Have you ever read a book that was so dynamic that it changed the direction of your life? For most Christians that book would certainly be the Bible. According to historic Christianity, Scripture is the uniquely inspired Word of God. Thus, the Bible is the greatest of all great books.
But besides Holy Writ, has there been a book that deeply influenced you spiritually and intellectually? Many of my theological and apologetics heroes have noted how particular books profoundly changed the course of their lives (for example, St. Augustine, Blaise Pascal, and C. S. Lewis1).
The first Christian book that I read (outside of Scripture) was Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis (1898–1963). When I was nineteen years old my older sister gave me a copy of Lewis’s book knowing that I was going through a serious searching period of life. It sat on my shelf for some time unread, but various events happened (that I described here and here) that led me to take the faith of my baptism seriously for the first time. So I picked up Lewis’s book and began reading it.
My first real introduction to Christian theology and philosophy came from reading Lewis’s book. With his characteristic lucid style and single-minded focus, Lewis explained and defended Christianity’s central truth claims. I read it a couple of times and underlined and wrote notes in the margins throughout the text. This book really challenged me spiritually and intellectually. And along with the Bible, Lewis’s ideas began to shape my Christian mind. Knowing the core elements of historic Christianity that I learned from Lewis and being able to articulate them with clarity to believers and nonbelievers alike uniquely helped me to fulfill what would become my God-given role to draw others to follow Christ.
Lewis’s book also introduced me to the life of the mind. I came to understand that part of a Christian’s devotion to God involved loving the Lord with one’s intellect. In other words, along with developing moral virtues I also had a responsibility to pursue intellectual virtues. Mere Christianity showed me how a first-rate Christian scholar reasoned through critical issues.
An Ongoing Influence
Over the years I have come to disagree in minor ways with some of Lewis’s theological positions (like I do with all Christian thinkers), but he certainly deserves great respect and admiration for his clear, insightful, and courageous witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. I am especially grateful to Lewis for his careful discussion of such issues as the moral argument for God’s existence, the triune nature of God, the incarnation of Christ, and Christian values.
Here’s one of my favorite quotes from C. S. Lewis in his powerful book Mere Christianity:
Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.2
Lewis has become one of my favorite Christian thinkers and I have gone on to read many of his other exceptional books. But Mere Christianity remains my best-loved work of his for it served a critical role in my life both spiritually and intellectually. I return to it often and when I do I remember fondly how the book first influenced me all those years ago.
If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll consider reading Lewis’s extraordinary work on common or basic Christian thought.
Reflections: Your Turn
Outside of the Bible, what books have profoundly influenced you? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.