6. “Mere Christianity” is not “cheap grace.” “Mere” Christianity is not minimal Christianity. It does not offer “cheap grace,” to use Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s term. It is not easy or “safe.” Rather, readers find that they are being drawn in to an understanding of Christianity that is going to be extraordinarily demanding on them personally. They are being asked to give up their very “self” as a sovereign entity and to experience Christ living in them. “To become new men means losing what we now call ‘ourselves.’ Out of our selves, into Christ, we must go.”2 So part of the appeal of Mere Christianity is that the journey on which Lewis invites readers to join him is fulfilling because it is demanding.
7. Finally, the lasting appeal of Mere Christianity is based on the luminosity of the gospel message itself. In an essay on literary criticism (C.S. Lewis and E.M.W. Tillyard, The Personal Heresy: A Controversy), Lewis observed that the poet should not be inviting the reader to look at the poet, but rather pointing the reader to “look at that.” Lewis succeeds admirably in pointing the reader toward the subject. As others have observed, he does not simply present arguments; rather, he acts more like a friendly companion on a journey. To expand on that image: he is like a companion on a hike who is an expert naturalist and points out all sorts of flora or tiny flowers or rock formations that you would have missed on your own. When you see the wonders, you are duly impressed with your guide as an intermediary, but, particularly if that guide leads you to one of the most astonishing mountain peaks and sights that you have ever seen, the beauty of the objects themselves overwhelms your attention. You are deeply grateful to your guide, but that is not the essence of your unforgettable encounter with that beauty. So Lewis points his audiences toward seeing Christianity not as a set of abstract teachings but, rather, as something that can be experienced and enjoyed as the most basic and the most beautiful of all realities.
Next page »