Mere Christianity by CS Lewis

Just finished a few days ago - good reading. I will probably re-read it to digest it better.

I read it a few years ago and will read it again. It is really good.

I’m in the middle of it right now.

A thoroughly preposterous book, with arguments so pitifully bad that they do serious discredit to the actual intellectual foundations for Christian philosophy (such as they are).

Actually, it is quite good, brings up some compelling points and is quite thought provoking. I have read it and spoken with Christians and non Christians who all have said they got a lot out of it. Leave to some Christian hating liberal hack on the internet to write the only negative review about the book I have seen or heard. The decision is so hard. Who do a go with, a philosopher from Oxford or a loner on the internet?

Just a correction: C.S. Lewis was not a philosopher; he was an English professor.

I’m surprised that you’ve never heard of any other criticism of Mere Christianity. It’s a notoriously fallacious and poorly argued book. In my undergraduate critical thinking course, the professor actually had us read Mere Christianity when mining for fallacious arguments to deconstruct, simply because it’s such a goldmine of absurdity.

If you wish to read a critical take on some of Lewis’ arguments, the only serious philosopher I know who ever gave him a real hearing was the formidable G.E.M Anscombe — a Catholic, for what it’s worth. She demolished his arguments so thoroughly that Lewis gave up Christian apologetics:[INDENT]According to George Sayer, Lewis’s friend and biographer, Lewis regarded the debate as a defeat, and felt humiliated by it.

‘He told me that he had been proved wrong, and that his argument for the existence of God had been demolished…The debate had been a humiliating experience, but perhaps it was ultimately good for him. In the past, he had been too proud of his logical ability. Now he was humbled…‘I can never write another book of that sort’ he said to me of ‘Miracles.’ And he never did. He also never wrote another theological book. ‘Reflections on the Psalms’ is really devotional and literary; ‘Letters to Malcolm’ is also a devotional book, a series of reflections on prayer, without contentious arguments.’

Derek Brewer goes even further, saying that Lewis recalled the meeting “with real horror” was “deeply disturbed by it” and described it in terms of “the retreat of infantry thrown back under heavy attack.”[1]
[/INDENT]But really, his arguments didn’t deserve the attention of a giant like Anscombe. She probably only took him seriously due to her own faith, and merely to point out the extreme logical flaws in Lewis’ work. If he had gone up against a less sympathetic opponent, he would have fared even worse.

[1] C.S Lewis Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, I know he was officially a professor and member of the Inklings, but is also a philosopher, which is the word I chose in my post to define him. Of course a critical thinking professor would critique Lewis’ work. They loathe espcially Christianity, but anything they can pick apart with their theories. They actually get paid to ask their classes questions like, “Can God make a rock so heavy He can’t lift?”

Sorry, I’m not impressed.

Well, no. It’s just wrong to say that logicians “loath” Christianity. Additionally, the question “Can God make a rock so heavy He can’t lift” is a matter of philosophy of religion, and not the sort of thing one would cover in a critical thinking course. Critical thinking courses involve analyzing the logic of arguments.

Mere Christianity is, I think, a cautionary tale of how desperation to believe can lead people into extreme error and sloppy thinking. Let’s take Lewis’ most famous argument from the book, the “Mad, Bad, or God” argument[1]:

The argument says that Jesus’ claim to divinity means that he was either a madman, an extreme and immoral liar, or God:

This is the whole of the famous “Mad, Bad, or God” argument, an argument so incredibly poor that it’s truly curious anyone ever took it seriously. It may be reconstructed like so:(1) Jesus was either mad, bad, or God.
(2) C.S. Lewis considers it obvious that Jesus was neither mad nor bad.
(3) Therefore, Jesus is God.
**Objection #1:**The first premise is false, and Lewis’ argument is a false dilemma. There are in fact many other possibilities. For instance:

(a) Jesus may have never existed.
(b) Jesus may have been misquoted by his followers or later writers, either intentionally or through some mistake.
© Lewis himself may be misinterpreting the Bible.
(d) Jesus may have been simply mistaken, but still quite sane.

These are just a few of the many reasonable alternative possibilities. Lewis’ argument depends crucially on there being only three possibilities, but in fact there are many others. This renders his argument logically fallacious: a false dilemma.

Lewis’ argument can’t possibly hope to carry all of the weight he puts on it. For instance, consider all of the hidden assumptions bound up in premise 1; the premise is really saying “either Jesus was crazy, or he was immoral, or there is a creator of the universe who sent us a holy book with His word, and who came to earth in Human form in order to reconnect with humanity after being alienated from Man by the actions of one of Man’s ancient ancestors,” and so on and so forth. It’s pretty ridiculous.

