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Intelligent Look at the Devil
on February 26, 2002
The only C.S. Lewis I had ever read up to this point was the Narnia series, when I was a kid. Those were great books that probably deserve a rereading at some point, even though I'm much older now. The Screwtape Letters find Lewis waxing on his favorite topic: Christianity. The book is a series of letters from Screwtape, a high-ranking administrator in Hell, to his nephew Wormwood, who is a tempter of man. The whole book is a wicked satire that Lewis pulls off well. Not only is this book fun to read, it has a serious message, too.
I found myself laughing quite a bit with this book, although the laughter tends to be the nervous sort of chuckling that comes from discomfort. Too many times I found myself described within these pages. Especially when Screwtape discusses the types of laughter found among man and how these can be turned to good use in gaining souls for Hell. The most useful type of laughter for Satan is flippancy, when man laughs because he can always see a ridiculous side to everything. It is most useful because men who do this will never take anything as seriously as they should, especially the "Enemy" (the term Screwtape uses to describe God). Another interesting chapter deals with Jesus and the tendency of moderns to try to define and describe Jesus in terms that should be alien to him. Screwtape delights in efforts to make Jesus a Communist, a social theoretician or a magician/philosopher. All of these efforts divert man from whom and what Jesus really was. Screwtape also cackles over intellectuals, who are corrupted by the historical point of view. Intellectuals don't look for truth in what they read; they analyze writing styles, context, and historicity. By not looking for the truth, they are confused and turned away from God. Other topics are covered here as well: sex, marriage, prayer, Christianity and lots more. The best part of the book, by far, is the toast Screwtape gives at the end of the book. Lewis uses this toast to launch one of the most vigorous and thorough attacks on democracy that I've had the pleasure to read. I never knew Lewis had it in him!!
A great book that should be read by a greater audience. I should make an effort to read more from this author. You should too. Recommended, with highest distinction.