Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity is another one of those books that I own and have tried to read, but it's hard to get through. I read the selection assigned, however, and was delighted. I actually really enjoyed the prologue. Lewis made clear that, "You will not learn from me whether you ought to become an Anglican, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, or a Roman Catholic." Lewis wasn't pushing his church affiliation's particular agenda; he was simply attempting to explain Christianity to his "unbelieving neighbors." An interesting point he made was, "Our divisons should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son." Unfortunately, those divisions are disclosed way too much for non-Christians. How many denominations are there, after all? I think thousands... that shows unbelievers that this one religion can't seem to agree on almost anything (case in point: baptism- dunk vs. sprinkle, imagine being a Muslim and hearing about churches splitting over that). I also like how Lewis agreed that "there are quesdtions at issue between Christians to which I do not think we have been told the answer." Many Christians feel like they need to be experts in answering all questions of the faith. It takes humility to say, "I don't know what God thinks about that." Lewis went to meticulous means to ensure that the book would present "an agreed, or common, or central, or 'mere' Christianity." With so much we Christians disagree on, it is necessary to come back together and think about what is important. People are prone to bitter theological arguments (and I am NOT exempting myself from this-- I am pretty bad at not getting riled up). Rob Bell said once that in the middle of a heated discussion, he started just saying, "Wait, wait. Do we agree that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to reconcile us to God?" "Um, yes." "Okay, so we agree on the important things. The rest is just icing on the cake."

I found Lewis' analogy of the church being like a hall quite interesting and different denominations being different doors. The statement that really hit me is this, "The hall is a place to wait in, a place from whic to try the various doors, not a place to live in." I've struggled a lot trying to find a "home" denomination. I am a Protestant mutt, and in fact, I fit in much better at large, nondenominational churches. In fact, I think we are entering a post-denominational era (another subject for another time). With less denominational labels on churches, it's hard to gage where certain churches stand. I still have yet to find a church where I'm like "YES, I agree with the majority of stuff here!" Sometimes I get frustrated that I can't seem to be satisfied with a particular church, and Lewis addressed that in an interesting way (still talking about the hall), "But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping." My issue is this: how do I know what church is the "right" one? How do I camp? I feel like I just roam around to different rooms, sitting inside for a while and leaving. It leaves me feeling alienated from the church and displaced from the body of Christ, like a refugee. But that is just something I need to continue working out.

So now onto the actual book chapters 1-4. I really liked Lewis' "engineering mind" approach, as we discussed in class. First, Lewis talks about the law of human nature, then what the law of human nature is, then the reality of the law, and then what lies behind the law. His thought process is truly fascinating. It reminds me of geometry (shudder) when we did proofs. It's like Lewis took one step, explained reasonably and rationally, moved on, etc. I have many non-Christian friends and family, so my automatic thought when reading apologetics is if this material would be useful in sharing with them.

People are not Christian for many reasons. Some busy themselves with other thoughts to avoid even thinking about God. This book would not be helpful to them because they don't think they need God and they frankly don't care about a moral law or anything else. Others have intellectual questions and have logical, philosophical minds, and this book would be PERFECT for those people. In other words, I think Mere Christianity is a GREAT tool for truth-seeking non-believers and even as an evangelical training tool for Christians. At the same time, however, people come to Christ in different ways, and this is just one tool that God can use to soften hearts. For an intellectual, skeptical audience, these chapters were absolutely great.

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