The Screwtape Letters is a series of fictional letters written by C.S. Lewis. In this collection, an elder demon, Uncle Screwtape, is advising his young nephew, Wormwood, on the best way to ensnare and beguile the human he has been assigned.
Here are three reasons you’ll either love or hate The Screwtape Letters:
1. The letters apply to you
According to Uncle Screwtape, the true job of a demon is to undermine faith and prevent the formation of virtues. Reading The Screwtape Letters will polarize your feelings. It forces a type of introspection that is seldom achieved in our fast-paced society. Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I consistently building virtue?
- What virtues have I let slip?
- What has taken their place?
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When you come face to face with this powerful appeal, you must draw back for self-examination. You’ll either hate this as it forces you to acknowledge your own failures, or love it as it spurs you on to strive for courage again.
2. They’re different each time you read them
Each time you read these fictional letters to Wormword, you’ll discover new insights. Upon rereading this last time, I was impressed anew with the historical context in which Lewis wrote (having published this work in 1942):
Now that it is certain the German humans will bombard your patient’s town and that his duties will keep him in the thick of the danger, we must consider our policy. Are we to aim at cowardice–or at courage, with consequent pride–or at hatred of the Germans?
Lewis recognizes the danger war poses to the individual’s soul. And he discusses it in a time of fierce rhetoric and virulent opinions, possibly the most turbulent time in the United Kingdom’s history. Given the current world situation, this admonition is as appropriate today as it was over 70 years ago.
This is only one example of the numerous insights presented in this work. If you prefer a book that is old, worn, and familiar each time you return to it, this is not the book for you. But if you enjoy the discovery that comes with a fresh reading, you will enjoy it for years to come.
3. They’ll help you see the world differently
How many times as we go about our day do we completely ignore the power of the enemy to mildly influence our decisions? Lewis questions our presuppositions when he writes:
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.
If, as Scripture states, we are in spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:12), then the battle rages around us every day. The great reformer Martin Luther understood this when he penned the beloved hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”:
And though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us.
We will not fear what God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.
If you prefer to go about your daily life blissfully unaware, don’t read this book. But if you seek to have your eyes opened, then this satirical piece is the perfect starting point.
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