Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

MARSDEN, George M.: C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity: A Biography

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

MARSDEN, George M.: C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity: A Biography

Article excerpt

MARSDEN, George M. C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity: A Biography. Lives of Great Religious Books Series. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2016. 280 pp. Cloth, $24.95--When one picks up a book that promises to be a biography, the most likely expectation is that it would be about someone's life. George Marsden and the "Lives of Great Religious Books" series have given us a new twist on the word "biography." C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity: A Biography is a book about a book. Marsden tells the reader right from the beginning that if you are expecting a book about Lewis's life, this is not the book for you. What Marsden is writing about is the life of Mere Christianity.

Mere Christianity is probably one of the most widely read of Lewis's forty books. Yet at its birth it was not a book at all. It all started with a series of war-time broadcasts for the BBC. The series of radio broadcasts, four in all, was revised and updated by Lewis and then published under the title of Mere Christianity.

Given Lewis's present fame and popularity, one would expect that the broadcast talks were praised and accepted by all. This was not true. The negative reaction came more so from his colleagues at Oxford. He had committed the unpardonable sin of becoming a "radio evangelist." The anti-Christian elements in the press also attacked Lewis. Another barrage of attacks came from writers like George Orwell, T. H. Huxley, H. G. Wells, and Bertrand Russell.

Marsden points to the numerous naysayers who felt Lewis's books had reached their pinnacle in the religious revival following World War II, and had little meaning for the 1960s and 1970s generation. Lewis himself in a darker moment told his friend Owen Barfield that he expected that his fame would quickly pass and that within five years (after his death) no one would be reading his books. Instead, his books kept gaining in popularity, especially among groups such as Evangelicals, the Wade Center at Wheaton College, Christianity Today, and the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on college campuses. …

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