**Objection #2: **Premise #2 is entirely unsupported. Lewis in fact offers no argument at all to support his claim that Jesus was not “mad” or “bad”. He merely says “it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend”. But this is rather uninteresting. What Lewis does or does not find “obvious” is not strong evidence in support of his claim. He has given no good reason to accept the second premise.

**Objection #3: From objection #2, Lewis’ argument is logically invalid. For it to be valid, we would need a premise that states that Jesus in fact was not mad or bad. But all we have is a premise stating that — in the opinion of C.S. Lewis — Jesus doesn’t “seem” mad or bad, and it doesn’t follow from this that Jesus in fact was not mad or bad.

[1] C.S.Lewis. Mere christianity

You don’t get to decide who is or is not a philosopher, O Your Supreme Intelligence. You can decide it for yourself, but you do not have the authority to decide it for me or for anybody else. Just who do you think you are ?

We all know the answer to that question. You think you are one of the most brilliant minds on the planet and that all you need do is merely open your liberal mouth and speak and the rest of us should become silent and bow down to your regular claims to have superior skills and superior intelligence.

Webster’s definition of a philosopher is the one I intend to use, regardless of your special uses of the word and regardless of anything you can say. Webster says C.S. Lewis was a philosopher. I say he was a professor and a philosopher.

1a : a person who seeks wisdom or enlightenment : scholar, thinker b : a student of philosophy
2a : a person whose philosophical perspective makes meeting trouble with equanimity easier b : an expounder of a theory in a particular area of experience c : one who philosophizes

All that up there is just more of your strong anti-Christian liberal prejudice to grab onto anything you can possibly find in order to discredit God, Christianity and any book anywhere that argues for the existence of the God of the Bible or in any way supports Biblical Christianity.

You cannot be trusted to be an objective unbiased source for anything regarding Christianity due to your contempt for the God of the Bible and your contempt for Biblical Christianity and your sneering contempt for Bible believing Christians.

Anderson, you said up there in your post that you considered G.E.M. Anscombe to be a “…serious philosopher…” and “…formidable…”, well here is your “serious and formidable” philosopher contradicting your liberal biased and anti-Christian post.

G.E.M. Ansccombe tells a different story than does Anderson and his sources:

Start quote"
"Debate with C. S. Lewis

As a young philosophy don, Anscombe acquired a reputation as a formidable debater. In 1948 she presented a paper at a meeting of Oxford’s Socratic Club in which she disputed C. S. Lewis’s argument that naturalism was self-refuting (found in the third chapter of original publication of his book Miracles).

Some associates of Lewis, primarily George Sayer and Derek Brewer, have remarked that Lewis lost the subsequent debate of her paper and that this loss was so humiliating that he abandoned theological argument and turned entirely to devotional writing and children’s literature.[1]

** Anscombe’s impression of the effect upon Lewis is somewhat different: **

“ The fact that Lewis rewrote that chapter, and rewrote it so that it now has those qualities [to meet Anscombe’s objections], shows his honesty and seriousness. The meeting of the Socratic Club at which I read my paper has been described by several of his friends as a horrible and shocking experience which upset him very much. Neither Dr. Havard (who had Lewis and me to dinner a few weeks later) nor Professor Jack Bennet remembered any such feelings on Lewis’s part […]

My own recollection is that it was an occasion of sober discussion of certain quite definite criticisms, which Lewis’s rethinking and rewriting showed he thought was accurate.

I am inclined to construe the odd accounts of the matter by some of his friends— who seem not to have been interested in the actual arguments of the subject-matter—as an interesting example of the phenomenon called projection.[2] ”

As a result of the weaknesses pointed out in the contest, Lewis did substantially rewrite his argument for future editions of the book. End quote.
(bolded by Jack)

G. E. M. Anscombe


The great Mrs. Anscombe was just being modest and gracious. She obliterated Lewis.

Your own post falsifies this claim. If I have nothing but “sneering contempt” for “Bible believing Christians,” then why would I lavish with praise (“formidable,” “giant”) Anscombe, who was a famously devout and conservative Christian?

Again, Jack, you seem to mistake yourself for* all true Christians.* Merely because I have contempt* for you* and your “understanding” of Christianity does not entail that I have contempt for all Christians and Christianity.

So now, the Great All-Knowing Anderson can actually read hearts and minds and discern motives.

That is merely what YOU and your ilk say is true. There are millions of people who disagree with YOU and your ilk regarding the worth and value of C.S.Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Mere Christianity contains more that merely the “Mad, Bad, or God” argument and hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of Christians seem to appreciate the book.

