A lot of us have that one book that completely changed who we are and our trajectory in life. It might be a novel, a biography, a self-help book, or the Bible, but many people have been radically changed through engaging a particular piece of literature, whatever it might have been. For me, that book is Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.
Don’t get me wrong; the Bible has been a tremendous foundation and influence as far as determining who I am and how I live my life, and it should considering it’s God’s Word. But I’m not talking about holy writ in this post. I’m talking about other books because God does speak to us through other books at times.
I became devoted to Jesus at the age of 16, and I got serious about this devotion as I was graduating high school a year later. When I was a freshman in college I had my first religious debate with an atheist, and I realized rather quickly that repeating, “You just have to have faith,” ad nauseum wasn’t going to work. Also, in this exchange, I realized something else: “You just have to have faith,” wasn’t working for me either.
I knew, deep down, that my faith had to make sense. I was a committed Christian, but I had never been introduced to a rational presentation of my faith. No one had ever shown me how my faith made sense; they only told me that it made sense and that I need to accept it.
As I struggled through this frustration, I found myself venting to a number of my family members. After sharing with my Uncle Bill one day he shared with me a solution that changed my life. He retrieved a small book from his shelf, and he told me that this book helped him make sense of his faith when he was younger. The book was C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity.
So I sat down with this tiny book and began to read. After quickly finishing Book 1, “Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe,” I was enamored with what I had discovered! Not only was the Christian faith internally coherent, but it also provided an incredible amount of explanatory power concerning everything else. This was something I could work with; this is a way of being Christian with which I could be on board.
For those of you who may not be familiar with this book, let me give you a brief summary. Lewis begins by demonstrating that there is an innate sense of right and wrong that permeates all cultures and that it has done so for all of human history. Though cultures might disagree with what constitutes right and wrong, they nonetheless agree that there are certain things people ought to do and ought not to do. He then argues that the Christian religion provides the best explanation of this phenomenon as well as the best solution to the problem of morality. He then spends the rest of the book discussing what all of classical Christianity, despite differing denominations, believes.
So what do I mean when I say that Mere Christianity made me a theologian? This book presented me with my first ever encounter with a rational presentation of the Christian faith, and it encouraged me to dig even deeper into other rational presentations of the faith. Also, it made me want to teach others that faith isn’t blind, that it has its reasons and is itself reasonable.
Mere Christianity ultimately equipped me with basic apologetic approaches to sharing my faith, and it gave me a desire to learn more ways to share my faith in an intelligible manner. This book introduced me not only to the world of apologetics but theology as well. Because of this book, I devoted my life to the ministry of the Kingdom of God. I would go on to earn a B.A. in Christian Studies with a specialization in Biblical Languages, a M.A. in Theology with a specialization in Philosophy of Religion, a Th.M. in Theology, and a Ph.D. in Theology, and all of this was because this little blue book provided me with an intelligent articulation of what I ought to believe as a Christian.
If you have never read this book then I encourage you to DO IT! Is it the end-all-be-all of books on theology and apologetics? Absolutely not, and Lewis did not intend it to be. This book was originally the compilation of radio talks he delivered in the UK about Christianity. What this book does provide is a basic well-written description of what mere Christianity is and what mere Christians believe.
To this day, I still find myself being content with describing myself as a mere Christian. Sure, I attend a Baptist church and earned my theology degrees from Baptist schools, but being a mere Christian has always remained of first importance to me, and it is the beliefs of mere Christianity with which I am primarily concerned in my own research. With the exception of the Bible itself, this book, more than any other, has influenced me and formed me into the Christian I am today.
To put it simply, then: Mere Christianity made me a theologian.