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 BibleAccording 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).

Mere Christianity
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.

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

Endnotes
    1. For more about the lives, thought, and books that influenced Augustine, Pascal, and Lewis, see Kenneth Richard Samples, Classic Christian Thinkers: An Introductionchapters 3, 8, and 9 respectively.
    2. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), 54.

 

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.



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