Friday, October 17, 2008

Thoughts on Screwtape

    Martin Luther once remarked, “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.” When C.S. Lewis wrote his series of letters, purportedly from one demon to another, it seemed as if the epitome of witty mockery had finally been directed at the Devil - for the edification of many reading the slim book.Titled the “Screwtape Letters,” C.S. Lewis accomplished the seemingly impossible task of mocking Satan while writing from a demon’s point of view.
     Screwtape, the elder demon, sends patronizing letters to his nephew Wormwood, desperately trying to instruct the youthful spirit on the right methods of sending a human soul down the road to perdition, and the “Lowarchy of Our Father Below.” We never see Wormwood’s replies, but we know how he answers, thanks to Screwtape’s reaction to his relative’s immature nonsense. The administration of Hell has assigned Wormwood a Christian convert to beguile, who remains a shadowy and nameless character throughout the book. Wormwood, as a junior tempter, is constantly reproved by his “affectionate uncle,” for making idiotic blunders and foolish mistakes.
    Not merely an amusing chunk of comic prose, or an intriguing look at demonology, the author has used some imagination to present a speculative view on hell and temptation, that is of great value to the Christian reader.

    Some non-Christians like to complain about the content and style of this book. At best it is “quite boring,” “enormously overrated,” and “old hat, very old hat.” One reviewer suggested it would be good if it was only “One-third as long, and not so centered on Christianity.” The Screwtape Letters is so seeped in Christianity that it would be absolutely useless otherwise. There have been no attempts to write an atheistic “Screwtape Letters,” and it is highly unlikely that such an effort will be made in the future. The Screwtape Letters as a piece of good British writing may be appealing to Christians and non-Christians alike, but true appreciation of the work is reserved for those who believe the Bible to be the holy and inspired word of God.
The main intent of the author was to help believers gain a clearer view on truths that can be presented powerfully from the viewpoint of the Enemy.
    One person remarked “This book is great- if you are studying for a degree in divinity.” This seems to be a very strange suggestion, since The Screwtape Letters does not focus on subjects that are above the average man’s head. Instead, Wormwood’s uncle gives him “practical” advice on how to tempt the human into sin, a subject which all people aware of sin and temptation can easily comprehend. The Screwtape Letters discusses temptations that almost all Christians have experienced- and the speculation of how the demons go about the task of tempting is a valuable tool to combat Satan.
     In the end, when Wormwood’s victim dies and is sent to heaven, the story seems to recall a verse from 1 Corinthians: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” This would assuredly provoke Screwtape to grind his teeth, and wrathfully say “This is bad.”



Katie said...

I love the Screwtape Letters!

Anonymous said...

I've never read them before, but interesting.

Natalie said...

I'd really recommend them!

Miss Ellie said...

Natalie, could I have your blog ad? I will send you mine! Thanks!