3 Reasons You’ll Love or Hate The Screwtape Letters

Email_HeaderThe 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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Comments

  1. If you love the Screwtape Letters (or if you have never read it before), get the audiobook read by John Cleese (of Monty Python fame). It is hilarious and deep at the same time, something John has an extraordinary talent for.

  2. Hello, Jonathan J. Watson.
    I would like to talk to you about your third point and focus on Lewis' presumptions about the power of the enemy. He quotes that "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." Don't you believe that the entire novel of The Screwtape Letters excessively focuses in the power of evil? So, why would he quote that an unhealthy interest in it can fall about the devils? I completely agree with this, I truly believe that it would be unhealthy to be so interested in demons that it may even distract you from God. So, why would he write is this manner? Why was he so interested to write about a demon's perspective? And do you think that each person has a demon assigned to themselves to drive them away from God?
    Thank you,
    Ileana L. Hernandez