The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is a classic masterpiece of religious satire that entertains readers with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to “Our Father Below.” At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation—and triumph over it—ever written.
This book initially engages the reader by revealing a devil’s point of view about a man’s soul, and the devil’s intricate schemes to damn the man. The style of storytelling helped me look at spiritual warfare as something I am involved in as well. Also, through the voice of Uncle Screwtape, C.S. Lewis shined light on many unexplored areas in my life living as a Christian and showed me what I needed to work on and pray for. One example of what I learned is the danger of negative unselfishness. Negative unselfishness consists of A arguing in favor of B and vice versa. Neither knows what each other want, and they end up doing what neither of them want to do. It gives me an excuse to hold a grudge, or feel self-righteous. It’s better to be honest about one’s opinion and work it out with reason and grace.
Very interesting take on man’s sinful nature, and the different evils we can fall prey to as individuals and as a society spanning a wide range of topics, from prayer life, to marriage, to church experience, to social circles, etc. I think especially convicting is the message that Satan’s schemes never cease, from the time we do not know God, to after we become Christian, to the various peaks and troughs of living Christian life, he is actively trying to deceive us and keep us moving farther from God rather than closer… so I too must always be on guard, seeking to be engaged and self-aware, lest even knowing his schemes I would still fall prey to them.
One very intriguing section was about gluttony, where it talks about the gluttony of delicacy as opposed to the gluttony of excess. It helped me to think about gluttony in a more relatable way, how my belly or my personal preferences (or my insistence of that particular preference) can cause impatience, self concern, and uncharitableness. I think this is applicable in more areas of life than food. I found this book to be helpful in my daily life as it helped me to think ‘where is this voice coming from?’ The murmurs of my heart, the accusations, the lies, the delicious gossip or self pity, the hints of vanity or patting myself on the back for having done something or said something spiritual, etc. This book helped me to be more aware of the schemes of the enemy and it gives me a better handle on how to distinguish those voices from the voices of my heavenly Father.
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The way that C.S. Lewis presents the life of this man from the tempter’s perspective really illuminated the idea of spiritual warfare, the battle for souls that is depicted so often in the Bible. It also reminded me of how I am constantly under threat, of how my soul is still in danger until the very end and contentment in the appearance of safety is only an opening for temptations to gain a foothold in my life again and to drift away from God. What I found to be a consistent theme in how Screwtape turns virtues to his advantage is internalizing grace or unselfishness or charity to the point of self-virtue and pride. This was a reminder for me that I must always be vigilant in auditing the sneaking thoughts in my mind of suspicion, jealousy or judgment and whether these thoughts are in the interest of God or myself. Constant engagement with the Word and self reflection are necessary to keep my life focused around God’s wisdom and eternal perspective and dominion over my life.
This book helped me see in which areas of my life temptation attempts to attack in order to turn me from my walk with God. Screwtape’s advice to Wormwood to feed his patient the lie that he has ownership over his life and that his acts of self-righteousness are acts of “unselfishness” allows me to reflect on my own spiritual struggles. Screwtape advises Wormwood to target more areas such as pride, lust, and love in order to capture his patient. However, despite of Wormwood’s efforts to glaze truths given in God’s word with slight false notions, the patient continually grows closer to the Lord. Seeing Screwtape’s reactions to Wormwood’s failure to pull his patient away make Lewis’ work a comical yet encouraging read. Ultimately, Screwtape’s letters, although intended to help his pupil tempt, provide me with lessons that will prepare me in defending against temptations during my journey as a Christian.
There was something eerie in reading (although figuratively) in the point of view of demons. When Screwtape talked about “humans” and “their ways” it made me feel self-conscious and when Screwtape referenced God as “the Enemy” it was often a signal of a major comparison. It was eerie for me because I realized that I did had many of the thoughts and habits the demon encouraged. These harmful habits and thoughts that Screwtape encouraged are subtle but ironically, are the best kind for leading someone the real Enemy (that is, Satan) because it is consistent and without “signposts” to warn the person. On the other hand, it also answers some question I had in a logical and convincing way. Then, he gives us steps to combat attacks from “demons” when he advises Wormwood what NOT to do. I really liked this book for being both practical and entertaining to read.
Finished C.S. Lewis’s infamous Screwtape Letters! This book reminded me of how duplicitous (even self-deceiving) and foolish the human heart can be. A few of my favorite quotes are below:
“Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, “By jove! I’m being humble”, and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt—and so on, through as many stages as you please.”
“…the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
“We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.”
“…nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead.”