Screwtape Letters, The
It seems unfair to me that a man as brilliant as C.S. Lewis would also hit upon one of the best conceits for a book. More mundane writers like myself always feel that if we could think of a truly unique vehicle for a story, then we could create a lasting work. It’s nice to believe this; the fact remains, however, that only a mind like Lewis’s could create a book that fully realized the potential of this great idea.
The Screwtape Letters purports to contain the correspondence between a junior demon, Wormwood, and a senior demon, his Uncle Screwtape. Wormwood’s “patient,” the man he is attempting to steer away from the truth of the gospel, doesn’t always respond to Wormwood’s tactics, and Screwtape is careful to point out that Wormwood’s tactics aren’t always sound. Eventually the unthinkable happens and the “patient” trusts Christ.
A lesser writer might have focused on dramatic elements, turning the eyes of the reader on the one man being tempted and misled. Though that might have made for an interesting story, it would have prevented the book from speaking to the big picture, allowing Lewis to generally explore the nature of temptation and the problems created by modernity.
As a worldview guy, I’m especially pleased with The Screwtape Letters when it underscores the massive dangers of accepting a secular/sacred dichotomy. Modern Christians need to understand that God is sovereign over all things, and that their faith is relevant to every aspect of their lives, but too many fall into the mindset championed by Screwtape:
“Talk to [your patient] about ‘moderation in all things.’ If you can once get him to the point of thinking that ‘religion is all very well up to a point,’ you can feel quite happy about his soul. A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all—and more amusing.”
What a great book! Though it’s not difficult to read, it articulates profound truth in a fresh way. Students who read The Screwtape Letters will be better equipped to weather the temptations and caprices of the world.
by Jeff Baldwin