30 July 2022

Mere Christianity?

What to offer when one needs to give somebody a simple explanation of the basics of the Faith?

C S Lewis's Mere Christianity has a lot to be said for it ... has had a lot said for it ... and nothing of what has been said for it will be unsaid by me. When orthodox Christianity stood (although few realised it at the time) on the verge of the apostasies of the late twentieth century, a robust and highly intelligent product of our Anglican Patrimony stood up for it and pulled no punches.

But I want to suggest an alternative ... no; not an alternative to a list which need not stand at just one volume: I mean, an addition!

The Creed in Slow Motion by Mgr Ronald Knox (Sheed and Ward Ltd. 1949).

Here we have sermons on the Apostles' Creed, preached to the schoolgirls of the Assumption Convent when, during the War, they were evacuated to Aldenham Park, Bridgnorth: the ancient Shropshire home of his friends Lord and Lady Acton. Knox served as their chaplain, and, every Sunday, preached to them in an argot which became more and more familiar and intimate.

The published version is dedicated to one of the pupils. Pupils were known to have declined to go to the cinema on Sundays with their parents because they were unwilling to miss Father's sermon.

Lewis was a don and an Ulsterman; despite the the beer-and-tobacco manner, at heart he did dour. Knox, although Scots by ancestry, was much more feline, and as you read the sermons he preached to the girls at Aldenham, you hear ... I defy you not to hear ... the girls giggling at the literary jokes which were not quite literary and not really jokes. Knox could adapt himself to the literary manners of very different styles in English, Greek, Latin.

Believe me, if you disdain these pieces because they were preached to schoolgirls, you will make a gigantic mistake. 


PM said...

Another option is to supplement Lewis's work, which is excellent as far as it goes, with Fr Ian Ker's excellent Mere Catholicism.

John Beaumont said...

A selightful example regarding the liturgy is Knox'a "The Mass in Slow Motion" (Sheed and Ward, 1948) - written for the same audience.

John Beaumont

Sue Sims said...

It was The Belief of Catholics which converted me (I was an Evangelical Protestant) to Catholicism. It was a tad disappointing to realise that the Church Knox was describing was not, in fact, the Church encountered in the majority of parishes, particularly since, by the time I was received, I'd also read The Mass in Slow Motion.

Dominic said...

I found a copy at the back of SS Gregory and Augustine, Oxford, a few years ago. I finally read it while acting as a steward at Sacred Heart, Bournemouth, as Lockdown was being eased. When I finished it, I accidentally left it on the free publications table at the back of the Church. When I realised what I had done and went to reclaim it, I was too late. I hope that the next reader found it as helpful as I did.

FrB. said...

I somewhat understand your disappointment, Sue. As a teenager I read a biography of Newman, and when I had finished, I wanted to rush out and become a Catholic too! The problem was, I was already a Catholic, and found it hard to discern Newman's Catholic Church in the Sunday Circus celebrated in my local parish.

Jim Bowman said...

One would be a fool to knock Knox. Fr. K. sends me to my Kindle, where I can find all three worx (?) of this man.

Deacon Nicholas said...

I know of at least one person who, after being urged to read Mere Christianity, became an Orthodox Christian (capital "O").

tradgardmastare said...

I am a big fan of the same author’s “The Mass in slow motion “ which I return to again and again.

PM said...

My sympathies, FrB, about 'the Sunday Circus celebrated in my local parish'. There are many oddities in PF's latest on the liturgy, but the greatest is surely that the bad liturgical practices that he rightly denounces occur overwhelmingly in his beloved Novus Ordo. (There were sloppy Masses in the 1950s, but that it not how the Usus Antiquior is celebrated now.) If he and Roche were not blinded by their obsessive traddie-bashing, they would recognise that the Usus Antiquior offers no opportunity at all for egotistical and attention-seeking performances by the clergy: the celebrant walks on and says/sings and does exactly what the missal tells him, no more and no less.

That fine priest Fr David Sanders OP (an early casualty of Covid, sadly) ruffled a few feathers by publishing in The Pastoral Review an impassioned plea from the pews entitled 'Spare us from game-show hosts'. It is impossible to carry on like one of those in the Usus Antiquior.

Moritz Gruber said...

Msgr. Knox, yes, but first and foremost The Belief of Catholics.

And quite ahead of Mere Christianity, too. Not that that would be bad of course, it's a good book by a devout Christian and decent man (though I take heavy exception to Lewis's statement that "Christ did of course not wish to torment the natural self; he merely wants to kill it"; that idea is not something that deserves the name "salvation"). But Knox is better (even apart from that).