A friend of mine is a big fan of C.S. Lewis, and I asked for a recommendation for which one to read first. “Mere Christianity” was the response. So, like most books of this nature I like to take notes so that I can internalize the content better. Also like most books that I read, I may or may not finish it, but I’ll get as far as I can!
Mere Christianity, Book 1
- The Law of Human Nature. Man appeals to some kind of standard of behavior which we call the Law of Human Nature. A man can either choose to obey it or not. Civilizations do have minor differences in their basic moral code, but have never amounted to a total difference. Curiously, most of us do not keep the Law of Nature, and we make excuses for we break what seems to be some innate sense of right and wrong.
- Some Objections. We may have a herd instinct, but this is not Moral Law (Unfounded assertion). Your base instincts may tell you to 1) run 2) help, but a third thing tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to help. Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play, out instincts are merely the keys. Every single note is right at one time and wrong at another. If you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are measuring them by a standard. You’re comparing them both with some Real Morality.
- Reality of the Law. The idea of something being imperfect comes with consequences. You have the facts (how men do behave) and you have something else (how they ought to behave). Decent conduct does not mean what pays each particular person at a particular moment, it means what pays the human race as a whole. He rhetorically asks “Why should I care what’s good for society except when it happens to pay me personally?” and he answers “Because you ought to be unselfish”. (Entirely the wrong answer to the question.)
- What lies behind the law. Materialist view: think that matter and space just happen to exist, and always have existed, nobody knows why; and that the matter, behaving in certain fixed ways, has just happened by a sort of fluke, to produce creatures like ourselves who are able to think. There are two options: 1) we got here from a very long series of chances, 2) the universe is more like a mind—conscious and has purposes. (Wow. Big-time unfounded assertion) The Power could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe no more than the Architect of a house could be a wall or staircase in the house. The only way it could show itself would be inside ourselves as an influence or a command trying to get us to behave a certain way. The only “packet” that I am allowed to see inside of is man, that is Myself: I don’t exist on my own, and I am under a law or force of something that wants me to behave a certain way.
- Cause to be uneasy. Progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. (And what are we trying to make progress on here, again?) To recap, we’re only at 1) There’s someone or somebody behind the Moral Law. Evidence? 2) The universe exists 3) He has put a moral law into our minds (which must mean that he is interested in right conduct, which in turn means that God is good) If the universe is not governed by absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to the goodness every day. The reason why you will ultimately choose Christianity, is when you are sick, you will listen to the doctor.
- “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth—only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.”
C.S. Lewis kicks off the book with a study on the “Law of Nature”, which I think is just another word for Objective morality.
Mere Christianity, Book 2
- Rival Conceptions of God. Notes.
- Invasions. Notes.
- Shocking Alternative. Notes.
- Perfect Penitent. Notes.
- Practical Conclusion. Notes.
Mere Christianity, Book 3
- Three Parts of Morality. Notes.
- Cardinal Virtues. Notes.
- Social Morality. Notes.
- Morality and Psychoanalysis. Notes.
- Sexual Morality. Notes.
- Christian Marriage. Notes.
- Forgiveness. Notes.
- The Great Sin. Notes.
- Charity. Notes.
- Hope. Notes.
- Faith. Notes.
- Faith. Notes.
Mere Christianity, Book 4
- Making and Begetting. Notes.
- Three-Personal God. Notes.
- Time and Beyond Time. Notes.
- Good Infection. Notes.
- Obstinate Toy Soldiers. Notes.
- Two Notes. Notes.
- Let’s Pretend. Notes.
- Is Christianity Hard or Easy?. Notes.
- Counting the Cost. Notes.
- Nice People or New Men. Notes.
- The New Men. Notes.
Image Source: Aftab Uzzaman