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.
on February 5, 2003
C.S. Lewis is an awesome writer, both with fiction and non-fiction. In the Screwtape Letters, as you already know, Screwtape is writing letters of advice to Wormwood, about how to tempt and otherwise pervert the ways of his "patient".
It can be tough, grueling reading at times, but it so perfectly illuminates the sinful side of everyone...and can be an indicator of what NOT to do!
When you read other work by Lewis, you are drawn to the clarity of style and thought and the ability to untangle complex issues regarding the validity of faith - now, but also historically. You also enter a world where myth and fact mingle in suspicious ways, making the line between them difficult to see, suggesting that at least part of myth might be fact. Then you read the Screwtape Letters and realize that it is really too bad that Lewis did not write more satire. Because this is wonderful satire. Much of Lewis' thought is integrated within this wonderful correspondence between a senior devil and a junior fiend who has the responsibility of: a) keeping a human away from Christianity, and when that fails; b) making him inert. One cannot help but identify with the thinking of either the senior devil, the junior fiend or the human, at different moments. The letters are filled with observations regarding the relation of thought to faith, science and faith, honesty, honor and other values traditionally associated with faith, wrapped in a style that shows the author has given much thought to the great questions of humanity, but is able to boil them down to a satirical delivery. A Lewis that, regretfully, we don't get to read often enough. But a wonderful, wonderful Lewis.
on November 19, 2008
I often say that almost all of my theology comes from reading "The Narnia Suite," which I read for the first time at the age of eight, and more than a dozen times thereafter. I was particularly taken with The Last Battle, in which some people are very surprised indeed to learn that those they thought wouldn't be admitted into Aslan's Land because they fought on "The Wrong Side" of the aforementioned last battle, were in fact instantly admitted because it was their intention and their heart which was judged.
When I was a little older, someone gave me a copy of "The Screwtape Letters," and I have read it probably a dozen or more times over the years as well. Brilliant, allegorical, hilarious in parts, and filled with gentle wisdom, it is a theological masterpiece. I recall the first time I the letter in which one devil brags that he will soon win his first soul for the devil because although the man continues to pray, he doesn't believe what he says any longer. The older, wiser devil releases a stream of invective and explains the younger devil is an idiot, because doesn't the know that "those are the prayers that God loves best!?" How relieved I felt, as a young person, that there was a possibility God might still embrace me, even with all my doubts. Just one of the many gifts Lewis's work offers to those of us searching for a deeper relationship with God.
on February 17, 2004
I first read The Screwtape Letters at the age of 15, and two years later I've read the book countless times and continue to find deeper meaning in each reading. Lewis expertly reveals the devices used to tempt the unsuspecting human; and I'm sure I'm not the only one who realizes several more of their own blunders every time they pick up the book. The traps of temptation are laid bare as Lewis ruthlessly exposes the suble art of manipulation.
This book is highly philosophical, so don't pick it up when you're looking for some escape fiction. While some complain that the book lacks "excitment," I hold that you cannot blame a philosophical book for being just that: philosophical. All the excitement needed is in the intellectual stimulation and in the wealth of knowledge provided by this book. The seriousness of this subject is artfully highlighted with Lewis's characteristic wit and humor. This is a refreshing touch to the deep and somewhat disturbing questions Lewis dares to answer. If nothing else, The Screwtape Letters will force you to truthfully examine yourself. I highly reccomend this book anyone seeking Christian literature or philosophy. It is well worth the time you take to read it.
on December 9, 2003
When one first sits down to read Screwtape Letters, they will usually be baffled. You are sent straight into the middle of the story, as it seems. Young Wormwood, a junior tempter, has been assigned to his first patient. Patients are humans who have tempters inside their brains, so everyone is a patient of someone. Wormwood's job is to tempt people away from god. There is supposedly a tempter in everyone's brain, undetectable, who offers up suggestions and advice on actions the person is about to commit. All suggestions and advice are made so the patient will turn away from God, and all that is good, and toward Satan, and all that is bad. This is the basic premise of the story, yet it is much deeper. It delves into ones intellect and shows them ways that Satan catches us and tempts us.
Wormwood is the Nephew of an honored tempter, Screwtape. His Uncle Screwtape writes him letters on how to lead his patient away from God and toward sin, hence Screwtape Letters. He gives Wormwood ways to show his patient other ways of doing actions that could have bad consequences, though the tempter tries to block the thought of the consequences away from his patients thoughts. Screwtape answers Wormwoods questions about different scenarios and scolds him when he doesn't follow directions properly and lets the patient go toward The Enemy, or God.
In turn, this novel shows the reader how Satan is catching them and tempting one toward one of the seven deadly sins: anger, lust, gluttony, ect. After reading only a few chapters, one will soon come to realize their faults, which is why this book is so great. Screwtape Letters points out you wrong doings and tells of how Satan exploits them to his wishes. There really isn't a plot to this book, just a collection of letters and an underlying plot to make the understandable. It really doesn't require a huge plot though its so good. The theme Good vs. Evil is so strong it takes the plots place.
