Mere Christianity

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Mere Christianity Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis was born and raised in Ireland. He attended Oxford University, where he distinguished himself as a scholar of English, Classics, and Philosophy. Lewis fought in World War I, and, partly as a result of the carnage he witnessed, he was an atheist for most of his twenties. For more than thirty years, Lewis taught at Oxford University. During this time, he converted to the Anglican Church, and became an articulate proponent of Christian values. Lewis’s love for Christianity, as well as his vast knowledge of mythology and linguistics, inspired him to write his most famous book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—the first volume of the Chronicles of Narnia—in 1949. Over the course of his life he wrote poetry, essays, literature, autobiography, fantasy, science fiction, and non-fiction works of academic criticism, philosophy, and Christian apologetics.
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Historical Context of Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity was first written during World War II, when Europe was engaged in a bloody war between the Allied Powers, including Britain and France, and the Axis Powers, including Germany and Italy. Lewis alludes to many of the worst atrocities of World War II, including the Holocaust—Germany’s notorious attempt to wipe out the Jewish people and other minorities, which resulted in the murder of more than six million people. Lewis also alludes to some important milestones in Western intellectual history, most notably Darwin’s theory of evolution, which revolutionized science and philosophy by portraying the history of the world as a constant, volatile process in which all creatures, including the human species, are gradually changing.

Other Books Related to Mere Christianity

The book takes inspiration from many famous Christian works of literature and philosophy. Two of the most notable are John Milton’s long poem Paradise Lost (1667), and Boethius’s The Consolation of Philosophy, which was written in the sixth century A.D. Milton’s poem tells the story of the fall of man, partly from the perspective of Satan. Milton’s portrayal of Satan as a “fallen angel”—that is, a being who has corrupted good into evil—had a major influence on the composition of Lewis’s book, particularly the first part. The late classical philosopher Boethius composed The Consolation of Philosophy in the weeks leading up to his execution for treason. While the book makes no specific references to Christ, Christian thinkers have celebrated Boethius for pioneering Christian theology. Boethius’s theory that an omnipotent God exists outside of time, and therefore sees humanity’s past, present, and future simultaneously, shows up in the fourth part of Mere Christianity, and appears in many of Lewis’s other books.
Key Facts about Mere Christianity
  • Full Title:Mere Christianity
  • When Written:Based on a series of radio broadcasts made between 1942 and 1944, published as a book in 1952.
  • Where Written:London and Oxford
  • When Published:1952
  • Genre:Christian apologetics, Non-fiction
  • Point of View:First person; the speaker is C. S. Lewis

Extra Credit for Mere Christianity

Famous fans.C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia books are some of the most famous children’s novels of all time, and they’ve inspired some other classics of children’s literature. Lewis’s fans include J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, Philip Pullman, authors of the His Dark Materials trilogy, and Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Pullman, an atheist, claims to despise Lewis’s Christian ideas, but has “boundless respect” for the Chronicles of Narnia.

Best buddies.Lewis was a popular professor at Oxford University, and had lots of good friends on the faculty. His closest friend, another expert in Classics and English literature, also penned a series of Christian-inspired fantasy novels for intelligent young readers. His name? J. R. R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings books!