I don't think I actually read even the Narnia books until I was in my late 20s; but then I read almost every one of his books, theology as well as fiction, and a few biographies about his life as well. In my third term of college English literature studies, I wrote my essay on the concept of good and evil in the Narnia series. I think I can safely say that no other writer has had as big an impact on my overall understanding of Christianity as C.S. Lewis. Books by and about him (most of them in English small print pocket editions) occupy approximately 50 cm of my shelfspace. (He shares a shelf with Tolkien and J.K Rowling.)
I have kept returning to his fiction frequently; however, it has been a while since I properly reread any of the theology books. Some weeks ago I took out Mere Christianity to look something up. I got caught. The book has stayed on the shelf next to my bed since, and I'm reading it slowly. I'm rather fond of the picture on the cover of my 1979 pocket edition, so I scanned it for you:
The following quotation has been lingering in my mind this week. It's begging me to share it. Lucky me - when I googled, I found the whole book availabe as e-text. I can copy, don't have to type! It also means that if you urgently want to read more of the surrounding context, you don't have to go find the book...
The contents of this book were first given as radio talks. Lewis kept that style in the printed version. If he had lived today, I think he'd have been a great blogger!
'A "talk" on the radio should, I think, be as like real talk as possible, and should not sound like an essay being read aloud. In my talks I had therefore used all the contractions and colloquialisms I ordinarily use in conversation.' (Quote from the Preface)
From C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 2, Chapter 2:
Very well then, atheism is too simple. And I will tell you another view that is also too simple. It is the view I call Christianity-and-water, the view which simply says there is a good God in Heaven and everything is all right - leaving out all the difficult and terrible doctrines about sin and hell and the devil, and the redemption. Both these are boys' philosophies.
It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple. They look simple, but they are not. The table I am sitting at looks simple: but ask a scientist to tell you what it is really made of - all about the atoms and how the light waves rebound from them and hit my eye and what they do to the optic nerve and what it does to my brain-and, of course, you find that what we call "seeing a table" lands you in mysteries and complications which you can hardly get to the end of. A child saying a child's prayer looks simple. And if you are content to stop there, well and good. But if you are not - and the modern world usually is not - if you want to go on and ask what is really happening - then you must be prepared for something difficult. If we ask for something more than simplicity, it is silly then to complain that the something more is not simple.
Very often, however, this silly procedure is adopted by people who are not silly, but who, consciously or unconsciously, want to destroy Christianity. Such people put up a version of Christianity suitable for a child of six and make that the object of their attack. When you try to explain the Christian doctrine as it is really held by an instructed adult, they then complain that you are making their heads turn round and that it is all too complicated and that if there really were a God they are sure He would have made "religion" simple, because simplicity is so beautiful, etc. You must be on your guard against these people for they will change their ground every minute and only waste your tune. Notice, too, their idea of God "making religion simple": as if "religion" were something God invented, and not His statement to us of certain quite unalterable facts about His own nature.
Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect. ---
Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity.