Mere Christianity: Foundations

It’s Wednesday! It’s the day that my amigo and co-facilitator, Jason Stasyszen and I have our regularly scheduled book discussion. This week, we’re beginning a new series of discussions on the classic work by CS Lewis, Mere Christianity. We love to have you participate whether you’ve done the reading or not, so feel free to stay and weigh in with your thoughts and opinions! If you’ve written a post about Mere Christianity, we invite you to link your post at the widget at the bottom.

The first chapter of Mere Christianity is titled: “The Law of Human Nature.” I have to admit, for a few paragraphs, I was floundering, wondering where in the world Lewis was going. And then, it struck me that he was laying a foundation.

“Each man is at every moment subject to several sets of law but there is only one of these which he is free to disobey. As a body, he is subjected to gravitation and cannot disobey it… As an organism, he is subjected to various biological laws which he cannot disobey… but the law which is peculiar to his human nature… is the one he can disobey if he chooses. This law was called the Law of Nature because people thought that every one knew it by nature and did not need to be taught it.” (Lewis, 18.)

Lewis’ point ends up being that we are all born with an internal sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair, decency and indecency. We’re born with a standard. We know when we’re being cheated or mistreated or when we’re cheating or mistreating others because of the standard within us. And when he comes to the end of the chapter, he makes the statement that grabbed me above all others in this chapter:

“These…are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.” (Lewis, 21.)

First and foremost, I agree with Lewis’ belief about the law of human nature. I agree that there is a standard and that deep inside of us, we know that. But the more important thing to me was that Lewis started his book by establishing a foundation. Instead of beginning, as many do, by throwing a number of theories at us and then sorting them out throughout the book, he starts with a one clear belief from which he will continue to build.

I think this is most important to me at this point in my life because as someone who travels in multiple circles (some Christian, some secular) there are so many different and often opposing doctrines and agendas being thrown at me at one time. Honestly, I often don’t know what to believe or where to start looking for answers and that causes confusion. A simple example of how this plays out in my life is how I rarely retweet others’ links on Twitter anymore unless I know the writer quite well. Why? Because I don’t always know and understand where the writers are coming from and whether or not I agree with them. And I strongly believe that I should be careful about passing on erroneous facts or theories because I honestly believe that we are responsible for what we endorse. All of this makes it especially important to me that Lewis laid a clear foundation at the beginning. He basically said, “This is what I believe. This is what everything else I say is built on. These are the lenses the rest of the book will be seen through.” And as icing on the cake, I agree with his foundation.

Let me ask a couple of questions to close the first chapter. First of all, do you agree with Lewis’ statements about us being born with a standard? Second, do you often find yourself being presented with too many competing ideas, theories, doctrines, and agendas? And if you do, how do you sort through those competing views?

Just some food for thought. Next week, Chapter 2, and the widget will be at Jason’s!

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  1. C.S. Lewis is foundational for me — and “Mere Christianity” is foundational for Lewis. His point — that we know what’s right and we know better when we don’t do what’s right — is one of the main underpinnings of the christian faith.

    Thanks to you and Jason for hosting this.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Glynn, THANK YOU for sharing and for linking up! What a pleasant surprise this morning!

  3. I read this book years ago. I need to again…

    This goes really well with the post that Nick wrote at my place on Monday (Justice), don’t you think? I agree that we are all born with an inner sense of right and wrong. It’s too bad so many decide to ignore it, or make it a selfish thing. We need to realize we are in this together. We are all just trying to make it to the End.

  4. I like your thoughtful way of approaching the pluralism we live in. I often will wonder where a person or idea has it’s origin and will speak nothing into it. I will let it tumble around in my head till it falls out or gets lodged in a place that abides by human nature. I am excited to go through this book again…The Lord knows I need to stir the tanks of logic to counter act all the stuff out there.

  5. Sarah Salter says:

    Ginny, it’s true what you say that many of us ignore our sense of right and wrong so that we can just do what feels good or what is expedient for us at one time. Like the person who takes a little money from the cookie jar at work to pay off a debt. They know that’s wrong, but their desire for the money or to pay off the debt numbs them to anything except the desire. They forget the consequences. And each time they take money from the cookie jar, it gets easier to do it the next time. Until eventually, they don’t even think twice about it. It’s a scary progression. And most of us do it at one time or another, though not always in such dramatic ways. Thanks for coming by, Ginny!

