C.S. Lewis and “Mere Christianity”
February 27, 2024
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) is loved with an equal fervor by conservative evangelicals, emergents, Roman Catholics, Mormons, even atheists, a fact that speaks volumes to those who have ears to hear.

One of the many reasons evangelicals love Lewis is his ecumenical thinking and refusal to practice separation.

This was admitted by
Christianity Today. “Lewis’s ... concentration on the main doctrines of the church coincided with evangelicals’ concern to avoid ecclesiastical separatism” (Christianity Today, Oct. 25, 1993).

Following is an overview of Lewis’s ecumenical philosophy and his influence on the ecumenical movement:

“Lewis was firmly ecumenical, though he distanced himself from outright liberalism. In his preface to
Mere Christianity, Lewis states that his aim is to present ‘an agreed, or common, or central or mere Christianity.’ So he aims to concentrate on the doctrines that he believes are common to all forms of Christianity--including Roman Catholicism. It is no surprise that he submitted parts of the book to four clergymen for criticism--an Anglican, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, and a Roman Catholic! He hopes that the book will make it clear why all Christians ‘ought to be reunited,’ but warns that it should not be seen as an alternative to the creeds of existing denominations. He likens the ‘mere Christianity’ that he describes in the book to a hall from which various rooms lead off. These rooms are the various Christian traditions. And just as when you enter a house you do not stay in the hall but enter a room, so when you become a Christian you should join a particular Christian tradition. Lewis believes that it is not too important which room you enter. It will be right for some to enter the door marked ‘Roman Catholicism’ as it will for others to enter other doors. Whichever room you enter, says Lewis, the important thing is that you be convinced that it is the right one for you. And, he says, ‘When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors.’ ...

“This enigma of C.S. Lewis was no more than a slight bemusement to me until recently three things changed my bemusement into bewilderment.

“In March 1994 the Evangelicals and Catholics Together movement produced its first document. This was a programatic document entitled
Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium. It was rightly said at the time that this document represented ‘a betrayal of the Reformation.’ I saw no connection between this and C.S. Lewis until a couple of years later when the symposium Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Working Towards a Common Mission was published. In his contribution to the book, Charles Colson--the evangelical ‘prime mover’ behind ECT--tells us that C.S. Lewis was a major influence which led him to form the movement (Billy Graham was another!). In fact Colson says that Evangelicals and Catholics Together seeks to continue the legacy of C.S. Lewis by focusing on the core beliefs of all true Christians (Common Mission, p. 36). The enigma took on a more foreboding aspect.

“The enigma darkened further when just last year (after becoming connected to the internet at the end of 1996) I discovered, quite by accident, that C.S. Lewis is just as popular amongst Roman Catholics as he is amongst evangelicals. Perhaps I should have known this already, but it had never struck me before.

“The third shock came last autumn when I read that
Christianity Today--reputed to be the leading evangelical magazine in the USA--had conducted a poll amongst its readers to discover whom they considered the most influential theological writers of the twentieth century. You will have already guessed that C.S. Lewis came out on top!

“After these three things it came as no surprise to me this year to find that C.S. Lewis has exerted a major influence on the
Alpha course [which has a Roman Catholic branch] and that it quotes or refers to him almost ad nauseam. Could not the Alpha course be renamed the ‘Mere Christianity’ course? ...

“In conclusion, I offer the following reflection. If it is true to say that ‘you are what you eat,’ then it is also true to say that ‘a Christian is what he hears and reads’ since this is how he gets his spiritual food. Thus
if Christians are brought up on a diet of C.S. Lewis, it should not surprise us to find they are seeking ‘to continue the legacy of C.S. Lewis.’ The apostle Paul said, ‘A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump’ (Gal. 5:9--the whole passage is relevant to the present context); thus IF EVANGELICALS READ AND APPLAUD SUCH BOOKS AS MERE CHRISTIANITY IT SHOULD COME AS NO SURPRISE IF WE FIND THEM ‘WORKING TOWARDS A COMMON MISSION’ WITH THE ENEMIES OF THE GOSPEL. THE YOUNG CHRISTIAN SHOULD BE VERY CAREFUL WHAT HE READS, AND THOSE IN POSITIONS OF AUTHORITY (PASTORS, TEACHERS, PARENTS) SHOULD BE VERY CAREFUL WHAT THEY RECOMMEND OTHERS TO READ” (Dr. Tony Baxter, “The Enigma of C.S. Lewis,” CRN Journal, Winter 1998, Christian Research Network, Colchester, United Kingdom, p. 30).

In April 1998, Mormon professor Robert Millet spoke at Wheaton College on the topic of C.S. Lewis. In a recent issue of
Christianity Today, Millet, dean of Brigham Young University, is quoted as saying that C.S. Lewis “is so well received by Latter-day Saints [Mormons] because of his broad and inclusive vision of Christianity” (John W. Kennedy, “Southern Baptists Take Up the Mormon Challenge,” Christianity Today, June 15, 1998, p. 30).

Lewis carried on a warm correspondence in Latin with Catholic priest Don Giovanni Calabria of Italy over their shared “concern for the reunification of the Christian churches” (
The Narnian, Alan Jacobs, pp. 249, 250). Calabria was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988.

In 1943, Lewis gave a talk on “Christian Apologetics” for a group of priests in Wales (
The Narnian, p. 229).

From the 1940s to the end of his life, Lewis’s spiritual advisor was a Catholic priest named Walter Adams (
The Narnian, p. 224). It was to this priest that Lewis confessed his sins.

In 2013,
The Catholic World Report published “C.S. Lewis and Catholic Converts,” a lengthy article documenting Lewis’s roll in drawing men and women to the Roman Catholic Church. It begins, “While Lewis himself never entered the Catholic Church, his writings have led a dizzying array of converts across the Tiber.” The report lists prominent names including Leonard Cheshire, Meriol Trevor, Ian Ker, E.F. Scchumacher, William Oddie, David Quinn, Michael Coren, Al Kresta, Dwight Longenecker, Francis Beckwith, Mark Brumley, Sheldon Vanauken, H. Lyman Stebbins, Warren Carroll, Ronda Chervin, Ross Douthat, Thomas Howard, Bobby Jindal, Peter Kreeeft, Lorraine Murray, Jef Murray, Bernard Nathanson (who performed more than 60,000 abortions before converting to Catholicism), Kevin O’Brien, Carl Olson, and Walter Hooper.

“Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” (1 Co. 5:6).

“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Co. 15:33).

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Ti. 3:5).

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Ro. 16:17).

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