos must be "killed" or "die" for us to receive spiritual life (Zoe), Christ lived a life on Earth that "involved the killing of His human desires at every turn." After a very human death, Christ was able to resurrect due to his God-nature. But since his natures are united, "the Man in Christ rose again: not only the God." Christ is therefore the first "real man."

Lewis has asserted that God sees all time at once, like a person viewing an image. Similarly, humanity doesn't manifest in God's view as individual persons. Rather, it appears as one organism, "rather like a very complicated tree," which is also Himself. Since humanity, from God's vantage, exists not as a group of individuals but as a single organism, anything that happens to one part of the organism likewise affects the whole. Therefore, Christ's incarnation into this human organism affects all of humanity. It happens regardless of the temporal and other "divides" that seem to exist from our viewpoint between certain parts of humanity and Christ.

According to Lewis, this is the mechanism by which one man, Christ, saved the whole of humanity. This is the meaning of the claims that Christ's death brought about the forgiveness of all humanity's sins. Nonetheless, while "humanity is already 'saved' in principle," each individual must "appropriate that salvation" by catching the "'good infection.'"


The idea of a divine figure who dies and is resurrected in some form or another appears throughout the world's mythologies. Some take this as evidence that Christianity is but another mythology in a line of mythologies. These mythologies mutate and are adapted as humans spread them over the Earth and throughout history. Lewis, of course, does not advance this view. In fact, his conversion to Christianity was spurred by a long conversation with his friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien. It centered on the commonalities between Christianity and the myriad mythologies of a god of death, resurrection, and re-equilibrium found the world over. Lewis, an Oxford scholar with degrees in classical philosophy and Greek and Latin literature, was extremely conversant on these myths. Tolkien convinced Lewis the similarities between these myths and Christianity in no way undermined Christianity's claim to truth. Rather, the Christian God presented these stories to humanity to prepare them to accept the coming of Christ. Christ entered into history as man completed these mythologies, which entered into reality as truth.

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