Because you are an immoral hypocrite who will pounce upon anything that degrades or weakens Biblical Christianity and the God of the Bible. That means you will praise to high heaven G.E.M. Anscombe when she serves your purposes.

If G.E.M. Anscombe was in fact a “…famously devout and conservative Christian…” and if that means that she believed the Bible and took positions against such as adultry, fornication, sodomy, (which you support as being NOT immoral as long as no one gets hurt) and homo marriage, and if she had any children and if she had taught her young children that John 3:16 was the truth (which you say is child abuse) ,if all that had been the case and is what you mean by Anscombe being a “…famously devout and conservative Christian…” then you, to be consistent, O Mighty Supreme All-Wise Anderson, would have to hold her in contempt as a believer in silly and dangerous-to-her-children Bronze Age fairy tales, just as you do me and all the other Bible believing Christians here at RO and elsewhere.

**All that up there means you would praise her when it serves your liberal biases, but would hold her in contempt if indeed she was (and she probably was) truly a “…famously devout and conservative Christian…”. **


Amen ! C.S.Lewis above Anderson and his kin 24/7/365 until the end of time ,

Good: Yes!
Read: yes, again and again and again and again and again and again ,

I hope you will find it very helpful. :smile:

Lets go with the philosopher ,the philosopher :banana: ,from Oxford
Big Grin

“Preposterous” to you. But YOU don’t have the intellectual authority to decide what is or is not “preposterous” for we Christians. You can decide for yourself, and maybe for a few of your “disciples” here at RO, but you don’t get to decide for we Christians that Mere Christianity is a “…thoroughly preposterous book…”

Btw, your word “…thoroughly…” covers 100% of the contents of Mere Christianity ~~ to you the entire book is preposterous. Thats amazing!


Ad populum fallacy. Your argument is a red herring, because the popularity of the book has no bearing on the logical merit of the arguments within, or on the criticisms of a legitimate expert (Anscombe). Millions of people “seem to appreciate” the work of Karl Marx and Mao, but this doesn’t mean that their economic analyses are accurate.

Lewis ought not to have been expected to keep up with Anscombe, a real professional philosopher. As his biographer A. N. Wilson put it, Lewis had been shown “to have no competence to debate with a professional philosopher”.

True, although that is by far the most famous argument from the work. The second most famous is probably the “you can’t make this stuff up” argument, where Lewis absurdly asserts that Christianity is too bizarre to be fiction, and so — therefore — God must exist, Jesus must be God, and Christianity must be true. And these are the arguments which were supposed to be “good”.

Can you point to a specific argument in the work which you find to be sound and compelling?

You’re again assuming that all true Christians believe what you believe, and for the same reasons. I ridicule you in particular for your anti-rational positions and failure to support your beliefs with arguments. Anscombe supported her positions with rational arguments, essays, and verbal evidence. She didn’t defend her views with things such as “King Will and his General, Faith, crush your puny god logic!” And still less with “it’s true that I don’t need rational arguments”. Nor would she ever pat someone on the back for things such as “logic has nothing to do with truth!” I have contempt for your relentless celebration of anti-rational and illogical approaches to life and to religion.

Anscombe’s work in virtue ethics has had a significant impact on my own thinking, despite the fact that I disagree with many of her conclusions, and, sufficed to say, her views on theology were vastly more sophisticated and informed than your own views (e.g. “Warrior Christianity”), which I often ridicule and hold in contempt. You may not compare yourself to Anscombe. Anscombe was a courageously honest and genuinely brilliant individual who spent her days in pursuit of truth through rationality and logic.

How about the testimony? Keep in mind there is much documentation, many testimonies, and the Jews as well as the Romans were excellent keepers of records and censuses. One witness in a present day courtroom can affect the outcome and verdict of a trial and with the existence of Christ and who He claimed to be, there are many.

Consider the Didache, one of the earliest Christian documents. It contains the early basic instructions of Christianity. It is believed to be written by the original Apostles and believed to be dated between 50 - 120AD. The document mentions Jesus and states “baptism must be in the name of the Father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.” As this is a first generation Christian document, most likely being written by the Apostles, the writings would be of those who knew Jesus in person.

Also, consider Cornelius Tacitus who was a Roman historian who lived from 55 to 120 A.D. He was a Roman historian who has been described as at least one of the greatest historians of the Roman Empire. He was known for his morality and integrity. He is famous for the Annals and the Histories, which are the historical narrative from Augustus’ death in 14 A.D. to Nero’s death in 68 A.D. and beginning after Nero’s death and ending with Domitian’s death in 96 A.D. respectively.

Tacitus described Nero’s decision to blame the fire of Rome on Christians. Tacitus refers to Chrestus, which is known to be an early spelling or common misspelling of Christ. Tacitus stated Chrestus was executed by Pilate and refers to Pilate as the procurator of Judea during the reign of Tiberias. Tacitus loathed Christianity and stated it was a superstition. If Jesus did not physically exist, why would Tacitus just state Christ didn’t exist, instead of affirming He did exist, but the religion centered on Him is mere superstition?

A court official for Emperor Hadrian and Roman historian, Suetonius referred in his Life of Claudius of Claudius expelling Jews from Rome due to their activities on behalf of Chestus.

In Asia Minor around 112 A.D. Christians were executed for refusing to worship a statue of Emperor Trajan. Pliny, one of the executioners wrote in a letter to Trajan how Christians would speak of singing songs to Christ as they believed He was God or a god. Now, isn’t it quite possible given the time frame some of them knew Christ personally or knew people who knew Christ personally, especially if they could have been direct descendants of those who lived during the time Christ was physically on Earth?

Ancient historians Thallus and Phlegon confirmed the land went dark when Jesus was crucified. Not only is this testimony of the existence and crucifixion of Jesus, but also parallels what is reflected in the Bible. Mara Bar-Sharapion, believed to be a Stoic philosopher around 70 A.D., stated in a letter to his son the Jews executed their King. This was the charge the Romans held Christ on when the religious leaders said they had no king but Caesar. Josephus was born around 38 A.D. and died after 100 A.D. He was a Jewish historian and wrote the Antiquities. In these writings he described Jesus as a “wise man and doer of wonderful works.” He also wrote Jesus was executed by Pilate and rose from the dead. Now, Josephus was born just after Christ’s crucifixion, but as a historian, Josephus probably would not have put his name to claims he could not verify.

Tertullian was born around 155 A.D. and accepted as a Roman citizen who was educated and well versed in the law. His texts are considered genuine. He wrote the following to the Roman Senate:
*"At His own free-will, He with a word dismissed from Him His spirit, anticipating the executioner’s work. In the same hour, too, the light of day was withdrawn, when the sun at the very time was in his meridian blaze. Those who were not aware that this had been predicted about Christ, no doubt thought it an eclipse. You yourselves have the account of the world-portent still in your archives. *
But, lo, on the third day there a was a sudden shock of earthquake, and the stone which sealed the sepulcher was rolled away, and the guard fled off in terror: without a single disciple near, the grave was found empty…All these things Pilate did to Christ; and now in fact a Christian in his own convictions, he sent word of Him to the reigning Cæsar, who was at the time Tiberius."

Tertullian also stated a written report of the crucifixion was submitted by Pilate to the emperor. It’ s also interesting there don’t appear to be any reports of Roman documents denying the crucifixion of Christ. With the problems they claimed to have with Christians and the atrocities they committed against Christians, surely the Romans would have been quick to expose this following as superstition and the easiest way to disprove the theory would be to prove Christ did not even physically exist, if He did not, which He did.

The apostate Julian was born around 331 A.D. and died around 363 A.D. He opposed Christianity and had interest in refuting stifling the spreading of the Gospel of Christ. He would have mentioned the fact Jesus did not exist, if He didn’t, yet, Julian actually referred to the records of Jesus’ crucifixion.

James, known for his letter in the Bible and a brother of Christ is known to have existed as his tomb was found and identified as being the half brother of Jesus. King Herod was proven by archeologists to have existed.

His charge among the Jews was He claimed to be of God. His charge for trial among the Romans was He claimed to be a king. For this, He suffered a hideous and torturous flogging and brutal punishment, followed by an excruciating death, which historians recorded they witnessed. Now, if He was not what He claimed to be, why would He not admit it to avoid this torture and execution? If He were a deceiver, why would there be so much documentation of His moral teachings? If He were a raving lunatic, how could He have reached out to so many different people with so many different backgrounds and affect them in such a way? How could He captivate their hearts, minds, attention and emotion? Why wouldn’t the religious leaders have been able to easily expose Him as a mad man or a fraud, instead of going to the trouble they did to get Him crucified?

C.S. Lewis believed in absolutes. This is evident in that he did not believe Christ could have been just a good teacher or nice guy, and claim what He was. In claiming His deity, He would have to be either deranged a deceiver, or exactly what He claimed to be. It couldn’t be a little of everything, rather had to be one thing or another. Lewis is pointing out the obvious as an absolutist as well as a believer in stating this.

