Monday, July 10, 2017

"CS Lewis's Mere Christianity" by George Marsden: A Review

On November 22, 1963, three giants died. The most notable was President John F. Kennedy who was shot and killed in Dallas, TX. On the same day, two writers Aldous Huxley and CS Lewis died quietly overshadowed by the more newsworthy death of the American president. At the time, most would have assumed that Kennedy would have the lasting legacy while history would forget the latter two. Yet that is not the case. The Democratic Party that Kennedy once led has largely left the policies and convictions that Kennedy held. Regarding Aldous Huxley, only readers of classic dystopians are aware of who he is.

Most surprising is the lasting legacy and even growing population of CS Lewis - the professor of medieval literature (of all things), and writer of Christian apologetics and children's stories. Only providence can explain this. In his book, C. S. Lewis's Mere Chrsitian: A Biography, Goerge M. Marsden seeks to tell the story of both Lewis's influence and how a single book continues to shape the world.

This is now the second biography of a book I have read (the first was on the Book of Mormon). In this volume, the author provides biographical information on both the author and the book he penned. The story behind Mere Christianity is a fascinating one. It began as a series of radio talks on the BBC radio (can you imagine the BBC airing this today?) during the second world war. Lewis's talks grew in popularity and resulted in the publication of a number of books. Those books were eventually combined into a single book now known to us as Mere Christianity.

Marsden takes the reader inside the mind of the author, the voices of its critics, and traces the lineage of this mere book. It is a fascinating book with a fascinating story. My one critique of the book would be how Marsden at times makes the book more about Lewis than about Mere Christianity, yet in his defense, it is virtually impossible to separate author from book.

For those who love Lewis and have read Mere Christianity, I would recommend this book. It is academically sound and yet accessible to the average reader. For those who have neither read Lewis or his classic book, what are you waiting for?
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