Recently a friend assured me that a book by a well-known evangelical Christian was the new “Mere Christianity.” For an evangelical this possibly cryptic statement needs no explanation. As evangelicals, we are called to evangelize — to share the good news about Jesus Christ. Most of us also are surrounded by friends and co-workers who may be curious about our beliefs. And for over 55 years, Christians have turned to C.S. Lewis’s little book “Mere Christianity” for both of these reasons.
Of course, C.S. Lewis was an Irish-born Anglican and was committed to a mode of worship and a tradition far removed from those of American evangelicals. But he was also an adept Christian apologist who used his literary gifts — his fluent prose style, his powers of description, his engaging narrative voice, his way with metaphor — to explain the basic tenets of Christianity: what it meant to believe in Jesus Christ and to live according to Christian principles. More than that: He was at pains to capture, in prose, what it meant to discover Christianity as something worthy of belief. On the page, he thought his own faith through, trying to make sense of it for himself and others. There is always something ecumenical and instructive to Lewis’s religious writings, and “Mere Christianity” — which has sold several million copies since it was first published in 1952 after its original incarnation as a series of radio broadcasts — is the nonfiction book by which American Christians, not least American evangelicals, know Lewis best.
But much has changed in the last half-century.