Mere Christianity – Book IV – Chapter 11 (“The New Men”)



At last we come to the final chapter of “Mere Christianity” completing my notes for the book.

1. Christ came to transform

“…Christ’s work…is not mere improvement but Transformation. The nearest parallel to it in the world of nature is to be found in the remarkable transformations we can make in insects by applying certain rays to them. Some people think this is how Evolution worked”

(a) We are used to transformation through evolution

“…Everyone now knows about Evolution (though, of course, some educated people disbelieve it): everyone has been told that man has evolved from lower types of life. Consequently, people often wonder ‘What is the next step? When is the thing beyond man going to appear?'”

(b) People have constantly been incorrectly predicting the next step

“…I cannot help thinking that the Next Step will be really new; it will go off in a direction you could never have dreamed of. It would hardly be worth calling a New Step unless it did. I should expect not merely difference but a new kind of difference. I should expect not merely change but a new method of producing the change…. And finally, I should not be surprised if, when the thing happened, very few people noticed that it was happening”

(c) The Next Step is here

“Now, if you care to talk in these terms, the Christian view is precisely that the Next Step has already appeared. And it is really new. It is not a change from brainy men to brainier men: it is a change that goes off in a totally different direction – a change from being creatures of God to being sons of God. The first instance appeared in Palestine two thousand years ago”

This step has some differences in relation to the past…

“And in fact this New Step differs from all previous ones not only in coming from outside nature but in several other ways as well”

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Mere Christianity – Book IV – Chapter 10 (“Nice People Or New Men?”)



Picking back up my notes for C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”…

1. If Christianity is true, why are all Christians not obviously nicer than all non-Christians?

(a) Part of this question is very reasonable

“If conversion to Christianity makes no improvement in a man’s outward actions… I think we must suspect that his ‘conversion’ was largely imaginary…”

(i) Jesus told us to judge by results

“Fine feelings, new insights, greater interest in ‘religion’ mean nothing unless they make our actual behaviour better; just as in an illness ‘feeling better’ is not much good if the thermometer shows that your temperature is still going up… Christ told us to judge by results”

(ii) When we fail to live up to our calling, we make Christianity harder to believe for others

“When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world… Our careless lives set the outer world talking; and we give them grounds for talking in a way that throws doubt on the truth of Christianity itself”

(b) Part of this question is very unreasonable

But there is another way of demanding results in which the outer world may be quite illogical…. they should see the whole world neatly divided into two camps -Christian and non-Christian – and that all the people in the first camp at any given moment should be obviously nicer than all the people in the second.

There are several flaws with this kind of thinking…

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Mere Christianity – Book IV – Chapter 9 (“Counting The Cost”)



Picking back up my notes for C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”…

1. “Be ye perfect” does not mean that God isn’t going to help us until we get our act together

“Some people seem to think this means ‘Unless you are perfect, I will not help you’; and as we cannot be perfect…our position is hopeless. But I do not think He did mean that. I think He meant ‘The only help I will give is help to become perfect. You may want something less: but I will give you nothing less'”

(a) Jack wouldn’t go to his mother with a toothache because he knew he’d get something else in addition to the relief from immediate pain…

(i) He’d wait until the pain got really bad

“When I was a child I often had toothache, and I knew that if I went to my mother she would give me something which would deaden the pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother – at least, not till the pain became very bad…”

(ii) …because he knew he’d also get a trip to the dentist…

“I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin; but I knew she would also do something else. I knew she would take me to the dentist next morning. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want…”

(iii) …and the dentist wouldn’t restrict himself just to that tooth…

And I knew those dentists; I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache… if you gave them an inch they took an ell”

(b) God is like a dentist

“Our Lord is like the dentists. If you give Him an inch, He will take an ell. Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin which they are ashamed of (like masturbation or physical cowardice) or which is obviously spoiling daily life (like bad temper or drunkenness). Well, He will cure it all right: but He will not stop there. That may be all you asked; but if once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment”

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Mere Christianity – Book IV – Chapter 8 (“Is Christianity Hard Or Easy?”)



Picking back up my notes for C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”…

1. Becoming a “son of God” is the entire point of Christianity

What I want to make clear is that this is not one among many jobs a Christian has to do; and it is not a sort of special exercise for the top class. It is the whole of Christianity. Christianity offers nothing else at all.

2. Becoming a “son of God” is not the same thing as “being good”

And I should like to point out how it differs from ordinary ideas of “morality” and “being good.”

(a) A person typically begins by recognizing the demands of the Moral Law upon his desires

We take as starting point our ordinary self with its various desires and interests. We then admit that something else call it “morality”… has claims on this self: claims which interfere with its own desires… Some of the things the ordinary self wanted to do turn out to be what we call “wrong”: well, we must give them up. Other things…turn out to be what we call “right”: well, we shall have to do them.

(b) We secretly hope that once we have met these demands, the natural self will be free to do what it wants

But we are hoping all the time that when all the demands have been met, the poor natural self will still have some chance, and some time, to get on with its own life and do what it likes.

(c) However, this will not work

…if you are really going to try to meet all the demands made on the natural self, it will not have enough left over to live on. The more you obey your conscience, the more your conscience will demand of you. And your natural self, which is thus being starved and hampered and worried at every turn, will get angrier and angrier.

