Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis's eloquent and winsome defense of the Christian faith, originated as a series of BBC radio talks broadcast during the dark days of World War Two. Here is the story of the extraordinary life and afterlife of this influential and much-beloved book.
George Marsden describes how Lewis gradually went from being an atheist to a committed Anglican—famously converting to Christianity in 1931 after conversing into the night with his friends J. R. R. Tolkien and Hugh Dyson—and how Lewis delivered his wartime talks to a traumatized British nation in the midst of an all-out war for survival. Marsden recounts how versions of those talks were collected together in 1952 under the title Mere Christianity, and how the book went on to become one of the most widely read presentations of essential Christianity ever published, particularly among American evangelicals. He examines its role in the conversion experiences of such figures as Charles Colson, who read the book while facing arrest for his role in the Watergate scandal. Marsden explores its relationship with Lewis's Narnia books and other writings, and explains why Lewis's plainspoken case for Christianity continues to have its critics and ardent admirers to this day.
With uncommon clarity and grace, Marsden provides invaluable new insights into this modern spiritual classic.
George M. Marsden is the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame. His books include Fundamentalism and American Culture, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship, and The Soul of the American University. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
"A clear and deeply informed account of a religious work that seems to have no expiration date."--Kirkus
"Admirers of Lewis as well as those interested in the origins of recent Christian thought will be happy to dive into this densely packed volume."--Publishers Weekly
"Books on Lewis abound. Marsden’s belongs on the top shelf."--Booklist
"[A]n insightful historical sketch"--The Gospel Coalition
"If Marsden’s biography of Mere Christianity encourages his readers to read or reread it for themselves, it may in its own way be an antidote for the attention to self that so dominates our culture."--Gilbert Meilaender, Commonweal
"Marsden’s book is fascinating and well-written and researched. It makes one want to go back to read Mere Christianity itself."--Frank Freeman, University Bookman
"George Marsden provides a splendid account of the book’s evolution . . . and its reception."--Jonathan Wright, Catholic Herald
"Marsden’s work is a terrific exemplification of the contribution to knowledge which can be made by study of the reception history of texts. . . . Fascinating insights emerge."--Peter Anthony, Church Times
"[A] fascinating exploration of one of the most influential religious books of modern times."--Ryder Miller, San Francisco Book Review
"Marsden’s ‘biography’ of Lewis’s Mere Christianity is an excellent commentary on a classic of modern Christian literature on spirituality."--Choice
"A superb study of C. S. Lewis's greatest work. Marsden succeeds both in illuminating the success of Mere Christianity and enriching our own reading of this seminal work."--Alister McGrath, author of C. S. Lewis--A Life
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1 War Service 19
Chapter 2 Broadcast Talks 35
Chapter 3 Loved or Hated 58
Chapter 4 A Classic as Afterthought 84
Chapter 5 Into the Evangelical Orbit 97
Chapter 6 Many-Sided Mere Christianity 116
Chapter 7 Critiques 139
Chapter 8 The Lasting Vitality of Mere Christianity 153
Appendix Changes in Mere Christianity Compared to the Original Three Books 189