C. S. Lewis died in 1963 on the same day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Before the decade was over, few expected his works to last. “We think Lewis’ star has risen and is about to set,” said one Catholic publisher. “His day is over. No one will be reading C. S. Lewis twenty years from now.” Even Lewis believed his apologetic works would soon go out of style. He’d be surprised to learn that over 3.5 million copies of Mere Christianity have sold since 2001. It’s one of the most beloved Christian books of the twentieth century, and it wasn’t originally intended to be a book at all.
In this episode, award-winning Christian historian George M. Marsden tells the story of Mere Christianity‘s birth and explains its tenacious popularity since its publication in 1952. Marsden recently wrote the biography of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity for Princeton University Press’s “Lives of Great Religious Books” series.
Special Episodes: “Lives of Great Religious Books”
This ongoing series of MIPodcast episodes features interviews with authors of volumes in Princeton University Press’s impressive “Lives of Great Religious Books” series. Leading experts examine the origins of books like the Book of Mormon, the Bhagavad Gita, and Augustine’s Confessions. They trace shifts in the reception, influence, and interpretation of these landmark texts.
By looking at other religious texts from a variety of perspectives—worthwhile in their own right—we come to understand other faiths better, as well as our own.
About George M. Marsden
George M. Marsden is the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History Emeritus at The University of Notre Dame. He specializes in American religion and culture, evangelicalism, and the role of Christianity in higher education. His critically-acclaimed books include The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship (Oxford University Press, 1997), The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief (OUP, 1994), and the Bancroft award-winning biography of Jonathan Edwards. His new book is called C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity: A Biography.
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