The BBC is the reason C S Lewis wrote „Mere Christianity”

You can listen to the surviving B.B.C. tapes here – C.S.Lewis BBC surviving audio tapes from the 1940′s, or read his Rationality of the Christian worldview here, and read some related articles at the bottom of this post.

I came across this information from Walter Hooper of Oxford, who was C S Lewis’s private secretary and contributed these bits to the preface of C.S. Lewis’s „Pleasures Forevermore” (Loyola University Press, 1983):

Although his readers don’t appear to notice any „change of voice” in his books, some– such as the Narnian Chronicles– were written simply because he enjoyed it. A few were written at the request of others, and Mere Christianity is one of them.

In fact, it didn’t originate in his mind as a book at all. What happened was that the British Broadcasting Corporation asked him to give a series of four fifteen-minute talks over the radio. The impact of those talks was so great that the B.B.C. asked for another series, and another, until the end– del, there was Mere Christianity. 

However, from the beginning there was a lot of talk going on behind the scenes. It was mainly about how, in such short radio talks, Lewis could– as was the intention of the BBC– reach the „Great British Public.” A „public” made up– as it is in the United States– of Christians of all the denominations and most Christians who are not Christians at all. Because of this, Lewis knew that his only chance of helping anyone was to confine his broadcast to those elements which all Christians believe.

Most people had never heard anything like it and they were entranced. „Entranced” because, odd as it may seem, there had hitherto been few broadcasts and few books about those elements in Christianity which unite us, but a great many about those things which (however true and important) divide us.

The „cathedral” intention behind Mere Christianity is very clearly defined in Lewis’s preface to that book. He said:

„Ever since I became a Christian I have thought that the best, perhaps the only, service I could do for my unbelieving neighbors was to explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times. I had more than one reason for thinking this. In the first place, the questions which divide Christians from one another often involve points of high Theology or even of ecclesiastical history which ought never to be treated except by real experts. I should have been out of my depths in such waters: more in need of help myself than able to help others. And secondly, I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold. So long as we write and talk about them we are much more likely to deter him from any Christian communion than to draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son.

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