Course Hero. "Mere Christianity Study Guide." Course Hero. 29 Nov. 2017. Web. 20 Jan. 2019. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Mere-Christianity/>.
Course Hero. (2017, November 29). Mere Christianity Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved January 20, 2019, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Mere-Christianity/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "Mere Christianity Study Guide." November 29, 2017. Accessed January 20, 2019. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Mere-Christianity/.
Course Hero, "Mere Christianity Study Guide," November 29, 2017, accessed January 20, 2019, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Mere-Christianity/.
Mere Christianity is a work of Christian apologia. Apologia is a Greek word meaning "a speech in defense." Far from being apologies, in the common modern sense of the word, writers of apologia use rational arguments to defend and explain their beliefs and actions. One of the best known and earliest apologetic works is Plato's "Apology." In this work Plato recounts the defense the philosopher Socrates gave before a court that wanted to sentence him to death for "corrupting the youth" of Athens with his teachings. The first works of Christian apologetics were written during the religion's early days. The genre has been part of Christian theology since then. Famous Christian apologists include St. Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas, Kierkegaard, Paul Tillich—and C.S. Lewis.
The ultimate goal of any apologia is to convince the audience to accept the point of view presented. The goal of Christian apologia is to induce skeptics to convert. The four functions of apologia attempt to achieve this result. First the apologist uses reason and evidence from philosophy, science, history, or other disciplines to argue for the acceptance of Christianity. Lewis attends to this function of vindication, or proof, in Book 1 of Mere Christianity. Second the apologist presents a defense in order to gain credibility. This is done by addressing the audience's objections, misrepresentations, and questions about Christianity. Lewis does this throughout the text. The third function is refutation, or offense. Through rational analysis, the apologist reveals the inadequacy or incorrectness of opposing positions. Lewis undertakes this function when he refutes atheism, pantheism, and dualism. The fourth function is persuasion. It consists of convincing the audience not only of the truth of Christianity but also that they ought to apply it in their own lives. Lewis's arguments for the authority of the scriptures, his continual insistence on the rewards of being Christian, and his warnings about what will befall those who do not choose Christianity all work toward the function of persuasion.
Lewis had his own ideas about apologia, which he put into practice as he composed the radio scripts that would later become Mere Christianity. In Lewis's view, the successful apologist understood and catered to the audience's specific assumptions, inclinations, and aptitudes. Lewis knew his BBC audience would only be alienated by the usual digressive, complex, ambiguous theological arguments. They would also not understand the specialized vocabulary. Likewise he understood they were not interested in subtleties or nuances, nor in an extensive deconstruction of the opposing arguments. Lewis felt his audience would respond to a tone that was casual, humorous, and confident. Simple analogies would allow him to present complex ideas without resorting to long digressions and technical vocabulary. A style that was conversational, casual, and vernacular would establish trust and maintain attention. He focused on these rhetorical aspects rather than on presenting airtight, irrefutable arguments or an overly complex picture. His approach was successful: the BBC loved it, the British people loved it, and half a century later Mere Christianity has become the standard of modern Christian apologia.
Although the presentation is fresh, the ideas in Mere Christianity are not Lewis's own. He drew them from some of the foremost thinkers of ancient and modern times. A consideration of some (but by no means all) of the great thinkers who shaped Lewis's views will help the reader appreciate Lewis's genius for style and synthesis. It will also help them recognize his familiarity with, and foundation in, the long traditions of philosophical discourse and apologetics.
Lewis took his title from the work of Richard Baxter. Baxter was an English Protestant clergyman and prolific writer of apologia who lived from 1615–91. In 1680 Baxter wrote, "I am a Christian, a Meer Christian ... But must you know what Sect or Party I am of? ... I am of that Party which is so against Parties." Lewis agreed with many of Baxter's ideas, such as the belief that Christians must unify rather than split into denominations. And he agreed that justification for salvation consisted of the earnest practice of faith and good works.
In Mere Christianity Lewis promotes virtue-based normative ethics. Normative ethics are concerned with finding standards or criteria for judging right and wrong. Virtue ethics are a subclass of normative ethics that holds that morality should not be a system of rules but a system of virtues. The practice of these virtues develops good character. This system arose in ancient Greece and is found in the works of Plato and Aristotle, likely the "old writers" Lewis references when discussing the Law of Nature in Book 1. In fact the four cardinal virtues Lewis discusses in Book 2 are found in the writings of Plato and are often called "Platonic virtues."
In Chapter 2, Book 1 Lewis describes the reasoning by which he finally saw through the argument he had been using to defend his atheism. Lewis felt God couldn't exist because the world was unjust. However, he realized justice must exist because he could conceive of its opposite. Since there was justice in the world, Lewis lost his rational claim to atheism. This type of argument is known as an ontological argument. It deals with the nature of reality and functions on the assumption anything the human mind can conceive of has a parallel in reality. It was first used in the 11th century by Anselm of Canterbury who argued God's existence based on humanity's ability to conceive of God.
Lewis counted St. Augustine's Confessions among the books that most influenced him as a Christian. His adoption of Augustine's thought is evident in Mere Christianity. Augustine was preoccupied with the problem of evil in a world entirely created by a good God. Augustine used logic to conclude evil was not created by God, nor is it a thing. Now faced with the problem of defining evil, Augustine wrote, "Evil has no positive nature; but the loss of good has received the name 'evil.'" Lewis argues the same in Mere Christianity when he states, "Evil is a parasite, not an original thing." He echoes Augustine in equating existence with goodness and claiming the impossibility of choosing evil. Lewis also drew directly on Augustine in developing a number of other ideas presented in Mere Christianity. Among them are the idea of the Holy Spirit arising out of the relationship between the Father and the Son; the distinction between making and begetting; and the dichotomy of spiritual life (Zoe) replacing biological life (Bios) in the Christian.