I made no argument. You said “Anscombe obliterated Lewis” and I responded with a comment on the worth and value of Mere Christianity (and by extention Lewis) and said that thousands, maybe millions, seemed to appreciate the book. Lewis is obviously not obliterated because at least thousands worldwide read Mere Christianity every year and say they are helped by reading it.

YOU don’t get to decide that only a book that passes YOUR LOGIC TEST can be helpful to people !! Moreover, the book is well thought of and highly recommended by Christian leaders who do not agree with you that Anscombe obliterated Lewis.

Mere Christianity can be read, in parts, as a devotional and inspirational book ~~ the vast huge enormous majority of humanity (thank God) are NOT like you and will NEVER be like you A COLD ALMOST-NON-HUMAN LOGIC-MACHINE 98% of humanity live their lives and make decisions based upon a combination of common sense and good healthy emotions.

And there is nothing you can ever say, think, or do to stop then from doing that. Anyway, Anscombe has not obliterated Lewis, except in YOUR mind and in the minds of some others.

It is the individual readers of Mere Christianity that will decide how helpful the book is to them, YOU don’t get to decide that for them.

One reader might tell you that he liked the book because it made “me feel good like when I hear beautiful music.” You may find him and his approach totally absurd. He may find YOU and your approach totally absurd. But cheer up, you can run your logic-mouth to your heart’s content criticizing his “it made me feel good” approach. ( Edit: Ha, well, at least you can here on the Internet ! )

Oh well, since A.N.Wilson and you, O Your Intellectual Brilliance, agree that Lewis was not “competent to debate a professional philosopher” then it is obviously the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

I don’t base Christianity primarily on logic. My stated position from the very beginning here at RO has been that Christianity is primarily a FAITH SYSTEM that is supported by evidences none of which rise to the level of a conclusivity that removes the compelling necessity to exercise faith. The entire Bible supports that proposition. “Without faith it is impossible to please God ,being justified by faith we have peace with God ,if you believe not that I am He, you will die in your sins…” just to name 3 among hundreds of Bible verses that say solidily that Christianity is a FAITH system.

You don’t like that ? So what! I don’t care if you like it or not!

You want to rail against it ? Go ahead and run your mouth to your heart’s content.

You want to exalt your logic-god as superior to faith ? Blather on.

The reason I say those things to you is because you, a mere puny frail human being who has a certain-coming date with Total Impotence aka Death, do not have the clout, power, wisdom, reputation, past record of the successful use of power, etc to set aside and void what the Sovereign God has said about the absolute essentiality of coming to Him through Faith.

You, unlike the Lord Christ, do not even have the power to keep your body from rotting and becoming a worm farm, or animal food, or an urn full of dead grey ashes sitting on a mantel piece somewhere. I will never listen to you when you blather on about logic being better than faith ?


Btw, here is the real reason (I am begining to strongly suspect) that YOU do not believe and exercise FAITH in the words and teachings of the Lord Jesus:

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.

43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say…

47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that **you do not belong to God.” **
John chapter 8


35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.

37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.

38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.

39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.

40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
John chapter 6

Just for the record, that was all Anderson had to say in response to G.E.M. Anscombe !


Ah, then you were merely confused as to my claim. I meant that Anscombe “obliterated” him in the debate, and obviously not that she obliterated the value of his work for all people and for all time (that would be absurd).

The rest of your (highly amusing) rant merits no further comment.

G.E.M. Anscombe. I like her. She was cute and had a sweet face. She also was married and had 7 children.

She married Peter Geach, like her a Roman Catholic convert, a student of Wittgenstein, and a distinguished British academic philosopher. Together they reared three sons and four daughters

Doubt the feminists would appreciate that.

She scandalized liberal colleagues with articles defending the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Ah, I like her even more. Scandalized liberals, eh ? What better way to spend one’s
life !!

During her first undergraduate year she converted to Roman Catholicism, and remained a lifelong devout Catholic

Amen ! The only thing better than that is to convert to being a Protestant and remain a lifelong devout Presbyterian. :smile: /joke

She died, aged 81, with her husband and four of their seven children at her bedside, on 5 January, 2001.

Most likely that was a beautiful tender but somewhat sad scene. Its tough to leave one’s family. But thats alright dear, you’ll rise again and we’ll have a cup of coffee together and a long chat about mercy, grace, forgivness, and faith.

John 3:36


Above quotes from here:
G. E. M. Anscombe

My side is gaining ground. Anderson just confessed that Mere Christianity IS of value to people and also to Christendom.

“…highly amusing…” and packed with truths that you desperately need to face.