The Screwtape Letters

Alright, the long awaited (ha, that was meant to be funny) book review from my POV on The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. 

Let me just start by saying, I’m NOT one of those “Lewis fanatics” that are easy to find in the Christian community.  Most of the people I know that read C.S. Lewis’s non fiction are die hards.  They LOVE him.  I’m not one of those.  I think he’s brilliant, and a great writer.  I also own many of his books.  But, that doesn’t make me a die hard!  Not that there’s anything wrong with it…

Moving along.

I’m going to break this down into little pieces.  Mini opinion writing is much easier for me than doing a huge long book review.  So, without further ado…

A.  The Premise behind the book

This is for the few of my 3 readers who may not have already read this, or for anyone I don’t know who may not have read it yet!  The book is a series of letters (hence, the title) from an “elder” more experienced demon to his young “inexperienced” nephew.  The elder (Screwtape) is instructing the younger (Wormwood) on how to best prevent a person from becoming a Christian, or, if the person is a Christian, how to best prevent them from being an effective Christian (one who walks in relationship with God, and reflects that in his actions, words, and attitudes).  That’s the basic idea of the book.

I liked the premise.  It was challenging at times because it is written from the demon’s point of view, so he would refer to God as “the Enemy”, and Satan as “Our Father Below”.  There were also other twists that were interesting, and definitely kept me on my toes while reading.

B.  The structure

The letters themselves are pretty short.  I enjoyed that because C.S. Lewis sometimes hurts my brain while I’m reading (not that that’s bad either… intellectual growth and all…).  But, it does make it easier to read when it’s broken up into smaller pieces. 

C.  My favorite parts

There are so many!  One is definitely when Screwtape is talking to Wormwood about the impossibility that God actually loves humans.  He refers to humans as “hairless bipeds”.  Good stuff there.  My favorite chapters??  I liked the one on the “Law of Undulation”.  It basically states that since humans are only PART spirit, but also part animal, they are always going through peaks and troughs.  Our interest sparks and wans over time, and comes back and drops off, etc…  Screwtape was warning Wormwood that sometimes “the Enemy” (God) uses the troughs more than the peaks to bring people closer to Him.  And how true is that!  The tough times in my life are definitely when I seem to lean on God more.  When it’s “all good”, I become more self-sufficient.   How much better would those good times be if I was leaning on God then too? 

I also liked the chapter about time, and how we humans think our time is our own!  Screwtape lets his nephew know that is is preferable for him to make his human think at the beginning of each day that his day is his own.  That way, when small things happen to interfere with “his” time, he will become upset, grouchy, etc, all of which will lead him away from close relationship with God.   I was personally convicted of this one hard core!  I am super guilty of getting irritated when things don’t go the way I want them to.  What I should be doing is offering my day to God every morning, and being open to what He would bring to me!  That’s so hard to do though!  I guess that’s what Christianity and walking with God is a journey… one that doesn’t ever reach perfection, but something to strive for.

By far, the letter that hit home the MOST (’cause they all did in some form or fashion) was letter 12.  In this one Screwtape is talking about how one of the goals of a demon is to have the human maintain spiritual habits that acutally mean nothing.  It really brought home something I learned earlier this year, which was that my motivation for doing things is more important that what I’m doing.  If I’m not motivated by a desire to please God with my actions, they are not pleasing to Him.  He doesn’t want half-hearted “I go to church, so what’s the big deal” Christians, He wants ALL of us.  Best quote in that letter:  “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts”.  And how true!  Satan does not desire to tempt us with what we KNOW to be obviously wrong.  He uses the gray areas in our lives, and works from there. 

Another great quote just one letter further: “The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”   True too!  How many times have I felt like I should do something, or say something, or act in some way, and I didn’t.  Out of fear, embarrasment, the “what ifs”.  The next time, it’s so much easier to ignore the knowledge that I should be doing something. 

Gosh, there’s a bunch more I liked, but those were my super favorite parts, and for the sake of not making this a book, I’ll leave it at that. 

D.  Parts I Disagreed With

Lewis makes a statement at the end of one of the letters that Screwtape could show his nephew a “pretty cageful” of humans in Hell who believed they were Christians.  This leads to the “once saved always saved” versus “it’s possible to lose your salvation” argument.  I’m not a theologian by trade, so I’m going to refrain from listing Bible verses to either point.  I do believe that once you are saved, that God sends His Spirit to be with you.  I don’t believe that He takes it away based on what sins you may commit.  Now, I don’t think that excuses us to be able to do whatever the heck we want to either.  No matter how far down any path any person may be, God is your Pursuer.  He wants to be in relationship with you, but He’s not going to force it! 

So, my final thoughts.  I really, really, really, really like this book!  If you are one who is intimidated by C.S. Lewis, and/or the type of people who usually profess to like his books, this one is for you!  It’s managable in length, and really, anyone can get something out of it.  Great, great book.

I apologize now for the rambling way this has rolled out, but it’s just thoughts.  I don’t ever want my blog to be too structured… and this is the result!  Random chaotic thoughts from a normal girl.

One Comment on “The Screwtape Letters

  1. Interesting Post. Great actually.

    It’s been TOOOOOOOO long since I read that book. I need to go back and read it again. This post helped me realize that. I also appreciated your specific examples.

    The last part about hell, eternal security etc…. I’m not sure about that. I wonder what Lewis actually meant. Maybe he was talking about people who were never saved in the first place? (Jesus said, “Some of you will say, ‘Lord, Lord’, but I’ll say “Depart from me I never knew you.'”)

    I don’t know. I guess I’d have to read the context. I’ll have to go check it out…

    Again, excellent post.

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