Understanding C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity" Chapter 1

C.S. Lewis wrote “Mere Christianity” as a series of radio broadcast lectures he delivered from BBC London beginning in 1942. Through his broadcasts’, Lewis provided a logical step by step argument for believing not only in God but in Jesus Christ. The word “mere” is often misunderstood as meaning small or insignificant. Actually, as Lewis pointed out in his preface remarks, it means “common”,“central”, or all Christianity not any specific denomination. Lewis used the image of Christianity as the main hall in the house and each denomination as the room each Christian dwells in. He makes the point if you enter the house you must choose a room, you cannot dwell in the hall.

This thread is intended to explore “Mere Christianity” chapter by chapter to offer an insight into Lewis’ powerful arguments for believing and perhaps to compare Christian beliefs today to Lewis’ beliefs as presented in “Mere Christianity”.

Before beginning, a little about myself; I was raised in the Episcopal Church. I’m not a scholar in any sense of the word. I went through periods in my life when I was an active lay member and times when I was at best an agnostic. During one peculiar black period in my life I started reading “Mere Christianity”. I couldn’t get it out of my head, Lewis’ logic seemed too persuasive to just put aside. I’m now a Catholic Convert, having joined the Catholic Church in 2009, my room in the hall.

I believe the best way to take in “Mere Christianity” is to listen to it, as London did during the Blitzkrieg, I listen to “Mere Christianity” , Blackstone edition, on my mp3 player. My local public library offers it as a free download for members. It can also be purchased from a variety of sources.

So, for those interested, and I have no idea what the interest might be, let’s start with Chapter 1, first with posting comments on understanding, then arguments both in favor and against. If there is a real interest, I expect we need to wait about a week or so between chapters to insure everyone interested has a chance to read/listen beforehand.

**Chapter 1-Right and Wrong, As a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe

What is the “law if human nature”? Is every person really born with it? Are we aware of it? Is it the same today as it was in Lewis’ time?**

I don’t know if you will find people to read or listen to chapters of this book for the sake of following this thread. The systematic study, is a good idea though maybe for another context if you can’t generate enough interest here.

By the way, did you know that one of the original broadcasts Mere Christianity is based on has survived and is now on YouTube? I’m not crazy about the intros and conclusions with Narnia movie music, etc., but the it’s cool listening to the original recording and seeing the old photographs.

Part 1: youtube.com/watch?v=JHxs3gdtV8A

Part 2: youtube.com/watch?v=xYoU5_MQOU0&feature=related


I just recently bought the book but have not started reading it yet. May be I will read the first chapter in a day or two to see if I can add something here !


Party pooper!:stuck_out_tongue: I’ll be “lurking” for this one, I also think discussing the book is a great idea and I’m sure others would be motivated to pick up a copy.

I would say the law of human nature is not to believe in Jesus.yes.Jesus has to learned of.There is really no common human sense reason to believe unless you can say to yourself "yes im a sinner"or you can ask yourself"why death,is there and afterlife"Yes.Most of us have heard of Jesus.As more and more people are born into this world,more people hear about Jesus.

You have jumped ahead, way ahead of chapter 1. C. S. Lewis has just begun his logical string, he hasen’t even discussed the possibility of God yet, let alone Jesus Christ. One must believe in God before one can believe in Jesus Christ.

He argues in Chapter 1 that we in fact are born with a sense of right and wrong. We don’t always follow it but if this is so where does this in born sense come from.

Review ( I recommend listening vs. reading) chapter 1, a short chapter, and post your thoughts; looking forward to your comments.

Im sorry.I don’t have the book.Guess i’ll just have to read the other posters comments.

The first chapter can be read for free on Amazon.

Actually, chapter 1 is here.

thanks you .I might just do that.

C.S. Lewis continues his arguments in favor of the existence of the Law of Human Nature in both Chapters 2 (Some Objections) and 3 (The Reality of the Law) in “Mere Christianity”.

Before we begin arguing either side of the existence of Human Nature, let’s be sure we understand what C. S. Lewis means by “The Law of Human Nature”. Here are a few quotes on the topic.

I hoping for other examples that add clarity to what C.S. Lewis had in mind.

Socrates and the law of human nature:


Plato and Aristotle:


“As a scientist, Aristotle’s epistemology is perhaps closer to our own. For Aristotle did not agree with Plato that there is an essence or Form or Absolute behind every object in the phenomenal world. I suppose you could argue that Aristotle came from the Jack Webb school of epistemology – “nothing but the facts, Mam.” Or, as one historian has put it: “The point is, that an elephant, when present, is noticed.” In other words, whereas Plato suggested that man was born with knowledge, Aristotle argued that knowledge comes from experience. And there, in the space of just a few decades, we have the essence of those two philosophical traditions which have occupied the western intellectual tradition for the past 2500 years. Rationalism – knowledge is a priori (comes before experience) and Empiricism – knowledge is a posteriori (comes after experience).”

****Here are the foundational points C.S. Lewis makes, in Book 1, Chapter 1:

*]A. Human Beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it.

*]B. They do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Human Nature, they break it.

As Lewis closes the Chapter, “these two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.”

Any comments or questions?

A sociologist would likely argue that these ideas are inculcated socially from an early age and exist for the benefit of an orderly and productive society.

And the sociologist would probably be right.

On the other hand, there is nothing mysterious about human beings having a certain ‘nature’, brought about by evolutionary processes.

Can you think of any other species that has evolved a sense of “right and wrong” and can choose not to follow that particular instinct? For that matter can choose not to follow any instinct?

No, but I fail to see how that is relevant.
I cannot think of any other species that has evolved to compose music, to have a mind capable of reasoning etc.
The point is: human beings have evolved some traits that make them human beings, and insects have evolved some traits that make them insects. How exactly that happened is currently unknown

Anyway, human beings have evolved a sense of right and wrong and C.S. Lewis himself already gives a hint as to the origin of this ‘instinct’: self-.interest. It is in our interest to treat others as we like to be treated. Why? Because otherwise we cannot expect others to treat us the way we like to be treated.
Is that always the case? No, because sometimes e.g. stealing from someone can seem in our best interest, except that we cannot expect others not to do the same, so in the long run, it is, in most cases not in our best interest. That is most probably the basis for this (more or less) universal sense of right and wrong.

This first chapter looks like a primitive version of the Argument from Morality, with the " if atheism is true then we cannot say Hitler was wrong" mantra.

For a proper comparison, you’d have to find a different species of comparative intelligence.

C.S. Lewis Continues his study of the Law of Human Nature in Chapters 2 and 3.

Chapter 2- Some Objections
Chapter 3-The Reality of the Law

I have coupled these two chapters together in a new thread for further comments and questions; Understanding C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” Book 1, Chapters 2 & 3

Further comments of Chapter 1 are welcome here, but I suggest those interested in this thread read/listen to chapters 2 and 3 and post their comments/ questions in the new thread.

Great point!

We are the “animals” that can “question” the “establishment”, whether it be “instincts” or something more “conventional” like Oprah.

We can even “question” our own opinions.

Hooray for philosophy! :slight_smile:

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