  6. I agree with his statement… As I am faced with conflicting doctrines, the only way I can sort them out is by measuring them against the Scriptures… Sometimes it takes a lot of measuring. Other times not so much.

  7. That statement about the “foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in” really grabbed me too. There’s such a simplicity and truth in it that blows me away. Great thoughts, Sarah.

    And this clears up the mystery of why you aren’t retweeting my posts as much. 🙂 Ha!

  8. Agreeing here too! I have to stand on His Word, not swayed to and fro with the latest fads, theories, doctrines. Is it easy? No indeed. Is it possible? I’m holding on, I’m hoping, I’m learning hard on Him.

  9. I agree with you about the different messages. I think our culture is conflicting with itself in the name of tolerance. It gets difficult to differentiate between being tolerant and loving.

  10. Jason,

    That’s probably why she does not retweet me either…

  11. Sarah Salter says:

    Jerry, I love how you phrased it about putting the idea in your head & letting it tumble about. That’s a great analogy and that’s exactly what I do! Thanks for coming, sharing, and participating!

  12. Sarah Salter says:

    Dusty, the more I grow up (physically, mentally, and most of all spiritually), the more I realize we can’t put God into a box. There’s a right and a wrong, but sometimes they’re HARD to measure. The example I always think back to is when we were in Congo and the starving mothers would come into the clinic, get saved, and then say, “But I’m a prostitute and how will I feed my kids if I quit? It’s my only income. We don’t have Social Services or WIC here.” (paraphrased, obviously) Their need doesn’t make the sin any less sin. But it doesn’t make the need any less desperate, either. My off-the-cuff answer is, “God will never make sin the only option for meeting your needs.” But I don’t have anywhere to send them for help meeting their needs either. (That was a long tangent… Did it make sense? I’m open to discussion on this.)

  13. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, you rock! When I have time to retweet links, you will ALWAYS be at the top of my list!

  14. Sarah Salter says:

    Karin & Helen, the more God pulls me out of my box, the more I’m learning what real love and tolerance are about. I may not agree with you, but that doesn’t mean I can’t love you with all of my heart. Part of my loving you is NOT judging you and being willing to admit that I could be wrong and being open to discussion. But part of loving you is also telling you the truth when you’re open to it. The keys, I think, are (1) not judging, (2) seeking God enough to have God’s heart for a person, (3) listening to the Holy Spirit’s instructions on how to love them (whether that’s sharing hard truths with them or simply being there for them and saying nothing.)

  15. I firmly believe that we all have this same foundation within us. Yes, we were born with this law. And I agree whole-heartedly with your statement about only endorsing things that are reflect on that which we believe.

    But I don’t think, just because you are friends with nonbelievers that you shouldn’t retweet a post that is about God.

    When I read this, “Second, do you often find yourself being presented with too many competing ideas, theories, doctrines, and agendas?” I got a little concerned.

    Because if I stop and think about it, I see all those theories and doctrines everywhere I look. But if I DON’T stop and think about it, I can feel God.

    Living and breathing the answers.

    Specific to who I am.


    I’m sorry, I’m rambling.

  16. Yes, I believe we have this foundational truth inside us. It is the mark of the image of God.

    Great thoughts Sarah.

  17. Sarah Salter says:

    DS, I don’t necessarily refuse to retweet nonbelievers’ posts. But I would have to read it first and be aware of what I’m sharing. I do occasionally retweet nonbelievers’ posts. Just because they are nonbelievers doesn’t mean they don’t have things to say that are worth reading. 🙂 Thanks for your input, Bro!

  18. Sarah Salter says:

    Ryan, good to see you around here, Buddy! Come back by anytime! 🙂

  19. Sarah,

    What I meant is this. I have nonbelievers who follow me on twitter.

    But that’s never stopped me from tweeting something about God.

    I think we all need to be willing to endorse things that reflect who we truly are.

    Hope I didn’t confuse you, because I’m confusing myself.

    -DS 🙂

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