By Kayla Lutes, Staff Writer
During a visit to Asbury in 2013, C.S Lewis’ stepson, Douglas Gresham, met Dr. Devin Brown. When Zondervan Publishing approached Gresham for approval to produce an eight week study guide for C.S Lewis’ Mere Christianity, he responded with a condition: only if Devin Brown and Paul McCusker (from Focus on the Family and Adventures in Odyssey) help write it.
Brown is a professor of English at Asbury, teaches a class on Lewis in the spring, and has studied C.S. Lewis for 25 years. Brown played a large role in the development of the new study guide, Discussing Mere Christianity. He wrote the study guide and the script for the DVD, hosts the eighth session on the DVD and drew on his experience as the scholar-in-residence at The Kilns, Lewis’ Oxford home, to select the locations where the DVD was filmed.
“They made me take off my black shirt and put on a red one,” Brown said, joking about his normally unchanging outfit. He appears in the DVD’s introduction wearing a red plaid shirt — a stark difference from his familiar black North Face. “That’s not even my shirt. If I was more famous, I would put that in my contract.”
According to the Asbury website, Brown has written six books on the works of C.S. Lewis and is Asbury’s own Lewis scholar. This book is a study guide broken up into eight sessions that each cover two chapters from Mere Christianity, except for the sixth session, which focuses solely on Lewis’ chapter on hope. In all, the study guide only covers half of Mere Christianity, leaving the prospect for a second volume open if this study guide does well.
“There are a lot of people who have tried to read Mere Christianity and found it a little too dense,” Brown said. There are a number of reasons for that: it was written 75 years ago, Lewis is British and he didn’t write down to his audience’s level.
“For all those people who tried to study on their own and found it a little too hard, this unpacks it for them,” Brown said. “The video and the study guide go with Mere Christianity to help people to understand it better and get more out of it.”
The study guide is already scheduled to be used by a number of churches this year. “It is designed to be used in a small group or a class,” he said. Brown hopes that his study guide will foster fruitful discussions about Lewis’ ideas, and he crafted the discussion questions to encourage meaningful discussions.
“I really tried to make them something you could actually discuss, that might be interesting to talk about,” he said. “In that respect, I really drew on my experience as a teacher and thought, ‘Would this make a good topic to discuss in class?’ I tried to make them particularly engaging.”
“This is a pretty remarkable book,” Brown said of Mere Christianity, explaining how most Christian books on the market are sectioned off into three groups: the seekers (those who haven’t come to a decision of faith), new Christians, and disciples. “For some bizarre reason Mere Christianity is able to reach all three of those groups.”