One will find this book quite enjoyable and truthful about human ways. Though in the end Wormwood does lose the patient to God, not saying how, it shows that you can fight temptation if you put your mind to it.
This novel deserves an 11 out of 10 and the Newberry Award in all categories, no matter if it even falls into them. This book is that good and everyone should read it. It will minimally change your life at least and help you recognize your own faults.
on November 21, 2003
I rarely read any book more than once, unless it's mathematics, hard science or a computer science book. Few fictional books deserve more than one reading. One hand is enough to count the number of books i've read more than once.
I just bought this because i cannot find my copy. "The Screwtape Letters" is that awesome of a book! Many of you probably have heard about Randy Alcorn's book called, "L-rd Falcron's Letters." That is nothing more than a complete rip off off Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters!"
To Randy's credit, he was honest about his book being "a modern version of Lewis' book." Unfortunately, that's just one more instance of the "it's old, so it must be updated and become the victim of "Fahrenheit 451!" I'm not attacking Randy. I just have no intention of reading his book, especially since it's utterly useless compared to "The Screwtape Letters."
Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters" is one of those timeless books that stands alone, just like Orwell's "1984," Beecher-Stowes' "Uncle Tom's Cabin," Shakespeares' "Hamlet," Bellamy's "Looking Backward," and Harper-Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird, as a few examples.
"The Screwtape Letters" is one of those rare, timeless and redemptive classics. I recommend this book to everybody I know who likes to read, saved or lost. Lewis' book grips the reader very quickly and quite easily can be read in one day. The book is not very long. My only disappointment when I read it is that I cannot put it down until I've finished it, and then I feel a bit down because it's not longer!
This book is a "must read" for everybody, lost and saved. Case cloed! In my opinion, a lost person with any grey matter between the ears cannot read this book and not be affected. For a Christian, I do not see how anybody can read this book and not be ecstatic that he/she has been eternally rescued from HELL!
AWESOME BOOK! EVEN IN SPITE OF 1 COR 1:18, EVERYBODY SHOULD READ THIS BOOK, SAVED AND LOST. FOR ANY LOST PERSON WHO READS THIS BOOK AND IS NOT AFFECTED AND CHOOSES TO REMAIN LOST, ONLY A DIRECT, MIRACULOUS INTERVENTION BY THE ALMIGHTY HAS ANY CHANCE OF AFFECTING SUCH A PERSON!
on November 10, 2003
Through a creative twist of irony, C. S. Lewis illustrates the wiles of Satan's demons as they pursue the souls of human beings. Certainly versed enough to approach this subject using systematic Biblical exposition, the author rather chooses to present letters from a seasoned devil, Screwtape, to his nephew, Wormwood, an apprentice devil. This discourse is intended to raise an awareness among people of the evil influences, both purposeful and personal, that we are all exposed to. Lewis does a crafty job in a way that holds interest while at the same time allows for contemplation.
One particular individual, Wormwood's "patient", is in focus as he is drawn to Christ and proceeds to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus as his Creator/Redeemer. Uncle Screwtape consistently hounds his nephew as he struggles with his formidable task of destroying his human assignment. Every situation described is from the perspective of evil. Lying is in vogue; guilt and fear are used extensively.
It is good that this book is written as a collection of short letters. Several can be read at a sitting and then the topics can be pondered. It seemed best to read small sections at a time, because the perspective shift requires an extra measure of brainwork. Screwtape, bent on wickedness, refers to God as the enemy.
Wormwood is fighting a losing battle, and it is encouraging as Lewis shows this. In his preface to the book he clarifies that Satan is not the opposite of God. God is eternal and all sufficient. Satan is a created angel, destined to serve God's purposes. Screwtape grows more frustrated as the plot progresses. When the "patient" meets a Christian girl and is also meeting more and more Christian friends, the uncle gets flat out mad and scolds Wormwood. Screwtape was patronizing Wormwood in the early letters. Towards the end he can hide his hatred no longer - "My dear Wormwood, you seem to be doing very little good at present." (Do not forget the shift.)
This book brought to mind many dumb things that I have done as a Christian. That can be a good thing, especially when followed with the reminder that God is in control and wants me to learn that He is drawing me to his side. Lewis' book has that effect, and I highly recommend it.
on August 12, 2003
This is a powerful little book which you can read in an evening, full of wit and wisdom regarding the cosmic warfare over the human soul. Screwtape fills his letters to young Wormwood with diabolically clever advice on how to thoroughly entangle his patient in the snares which will keep him from the Enemy, namely Jesus Christ. Screwtape advices Wormwood on how to capitalize on such things as domestic relationships, war, friendship, love, and sex, and includes many critical insights on the nature of pleasure, laughter, triviality, love, lust, humility, pride, anxiety, resignation, fear, etc.
Reading over Wormwood's shoulder will do two things for you: it will make you laugh (this is an incredibly funny book) and it will make you painfully aware of the demon whispering in your own ear. Few authors understand the psychological labyrinth of the human soul as Lewis does. He has a way of uncovering the subconscious motives and thought-processes of one's soul and forcing them into the bright light of true righteousness and love.
