Tag Archives: The Reason for God

Book Review: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

MereChristianityPrecursory Thoughts

It’s been my intention for quite a while to spend time with the writings of C.S. Lewis.  Four or five years ago I read nearly half of Mere Christianity, but at the time I was also reading several other books and attending seminary.  The mixture of busy-ness made it easy to put this book down half way through.

Lately I’ve read several other authors who, quoting Lewis, have increased my desire to pick up Mere Christianity once again and give it a go.  John Piper, whom I respect tremendously, often quotes Lewis; he does so especially in his seminal book, Desiring God.  Likewise Tim Keller,whom I also respect, refers to Lewis as a huge influence and quotes from him liberally in The Reason for God.  Lastly, Brian McLaren, whom I do not respect (his theology, not the man), also uses Lewis as a source of inspiration in some of his writings.  The problem with this of course is that two men whom I greatly admire and agree with, site Lewis as a large influence.  Contrariwise McLaren, whom I do not respect, sites Lewis as a reference too.  In fact I would say that many of the most-loathsome beliefs that McLaren espouses seem to be founded in the thought of C.S. Lewis.

Watching a recent talk by John Piper about Lewis has helped clear the air for me in many respects.  In the talk, which I encourage you to watch, Piper discusses some of the problems with Lewis, but he also discusses the rewards that C.S. Lewis has wrought within his own life.

Review

Mere Christianity was originally delivered as a series of Radio Broadcasts in the 1940’s, only later in 1952, was it developed into a book.  As a result, it’s a very approachable read with subjects divided into nice, bite-sized chapters.  The book is organized into four separate books each with its own chapters.  The books are as follows:  Book 1 – Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe, Book 2 – What Christians Believe, Book 3 – Christian Behaviour, Book 4 – Beyond Personality:  Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity.  Mere Christianity is essentially part apologetic for Christianity and part explanation of Christianity, and I have to applaud Lewis for doing a good job in his defending and explaining.

Personally, I enjoyed the apologetic in the beginning of the book and the thoughts on the Trinity at the end of the book most thoroughly.  The book is a bit slow in the middle.  Spiritually speaking, Mere Christianity gave me some interesting ways of thinking about Christianity.  In fact Lewis’ greatest contribution may be that he allows readers to see problematic portions of Christianity in a new light through his vivid descriptions.

This book wasn’t life changing for me, but it was definitely a worthwhile read.  If nothing else, I see portions of Christianity more clearly than I used to, and I have a bunch of Lewis quotes that will make me sound smart if I use them.  The problematic parts of Lewis’ philosophy make this a hard book for me to whole-heartedly recommend (see Piper’s talk).  Many will be blessed by its content and some may be led astray.  As always we must place the Bible’s revelation of itself ahead of man’s interpretations. Our personal interpretations are subject to the scrutiny of Bible.  I’m going to continue to read more of Lewis and see how my opinion develops after delving further.

Piper’s talk – http://theresurgence.com/why-cs-lewis-influenced-john-piper

Book Review: The Reason for God – by Tim Keller

the-reason-for-godWhile Tim Keller’s book, The Reason for God, is only one book among many modern day apologetics for the Christian faith, it may be the best.  I’ve heard it said, although I’m not quite sure from whom, that “The Reason for God is the most important apologetic that’s been written since Lewis’ Mere Christianity.”  That’s high praise, and it’s well deserved.

Structure
This book is divided into two main sections.  The first seven chapters are responses to the most common arguments against Christianity.  The last seven chapters are arguments in favor of Christianity.  Between these two large sections of the book, Keller pauses to let the reader dwell on what has been argued so far.  He ends the book with an appeal to enter into Christianity whole-heartedly, not flippantly or easily.  In his own words, “it would be very easy in that condition (one of difficulty or need) to approach God as a means to an end.  Are you getting into Christianity to serve God, or to get God to serve you?  The later is a kind shamanism, an effort to get control of God through your prayers and practices.  It is using God rather than trusting him” (238).

This Book Rocks
This is a great book for at least three reasons.  The Reason for God is highly accessible, contains real-life, tested apologetic arguments, and adequately interacts with the all the major arguments against Christianity.

First and foremost this is a book that is accessible to a wide range of readers.  While dealing with philosophy, science, Biblical interpretation, and religious arguments, Keller manages to keep the book on a level that interested high school students could easily comprehend.  The book is filled with personal stories and pop culture references, and his style reminds me of the descriptions I’ve heard of Francis Schaeffer.  Keller gives you the feeling that he really knows and has thought about what he writes.

Part of the power of this book is that Keller has been living these arguments and discussions about Christianity for the past twenty years in New York City.  Each of the first seven chapters begins with quotes from people that Keller has actually interacted with.  Because this book is built upon real conversations between a Pastor and people who have attended his church, it’s congenial in tone.  The worst part about many apologists is their arrogance.  Keller takes no such approach.  His approach is firm and whole-hearted, but kind.

The arguments within The Reason for God are approachable and congenial and yet they still do adequate justice to the points of contention that many have with the Christian faith.  Keller doesn’t shy away from hard questions, and he doesn’t pretend his own arguments are water tight.  He knows that Christianity is ultimately built upon faith, and faith can’t be completely proven.  He leaves room for people to struggle and disagree with his own opinions, and yet he’s not weak or cowering.  This is a book that I believe will help convince many.  Seekers will go away challenged and questioning, not angry.

I love this book.  I feel wiser and more informed for having read it.  While I don’t agree with Keller’s arguments regarding creation, I appreciate the manner in which he explained his opinions.  Again, even though I have contention with something Keller said, his tone leaves me wanting to research and think rather than just react in a rage of disagreement.  If you love Jesus read this book!  If you don’t understand Christianity or have doubts, read this book!