Don’t Put a Room Where C.S. Lewis Put a Hallway

Not long ago I saw someone question a well-known evangelical organization for posting something about C.S. Lewis’s classic work Mere Christianity. The person asked why a website known for a very specific theological framework (Reformed Theology) would use Lewis’s appeal for a “mere” kind of Christianity.

Lewis wouldn’t approve, they suggested. Well, that person was wrong. Here’s why.

If you read the introduction of Mere Christianity you will quickly see that Lewis’s point about describing a core, the mere essence, the fundamental beliefs, associated with the Christian faith. He wasn’t advocating a particular tradition. But he certainly wasn’t trying keep people from joining a tradition.

So, yes, he says his point isn’t to help someone decide which denomination to join. Lewis writes, “The reader should be warned that I offer no help to anyone who is hesitating between two Christian “denominations.” You will not learn from me whether you ought to become Anglican, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, or a Roman Catholic. This omission is intentional.” But if this is all you get out of Mere Christianity then you really haven’t understood Lewis at all (or read very far beyond the opening paragraph of the introduction).

Lewis didn’t present Mere Christiantity as ultimate Christianity. He used the word mere because it was a starting point. He never wanted anyone to end there. Consider his analogy of “mere Christianity” being like a hallway:

“It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, not a place to live in.”

He wanted to get people to the hallway, to introduce them to Christ. But he hoped for more for those who followed Jesus. Lewis pointed them to the rooms, the specific traditions, the denominations, if you will, for where they could engage in fellowship, warm themselves by the fire, and enjoy a meal.

So, heres the point: don’t put a room where Lewis put a hallway.

Don’t think mere Christianity is enough. Lewis didn’t. He spent his adult life faithfully attending an Anglican church near his home. He had found a hallway, a way to understand the teachings of Jesus, and he wanted show others the way. But he also found a room, a tradition, a fire, a meal, and fellowship. He would have you do the same.


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