I read this book last night (it is a quick read) for the fourth time and walked away freshly challenged, convicted, and encouraged in my spiritual life. I highly, highly recommend this book.
on July 24, 2003
When someone espouses the virtues of a religion it is often easy for the discerning conscience to simply pass off the presented ideas as merely "one man's opinion." After all, how do we know, of all the moralists and theologists out there, who has it right, who is just convincing us with jargon? How, then, does an author (playing the role of theologist) who wishes to expose many of our modern ideas and behaviors, most which we consider normal and even righteous, as fraud and hypocrisy (in this case, as judged relative to the true nature of Christianity) maintain a sense of objectivity and persuasion? Simple: just let someone of a certain credibility speak for you. But the question is, exactly what kind of credibility should this someone have? In playing the Christian apologist, most of us would probably want an archangel as our orator. But that would risk being ridiculous: a perfectly divine author is only a greater incarnation of an author who tries to be perfectly moral, so there is still the problem of believability. Lewis' solution is to enlist the help of Screwtape, an assistant demon to Satan, and that of his mildly incompetent apprentice Wormwood. Lewis now has the upper hand on his reader; he can hit us where it hurts. We may not be responsive to an unrealistically perfect being who demands unrealistic perfection, but we will take notice when the forces of evil mock us for our ignorance of the truth.
The Screwtape Letters is a collection of letters written solely by Screwtape to his apprentice Wormwood discussing Wormwood's earthly assignment of securing the damnation of a young man in Britain during WWII. Screwtape definitely knows the difference between right and wrong. But his job (like all devils) is to bring more souls into Hell, so naturally he encourages wrong and despises all good things. His letters are thus filled with true wisdom which we easily recognize and can learn a good deal from, but (from his perspective) is designed to warn Wormwood against the ways of the Enemy (God). Of course, the character of Screwtape is just a literary tool for Lewis to present his own ideas of moral goodness through the (often unhealthily fascinating) lens of evil. The concoction of this narrative perspective-which is actually the antithesis of Lewis'-has a psychological effect similar to world building in fantasy novels: we believe, even if momentarily or reluctantly, that these demons might actually exist...and what if they really do mock us? More abstractly (and importantly), do we, willingly or unwillingly, commit ourselves to Hell (literally or figuratively) because we fail to recognize good from evil?
The vast majority of the book is occupied by Screwtape's revealing lessons on the foibles and hypocrisies of the people of the 20th century. Each letter is usually concerned with a moral theme. There are a few which stand out in my mind, and which I will take some time to touch upon now. In letter 29 Screwtape proposes that cowardice is one of the most loathsome sins because it prevents the real form of any other virtue from coming to fruition. Without courage how could we be merciful even when it means risking our own reputation? How can we be honest if we lack the courage to be ourselves? The idea of courage, as Screwtape points out, is also connected with a world full of suffering. God allows suffering to occur so that each virtue can be tested according to our own courage. Without this need to exercise our sense of virtue, there would be no really important moral issues in the world. Another interesting concept that pops up repeatedly is the notion of what is real. Thanks to our attachment to the material world, we often mistakenly interpret things as real when they really are not. For example, we think that when we witness war that we are seeing the "harsh reality of things" and yet we often tend to think that peace and prosperity are only artificial social conditions about which we have overly-optimistic opinions. In Screwtape's words, "when first he sees human remains plastered on a wall, that this is 'what the world is really like' and that all his religion has been a fantasy." But Lewis asks the question: why is this so? Why do we conveniently shift the meaning of the word "real" back and forth between the physical and the metaphysical? A religious experience (prayer during church, for example) is often passed off as a subjective (and largely fabricated) emotional response to what is "really" just a combination of superficial factors like the perception of music, light, and architecture. On the other hand, one school boy will lecture another: "you don't know what it's really like to be up on that high dive until you're up there." In the first case, "reality" is physical and in the second, metaphysical. One knows what it's like to be on a high dive without experiencing it, but only from the physical knowledge of the height of the platform, etcetera; almost anyone would contend, however, that this mere physical knowledge is not the "reality" of the experience of a high dive. This argument of "what is real" is one of the most critical elements of Lewis' apologetics because it is a defense against attacks on the objectivity of faith.
The book was an eye-opener for me because it showed me a way out of the increasingly popular attempts to modernize and rationalize faith. We get so caught up in trying to morph our religion into a flawless personal philosophy that we miss the point: Christianity is really about the most basic principles we've always known it to be. It's not about being a "modern Christian" or a "sophisticated Christian" or about trying to reconcile the historical Jesus with the Gospels or about metaphorical reinterpretations. Faith isn't even about morals, at least not solely. It's about truth, about what actually happened 2000 years ago in the middle of some desert on the other side of the world. As Tolkien said, it's a myth, but one that actually occurred. Lewis too was no stranger to history, and it's people like him that every Christian should be thankful for.