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Mere Christianity – Book IV – Chapter 7 (“Let’s Pretend”)



Picking back up my notes for C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”…

1. This chapter is about how people pretend and their pretense leads to reality

(a) Beauty and the Beast

(b) A man wearing a beautiful mask for a year and his face becomes conformed to the attractive shape of the mask

2. We “pretend” as soon as we say the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer

“…Do you now see what those words mean? They mean quite frankly, that you are putting yourself in the place of a son of God. To put it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ. If you like, you are pretending”

(a) When you pretend, you realize what a poor imitation you really make

“…the moment you realise what the words mean, you realise that you are not a son of God. You are not being like The Son of God, whose will and interests are at one with those of the Father: you are a bundle of self-centred fears, hopes, greeds, jealousies, and self-conceit, all doomed to death”

(b) This seems like cheek, but this is what God has commanded us to do

“…this dressing up as Christ is a piece of outrageous cheek. But the odd thing is that He has ordered us to do it.

He has done so because there are two kinds of pretending:

(i) The bad kind

“…where the pretence is there instead of the real thing; as when a man pretends he is going to help you instead of really helping you:

(ii) The good kind

“…where the pretence leads up to the real thing”

This explains some of our experience:

(A) Pretending to be friendly 

“When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are. And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were. Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already”

(B) Children’s Games

“They are always pretending to be grown-ups-playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits, so that the pretence of being grown-up helps them to grow up in earnest.”

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Mere Christianity – Book IV – Chapter 6 (“Two Notes”)



Picking back up my notes for C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”…

1. Why did God not beget many sons at the outset?

“…if God wanted sons instead of ‘toy soldiers,’ He did not beget many sons at the outset instead of first making toy soldiers and then bringing them to life by such a difficult and painful process”

(a) There are two kinds of answer:

(i) The easy answer

“The process of being turned from a creature into a son would not have been difficult or painful if the human race had not turned away from God centuries ago. They were able to do this because He gave them free will: He gave them free will because a world of mere automata could never love and therefore never know infinite happiness”

(ii) The answer beyond human knowledge

All Christians are agreed that there is, in the full and original sense, only one “Son of God.” If we insist on asking “But could there have been many?” we find ourselves in very deep water. Have the words “Could have been” any sense at all when applied to God? You can say that one particular finite thing “could have been” different from what it is, because it would have been different if something else had been different, and the something else would have been different if some third thing had been different, and so on. (The letters on this page would have been red if the printer had used red ink, and he would have used red ink if he had been instructed to, and so on.) But when you are talking about God-i.e. about the rock bottom, irreducible Fact on which all other facts depend- it is nonsensical to ask if It could have been otherwise. It is what It is, and there is an end of the matter. 

(b) How could there be many sons?

But quite apart from this, I find a difficulty about the very idea of the Father begetting many sons from all eternity. In order to be many they would have to be somehow different from one another. Two pennies have the same shape. How are they two? By occupying different places and containing different atoms. In other words, to think of them as different, we have had to bring in space and matter; in fact we have had to bring in “Nature” or the created universe. I can understand the distinction between the Father and the Son without bringing in space or matter, because the one begets and the other is begotten. The Father’s relation to the Son is not the same as the Son’s relation to the Father. But if there were several sons they would all be related to one another and to the Father in the same way. How would they differ from one another? One does not notice the difficulty at first, of course. One thinks one can form the idea of several “sons.” But when I think closely, I find that the idea seemed possible only because I was vaguely imagining them as human forms standing about together in some kind of space. In other words, though I pretended to be thinking about something that exists before any universe was made, I was really smuggling in the picture of a universe and putting that something inside it. When I stop doing that and still try to think of the Father begetting many sons “before all worlds” I find I am not really thinking of anything. The idea fades away into mere words. (Was Nature-space and time and matter-created precisely in order to make manyness possible? Is there perhaps no other way of getting many eternal spirits except by first making many natural creatures, in a universe, and then spiritualising them? But of course all this is guesswork.)

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Mere Christianity – Book IV – Chapter 5 (“The Obstinate Toy Soldiers”)


Picking back up my notes for C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”…

1. If man had not rebelled against God, he may have been naturally drawn up into the Zoe

“We do not know… how things would have worked if the human race had never rebelled against God and joined the enemy. Perhaps every man would have been ‘in Christ,’ would have shared the life of the Son of God, from the moment he was born. Perhaps the Bios or natural life would have been drawn up into the Zoe, the uncreated life, at once and as a matter of course. But that is guesswork”

2. However, man did rebel and this sets Bios against Zoe

“And the present state of things is this. The two kinds of life are now not only different (they would always have been that) but actually opposed. The natural life in each of us is something self-centred, something that wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit the whole universe. And especially it wants to be left to itself: to keep well away from anything better or stronger or higher than it, anything that might make it feel small. It is afraid of the light and air of the spiritual world, just as people who have been brought up to be dirty are afraid of a bath. And in a sense it is quite right It knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self-centredness and self-will are going to be killed and it is ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid that”

3. Being drawn up into the Zoe is like a tin soldier coming to life

“Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoilt He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it”

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