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In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis presents and supports the basic beliefs of Christianity. In Book 1, Lewis discusses the natural fundamentals of man which he refers to as the Moral Law.
He argues that the Moral Law is a universal standard of morality that exists within each person and that compels him to do what is right than what is wrong. Lewis discusses that the Moral Law differs from all the scientific laws that govern the universe because humans have the choice to break the Moral Law. He argues that through Moral Law, man can observe within himself that there must be an intelligent Designer who has set a standard between right and wrong. Lewis ends Book 1 by discussing that our failure to keep the Moral Laws puts us at odds with God who created Moral Law. Lewis introduces Christianity as a way for those who have broken the Moral Law to reconcile with God.
In Book 2, Lewis outlines the basic beliefs of Christianity in God and Jesus Christ.
Through establishing the existence of Moral Law, Lewis explains of the God who created the universe but is distinct from it. He then explains that God’s perfect creation became evil as a result of the perversion of goodness. Lewis argues that the existence of a good and righteous God who allows evil things to happen to the universe is a result of God’s allowing people to have free will. Free will allows humans to have the freedom to choose between good and evil.
Following this, Lewis introduces Jesus Christ as the cornerstone of Christianity. Though God has permitted evil to happen, He has made a way for mankind to have salvation. He became the Atonement for their evil acts by becoming the incarnate God—Jesus Christ.
In Book 3, Lewis discusses a Christian’s behavior and morals that can be universally applied. He begins by discussing the three parts of morality constitute of harmony with people, harmony within a person, and the relationship between human with God. He further discusses the seven Christian virtues that make up Christian morality: prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude, faith, hope, and charity. Lewis defends the Christian moral of chastity and argues that one should abstain and control their sexual instincts. He also defends the institution of marriage that it is a lifetime commitment of a married couple demonstrating loyalty and respect for one another rather than just following their emotions. Towards the end of Book 3, Lewis discusses the virtues of charity, hope, faith. Charity may be a challenging virtue that requires humans to love people they may not like. He claims that by putting on the mindset of presenting to love other people one can eventually learn to love them. Lewis ends Book 3, by discussing the challenge of faith in God’s salvation. It is through failure that man realizes his own sinful nature and comes to a point where he surrenders and humbles himself to ask for God’s help. It is through this faith that Christ transforms man into His own perfection.
In Book 4, Lewis presents the foundational Christian idea in the Trinity—one God existing in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He further discusses that the three-personal God came into existence outside of time. He experiences human problems past, present, and future at the same time, whereas humans have free will within the time they experience it. Towards the end of Book 4, Lewis mentions God’s effort to have a personal relationship with man. Through salvation in Christ, humans are able to overcome their human nature and live in the divinity of Christ as the “sons of God.” It is through surrendering to Christ completely that man is able to become like Him and have full individuality. Like each individual organ that forms the parts of a whole body, each Christian’s individuality constitutes the body of Christ. However, loving and worshipping Christ is the only way of fulfilling one’s potential and becoming a unique Christian individual. He must be willing to sacrifice his earthly desires. The only thing his heart desires is Jesus Christ. A Christian’s reward is great because he will find Him and will live with Him in Heaven for eternity.
C. S. Lewis uses metaphors to create a common ground with Christians of different denominations. Lewis compares religious with a math problem by stating, “Being a Christian does not mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic—there are only one right answers to a sum, and all the other answers are wrong; but some of the wrong answers are much near being right than others” (Lewis 35). By comparing religion with a math problem, Lewis’s simplistic style writing makes it easy for readers to follow through with his logical argument. Lewis writes that he is merely writing to defend the basic fundamental beliefs of Christianity—beliefs common to all Christians of different denominations. He expresses that every religion contains some truth. He implies here that Christians of different do not always agree and differ in beliefs and practices, but in the end, there is a fundamental basis of truth they all share that allows them to reach a universal conclusion toward Christianity.
Lewis uses imagery to defend his argument that Moral Law is different from instincts or feelings. Lewis gives the situation in “Supposing you hear a cry for help from man in danger. You will probably feel two desires—one a desire to give help the other a desire to keep out of danger. But you will find inside you, in addition to these two impulses, a third thing which tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to help and suppress the impulse to run away” (Lewis 9). Lewis uses an ethical appeal to argue that Moral Law different differ from “herd instinct” in that while humans may feel many different instincts at once and there must be some moral law tellings us which instincts to obey and which ones to ignore. Lewis further states that morality is not an instinct but a characteristic that can be only found in humans.
Lewis does not a make a clear logical argument in man’s understanding of Jesus Christ’s paying the penalty for our sins on the cross. Lewis states that “A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works” (55). Lewis indicates that one can accept in his mind Jesus’s Christ work on the cross, he cannot fully grasp the saving grace of salvation. Lewis wording and phrasing may be a bit confusing to the reader for the word accept means to “consent to receive and undertake something offered.” Accepting Christ may mean to the reader not only to know but to put their faith and believe in Christ and his work on the cross. Unless man realizes the consequences of his failure to follow Moral Law, he cannot fully understand the work Christ has done and therefore cannot turn to repentance and obtain the salvation Christ offers.
Lewis uses logical appeal to defend the Christian belief in Jesus Christ’s divinity. He argues that Jesus Christ’s divinity allows the atonement of sins to be made possible by “suppos[ing] God became a man—suppos[ing] our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God’s nature in one person—then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God” (Lewis 58). Lewis stresses that in order for the validity of Jesus Christ to atone the sins of mankind, He had to be God and man. Lewis presents a logical argument that Jesus meets the requirements as the sacrifice for the sins of mankind. If Jesus were merely a man then He had a sin nature and was not perfect. Thus, His death and His resurrection would have no power to save man. Lewis argues that because Jesus was God in the flesh, He could pay the debt man owed to the perfect and righteous God. Jesus Christ’s victory over death demonstrates his ability to give eternal life to those who put their trust in Him.
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